Monday 15 February 2010


PRIVILEGE, directed by Peter Watkins and a script by Norman Bogner and Johnny Speight, was heavily criticised for being 'hysterical' when it was first released, briefly, in the UK - however, it went over better in the US.

In 1967 the UK Critics said:
The Guardian: "Watkins has produced not so much a film as a hotchpotch of film and television and it simply does not come off."
The Sun: "The Goverment in Coalition and the slogan 'We Will Conform'. No, we won't and you should know that by now, Mr Watkins"

Over on the other side of the pond in an unexpected moment of unity both 'Playboy' and the 'Christian Monitor' were in accord with their praise of the film.

Modern day critics have written on the IMBD website to underline how relevant 'Privilege' is today's society.
The biggest complaint is that this movie is not on DVD - well, it is now and released by the British Film Institute - who back in 1967 stated that 'with 'Privilege' the result is a mere farce.

So....what is the movie about.
Steven Shorter (played by ex-Manfred Mann front man, Paul Jones) is a successful rock singer who appeals to all from pre-teens to grandparents. His public image is perfect with no bad habits or drug abuse. Just the kind of guy that the Government sees who could bring the country to heel. At first he is used to promote the healthy eating of apples to boost an ailing industry. With this venture hailed as a success he is manipulated into selling God and Country.
Look out for the rock version of 'Onward Christian Soldiers' with rocking monks and a bit of candle waving - in good modern day stadium style.
Then he meets artist, Vanessa Ritchie (played by none other than The Shrimp - fashion model and 60s icon Jean Shrimpton) through who's eyes Steven sees what he has become.

The story is set in 1970 but the relevance to today is far more apparent. For example The Beatles selling Nike; Janis Joplin selling Mercedes-Benz - get the picture.

The director, Peter Watkins, began his directorial career in television and introduced the docudrama style of film with 'Culloden' and the controversial 'The War Game'. 'The War Game' was commissioned for the BBC's 'The Wednesday Play' but was banned as it's depicts of the aftermath of a nuclear war and wasn't deemed suitable. However, it did receive a cinema release and it was not until 1985 that it appeared on the BBC.

Writer Johnny Speight was the man behind Alf Garnett of 'Til Death Us Do Part' fame.

Being one of the lucky ones to see this when it was in London back in 1967 my own thoughts were that it was a great bit of 'sci-fi' future cinema. It couldn't possibly happen - could it? Fast forward to today - and, yes, it did.

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