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Privilege [UK Release] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 108op/24
  • Audio Codec: English Mono PCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Region: B
  • Classification: 15
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: BFI
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 17, 2010
  • RRP: £19.99

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]

Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]

Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]

Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4/5]

Before Pink Floyd: The Wall and before the violent anti-religious stage shows of Marilyn Manson, there was Peter Watkins’ 1967 scathing look at modern idolatry and commercialism, Privilege. Starring the frontman for Manfred Mann Paul Jones and international sixties supermodel Jean Shrimpton, Privilege tells the story of a mega-pop star named Steve (Jones), adored by fans all over the world, and used by the British establishment to keep the public happy, calm, and “buying British.”

Steve’s shows are violent outbursts that find him handcuffed in a cage and beaten down by police officers, reenacting a stay in jail, madding crowds of tearful women young and old screaming for him. But Steve is a prisoner of his success, shuttled between shows and endorsements by his handlers. He has no will of his own. The handcuffs he wears in public, then, are more than just an affectation; they symbolize Steve’s imprisonment by the establishment.

The Church of England gets in on the act and decides to use Steve to lure in young churchgoers, culminating in a climactic stadium event reminiscent of Nazi youth rallies. It seems the only one that poor Steve can form any real connection with is the artist commissioned to paint his portrait, Vanessa (Shrimpton), but their relationship may be doomed unless Steve can break away from the clawing hands that pull his puppet strings from every direction.

In Privilege, Watkins attacks the very essence of fame and fortune, while simultaneously criticizing government, religion, and the corporate world. It is a strong indictment on our culture today and amazing that it was filmed in 1967.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Privilege has been restored to a fine level of detail and is cleaned up nicely, yet it still retains a good amount of film grain and an organic, analogue quality. Color reproduction is stable, blacks are deep and shadow detail is strong. Flesh tones are natural as well. Overall, the film looks remarkable for something approaching the forty-five year mark.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The original monaural soundtrack appears in a 2.0 PCM configuration (48kHz/24-bit). There are signs of clipping right from the start and in some areas the dialogue sounds a bit muffled. Still, the audio sounds rather good for a recording from 1967. The balance of sounds is good and even when dialogue is muffled one can still make out what is being said.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

The supplements feature two early short films by Peter Watkins and a very thorough booklet with essays and technical details on the transfer.

The supplements provided with this release are:

  • The Diary of an Unknown Soldier (1.37:1; black and white, 1080p; 1959) — A World War I soldier shares his innermost feelings as he prepares for combat.
  • The Faces Forgotten (1.37:1; black and white; 1080p; 1961) — A gripping newsreel-style account of the 1956 people’s uprising in Hungary.
  • Booklet: Illustrated booklet with essays by film historian Robert Murphy and Watkins specialist John Cook.
  • Trailer

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

The themes touched upon in Peter Watkins’ Privilege still resonate today nearly forty-five years after the film’s creation, which is a true testament to its longevity. BFI scores yet another winner in resurrecting this forgotten gem for their Flipside series. Recommended.

Additional Screen Captures:

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