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Film / Harry and the Butler

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Harry and the Butler (Harry og kammertjeneren) is a 1961 film from Denmark directed by Bent Christensen.

Harry Adams is a poor old man without family. He lives in a shack in a junkyard, that the owner lets him have rent-free in return for his services as a security guard, although Harry makes no effort to keep the neighborhood kids out. He pays for food with the meager salary he earns as a deliveryman for the local grocer. He is not without friends; his buddies "Prince Igor" (a petty criminal) and "the Bishop" (who collects for fake charities) regularly drop by for card games, and he's known to other people in the local neighborhood. But he is still melancholy, reflecting how his life has had no purpose and that when he dies, he'll be forgotten.

Out of nowhere, a distant aunt dies and leaves Harry with 25,000 kroner. A lot of taxes and an exorbitant lawyer's fee leaves Harry with 3300 kroner, which he has to decide how to spend. He decides to indulge in an old fantasy of his, and get a butler, to serve him and pamper him like a gentleman until the money runs out.

So that's how a fellow named Walter Fabricius, a valet with a lifetime's worth of service to Old Money aristocrats and princes but who is now unemployed, enters into 11 weeks worth of service to Harry. Fabricius is appalled at serving a poor old man who lives in a dusty, crumbling shack, but his dedication to service as a higher calling leads him to take the job. Naturally, Fabricius and Harry form a bond.


  • Call-Back: Harry is so poor that he can't afford a TV, so when he wants to watch a concert, he brings a folding chair to the display window of a TV store and watches the concert from the sidewalk. Later, he does it again, but this time his butler is holding an umbrella over his head.
  • Child Prodigy: "Heisenberg", the 10-year-old boy who continually ransacks the junkyard where Harry lives, constructing homemade rockets from spare parts he pulls off cars. When Harry asks Heisenberg what 3300 kroner divided by 286 (Fabricius's hourly wage) is, Heisenberg immediately answers to three decimal places (it's about 11 1/2) then asks if Harry would like more decimals.
  • Cross-Cultural Kerfluffle: Yes, that's right, the Danish word for "The End" is "Slut".
  • Dramatic Drop: It's subtle, but Harry, who thought he was being arrested when the cop picks him up, drops his cigar when he's told that he's inheriting 25,000 kroner.
  • Fake Aristocrat: No one seems to be fooled, but they all call Prince Igor "Prince Igor". It's implied that Igor, who seems to be a petty criminal, has run some sort of Fake Aristocrat scam in the past.
  • Fish out of Water: Three out-of-work butlers answer Harry's ad. Two of them are so appalled by the neighborhood Harry lives in—a run-down slum—that they leave before they even get to the junkyard. Fabricius is appalled as well, but it's a job, a chance to do what he's been trained to do, something that has become increasingly rare of late. He takes it.
  • High-Class Glass: Prince Igor wears one as part of his Fake Aristocrat persona; he seems to really use it as shown when he screws it in for playing cards with Harry and the Bishop.
  • The Jeeves: Fabricius, who regards service as a higher calling and accepts employment as valet to a lonely old man who lives in a junkyard, because service is what Fabricius does, darn it.
  • Local Hangout: The Draaben Cafe, where Igor hits on the waitress, bar brawls are entertainment, and the Bishop says that you can get the owner, Trine, to sing if she's drunk enough.
  • One-Hit Kill: The non-lethal "one punch knockout" variant. A possible Bar Brawl is short circuited when Fabricius knocks out belligerent drunk Orla with one punch.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The Bishop is only ever called that.
  • Playing Hard to Get: Igor, who has been pursuing Magdalena relentlessly but hasn't gotten anywhere, asks Fabricius what to do. Fabricius advises to start acting like he isn't interested, and that will get her interested in him. It works; at the end they get married.
  • Plunger Detonator: An unusual example as young Heisenberg uses a Plunger Detonator for his rocket launches. After several explosions, the movie ends with Heisenberg getting off a successful launch.
  • Running Gag
    • Minor explosions whenever young Heisenberg tries to launch one of his rockets.
    • The vent to the stove being knocked loose whenever Heisenberg launches a rocket or when a train passes over the tracks. Fabricius solves this by fastening the vent with clothespins.
    • The car horn that Harry has fastened to his door as a doorbell, and its silly honk.
  • Storefront Television Display: Harry can't afford a TV, so when he wants to watch a concert, he takes a folding chair to the storefront display of a TV store, where he sits and watches from the sidewalk.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: The main plot kicks off when Harry, a lonely and desperately poor old man, inherits 3300 kroner from a relative he's never even met.