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Privilege (1967)

Steven Shorter is the ultimate British music star. His music is listened to by everyone from pre-teens to grandparents. He has no trace of public bad habits or drug involvement. Everyone in... See full summary »


Peter Watkins


Norman Bogner, Johnny Speight (story) | 1 more credit »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Jones Paul Jones ... Steven Shorter
Jean Shrimpton ... Vanessa Ritchie
Mark London Mark London ... Alvin Kirsch
William Job William Job ... Andrew Butler
Max Bacon Max Bacon ... Julie Jordan
Jeremy Child ... Martin Crossley
James Cossins ... Professor Tatham
Frederick Danner Frederick Danner ... Marcus Hooper
Victor Henry Victor Henry ... Freddie K
Arthur Pentelow Arthur Pentelow ... Leo Stanley
Steve Kirby Steve Kirby ... Squit
Malcolm Rogers Malcolm Rogers ... Rev. Jeremy Tate
Doreen Mantle ... Miss Crawford
Michael Graham ... Timothy Arbutt
Michael Barrington ... The Bishop of Essex


Steven Shorter is the ultimate British music star. His music is listened to by everyone from pre-teens to grandparents. He has no trace of public bad habits or drug involvement. Everyone in Britain loves him. His handlers begin to use his popularity for projects like increasing the consumption of apples after a bumper crop as an aid to farmers. The handlers decide that Steven should support God and Country next. This leads to, among other things, a rock version of "Onward Christian Soldiers," and the inclusion of a Nazi salute to make it clear (to the viewer) how far the British population will be taken for love of God and Country under Steven's guidance. Steven is very plastic in his direction, shifting as his handlers point him toward new projects until he meets Vanessa Ritchie, an artist who makes him look at what's happening. Written by John Vogel {jlvogel@comcast.net}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Behind the screams and headlines are the manipulators...the puppet masters who pull the strings and make the pop scene work. This is the story of "Steve" - pop singer extraordinary who dared to say "I won't conform." See more »


Comedy | Drama | Music | Sci-Fi


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Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

28 February 1967 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Privileg See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The government of former GDR, also known as East Germany, used this movie as anti-capitalism-propaganda and anti-beat-and-rock-music-propaganda. The movie was a huge success in the GDR but most teenagers went there because of the songs. See more »


Rev. Jeremy Tate: This black card will be issued to you as you leave the Stadium tonight. On it there are three words.They are simple words but they are vital words. They are words which we must now, all of us, begin using because, since the end of the War, we in Britain have become apathetic, slack, loose in our morality. National cohesion has become unimportant to us! We must fight this. We must. Now, all of us begin to use the words on the card! "We will conform."
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References Triumph of the Will (1935) See more »


from "The Messiah"
Music by George Frideric Handel
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User Reviews

Flawed but Worthy Warning
1 April 2014 | by dglinkSee all my reviews

Set in Britain's near future, Peter Watkins's "Privilege" puts forth a fascinating premise, despite the limitations of both budget and the talent of its leads. Steven Shorter is a charismatic pop star with mesmerizing influence over his young impressionable audiences. His stage performances use violence and brutality to cast him as society's victim, and, with powerful background music, he whips devotees, especially female, into a frenzy. The emotional impact is not unlike the Beatles, who coincidentally were at their peak in 1967, when the film was made. Shorter's opportunistic handlers, however, want to influence the youth of Britain with his cooperation, and, in an unholy alliance with the established church, undertake a campaign to promote conformity and traditional values. However, the campaign's launch coincides with Shorter's awakening desire to break free of his burdensome role and become an individual. In this struggle, he is encouraged by the young artist who is painting his portrait.

The original songs by Mike Leander and rock versions of "Jerusalem" and "Onward Christian Soldiers" are catchy and provide the movie's best moments. Unfortunately, the film's stars do not match Watkins's ambitions. Paul Jones lacks a charismatic presence and fails to convince that he could move millions with his voice and image. Although Jones is only adequate as a dramatic actor, the former lead singer of the group Manfred Mann manages the stage sequences quite well. However, his non-singing dramatics lack depth and are largely expressionless. Although Jean Shrimpton is astonishingly beautiful as Vanessa Ritchie, the portrait artist, her talents as an actress are woefully lacking. Despite success as a fashion model, her lackluster performance herein was likely one reason she has only two film credits.

In support of the two leads, Shorter's handlers and the clergy are convincing, and the film has a fascination that transcends its flaws, which include lazy overuse of narration. The manipulation of religion for political ends is as relevant now as in the 1960's, and combining religious faith with popular music and canny advertising is still a potent mix. Burning crosses, hysteria-induced "miracles," screaming young women with tear-stained cheeks, pounding hymns and anthems, sinister-looking clergymen, police brutality: "Privilege" seems to have been drawn from "Triumph of the Will" and, in turn, later inspired "Pink Floyd, The Wall." An often powerful warning about the evils of mixing church and state, restricting individual rights, and following demigods, "Privilege" remains a flawed work that is definitely worth a look.

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