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Ken Russell the films
Looking for a budget: Gothic

 


Ken Russell Gothic

Ken Russell made a series of very low budget films. They demonstrate the depth of his imagery and vision, and also the desperation of making money by sensation. At times the best and the worst are side by side, as in Gothic. This period includes a short film, Aria, which is a classic.

Ken Russell Gothic with Natasha at the window

Ken Russell was attracted to the Shelley and Byron story of incest and debauchery. It starts with tourists paying to look through telescopes to the Byron residence across the water. Just as Russell did with Liszt, Shelley and Byron are treated as pop stars with adoring groupies.  Under the effect of drugs, nightmares start to take over as each character searches for an illusory gratification. Natasha however does not need drugs to confront her nightmares.

The poster was banned by London Transport, despite the image being based on a classical painting, Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare.

Ken Russell Gothic

The film is enjoyable and the first half is vintage Russell but it does deteriorate a bit towards the end.  Ken Russell says "I'd fallen into the trap which has been the undoing of many a... pop-video director- punchy, roller-coaster cutting, short sequences and non-stop action... well nigh unbearable over a hundred minutes or so".
 

 


People

Ken Russell Gothic   Ken Russell Gothic with Mary Shelley, hair wild

Gabriel Byrne as Lord Byron and Julian Sands as Percy Bysshe Shelley. Natasha Richardson, daughter of The Devil's Vanessa Redgrave, plays Mary Shelley.

Music by Thomas Dolby (not Russell's choice).
 

 


Best Image

Gothic breasts as eyes

The breasts as eyes.

Ken Russell Gothic fish in a bowl

The fish drowning in a bowl.
The girl sleeping as the shadow moves by.
 

 


Best Scene

The girl in the room surrounded by the doors.
 

 


Themes

Ken Russell Gothic on the rooftops   Ken Russell Tommy on the rooftops

The scene on the roof in the lightning is similar to Roger Daltry on the roof in Tommy.

Ken Russell Gothic and leeches   Ken Russell Tommy and snakes in a skull

Snakes on skulls, phallic symbols, leeches abound. Left from Gothic, right from Tommy.

The moving doll sequence is very similar to Fellini in Casanova.
The knight in armour is similar to the Tina Turner hypodermic knight in Tommy.
The dead baby in the water.
 

 


Films

Other films released in the same year include Children of a Lesser God, Aliens and Platoon.
 

 

More films

Click title for film French Dressing * Billion Dollar Brain * Women in Love * The Music Lovers* The Devils * The Boy Friend * Savage Messiah * Mahler * Tommy * Lisztomania * Valentino * Altered States * Crimes of Passion * Gothic * Aria * The Lair of the White Worm * Salome's Last Dance * The Rainbow * Whore * Mindbender * Trapped Ashes/ The Girl with the Golden Breasts

 

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