The 1968 British cult film The Committee starred Manfred Mann lead singer Paul Jones (who was in Peter Watkins’ better known UK cult classic Privilege the year before) in a Kafkaesque (some might say Pinteresque) tale that also put me in mind of Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner and Albert Camus’ The Stranger with a hefty dollop of R.D. Laing thrown in for good measure.
Jones may have been the star of the film, true, but today The Committee is remembered, if it is remembered at all, for featuring some of the earliest recorded work of David Gilmour with The Pink Floyd. Originally the film was to have been scored by Syd Barrett, but when that proved impossible, Roger Waters stepped in and offered the band’s services to director Peter Sykes and producer Max Steuer.
On the Pink Floyd fansite Brain Damage, writer David King offers a brief description of what happens in the film, which was based on a dream that Steuer had turned into a short story:
Briefly, a hitchhiking draughtsman (the ‘central figure’) accepts a lift from a Mercedes-driver. Perceiving the latter to be entirely vacuous - to be ‘not really alive at all’ - the hitchhiker seizes the opportunity, when the driver is looking under the hood of the car, of using the hood to behead him. After due reflection and contemplation, he sews the head back on, at which point the driver, slightly dazed, drives off. Back at work, the draughtsman receives a summons to a mysterious Committee, the function of which is to mediate with regard to the problems of the world. The draughtsman is taken by the Director on a nighttime stroll through the grounds of the institution, and it is at this point that philosophy - the raison d’être of the film - takes center stage. Issues discussed include alienation; the assumption that all faceless committees must be hostile; and the responsibility we have to our own future self. (The head which was removed then re-attached to the driver’s body is a metaphor for the learning process - the sudden change in perspective we receive at various points in our lives.) The film ends with a wiser and more enlightened central figure, presumably able to profit from his encounter with the Committee.
The Committee features an unhinged performance—perhaps the best ever caught on film—by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, flaming headdress and all. You can also spot an uncredited Peter Asher in a party scene.