Ken Russell is finding it hard to find commercial backers for his films so is retreating to the occasional television documentary and acting roles to support new ventures. The Rainbow was an attempt to revive the success of Women in Love and while it almost succeeds critically, it failed commercially. But typical of Russell he then comes out with a minor classic, Whore.
The Rainbow is the prequel of DH Lawrence's Women in Love. Whereas the novel covers many generations living through the industrialisation of North England, Russell focuses on the rites of passage of Ursula from the child looking at the rainbow through to her self-realisation. She calls herself "a bird blown out of its own latitude".
As a teenager Ursula meets the dashing soldier, who almost seduces her in a church, slowly peeling off her glove, reminiscent of Brando picking up the glove in On the Waterfront.
But he cannot compete with the forbidden eroticism of the swimming instructor. Ursula asserts her freedom by becoming a teacher, in a Dickensian school, but it is an unhappy place as she is caught between leering masters and prank-playing children.
Discovering she is pregnant her only hope seems to be with the soldier, but she discovers he has since married. Caught in a fog she comes across horses which terrify her and she flees, the flight across a river causing a fever which almost kills her. She wakes at home, with her parents looking after her, and a rainbow outside her window encourages her to decide her future.
Russell uses many of the same
people, actors and technicians, who had worked on Women
in Love: Glenda Jackson and Christopher Gable,
cinematographer Billy Williams and George Cole, gaffer. The film company, Vestron, went
bankrupt just before the release, so the film had no
Sammi Davis (Lair of the White Worm) stars. Amanda Donohoe, also from Lair, has a major role. Both are good.
Glenda Jackson is superb acting as the mother. She plays the part so naturally you would never guess she is a double Oscar winning actress. Christopher Gable is equally convincing.
Molly Russell, Ken's
daughter and Rupert Russell, his son, play the children. Other regulars are David
Hemmings (Clouds of Glory), Judith Paris, Kenneth Colley
(Modeste in The Music Lovers). The music of Carl Davis
fits in well with film (for example the scene destroying
the cabbages), and Imogen Claire does the choreography. Photography was by
Billie Williams and Peter Davis was the editor. The book was adapted by
Ken and then wife Vivian Russell. The only weaknesses in
the script are the cursory references to
industrialisation, which should have been dropped, and
the confrontation with the horses where the symbolism is
The rows of swimmers like tadpoles... and the lesbian lovers swim against the flow.
lesbian seduction in the swimming pool.
The rocking horse (A British Picture, Folk Songs) and real horses.
The schoolgirls wear sailor suits.
The painter and his
Other films released in the same year include Born on the Fourth of July, Black Rain and Driving Miss Daisy.
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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