Paul Jones' counterculture diptych

When Manfred Mann’s Paul Jones made the leap into acting, his chose two counterculture projects that eventually disappeared from distribution, and evolved into cult films.

In the case of Peter Watkins’ Privilege (1967), Jones’ feature film debut, as well as Oscar-winning director Watkins, the results were far more than Universal expected: a sharp and rather merciless satire on a fascist British government that saturates and exploits a singer’s massive popularity to distract the populace from serious political issues; keep the people dumb, and they’ll never know what’s really going on, and remain too daft to do anything about it.

Jones’ second film, The Committee (1968), was a short by director Peter Sykes and writer Max Steuer, both making their film debut with an abstract satire on conformity. Featuring an original score by Pink Floyd and an appearance by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (yes, that’s the band’s name), the exquisitely shot black & white film also disappeared and apparently was written off as lost until it resurfaced and was given its own DVD release in 2005.

Sykes later reunited with Jones on the Hammer thriller Demons of the Mind (1972), whereas Watkins went on to make more politically raw films, including Punishment Park (1971).

We’ve uploaded a lengthy review of Privilege, which is now available from Project X via New Yorker Video in the U.S. (and will eventually be released in Canada via Morningstar), plus The Committee from Eclectic DVD / MVD Visual.

While both films are time capsules of the era’s conflicts and attempts to make creative political statements against conformity and restrictive governmental control, they also show how not much has changed in the passing 40 years.

Watkins’ poke at the music industry is still very potent, and in his research for Privilege he drew heavily from the 1962 NFB short Lonely Boy (also on the Project X DVD), where Roman Kroiter and Wolf Koenig captured the ‘behind the floodlights’ world of teen sensation Paul Anka as the 19 year old singer/composer was making the transition from youth to more adult venues.

Over the coming weeks we’ll review the entire Project X catalogue of Watkins’ work, and we’ll have a detailed interview with the label’s founder, Oliver Groom, regarding his passionate interest in Watkins' films, and running an independent DVD label.

Coming next: soundtrack reviews of The Incredible Hulk, The Outer Limits, The Bionic Woman, and X-Files: I Want to Believe.

And imminent: Masters of Horror Season 2, and a spotlight on Delia Derbyshire and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.


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