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Ken Russell hot news

Last update 26 Jul 2023

The Music Lovers in Chichester, UK

Richard Chamberlaine

The Music Lovers, Ken Russell's film about Tchaikovsky, will be shown at the Chichester Film Festival on 12 and 22 Aug 2023.  The festival guide is pretty grudging "However rife with inaccuracies... Unless you are seeking the whole truth".  Is it less accurate than Bernard Rose's The Beethoven Secret or Milos Foreman's Amadeus?   I have quoted from Barbara von Meck's 1893 letter to show how closely the script follows her account of her relationship with Tchaikovsky.

The festival website is here and for more on the film click here.


Ken Russell Book launch and Symposium

ReFocus - the films of Ken Russell

A new book Refocus: the Films of Ken Russell, part of ReFocus: The International Directors Series, edited by Matthew Melia.
More details soon.

Glenda Jackson passes away

Glenda Jackson in Ken Russell Women in Love

Sadly Glenda Jackson has passed away.  More soon.

Ken Westbury, cinematographer, passes away

Ken Russell The Debussy Film

Ken Westbury, cinematographer on Ken Russell's The Debussy Film and The Diary of a Nobody, and camera on The Debussy Film, has passed away.

His other work included The Singing Detective, To The Lighthouse and Dr Fischer of Geneva.
According to imdb.com his first film role was clipper loader on The Bells Go Down with James Mason in 1943 and his last film before retirement was Unknown Things from 2007.

The imdb.com entry is here.
There is an interview with him here though his work with Russell is not covered.

Gothic on Blu-ray

Ken Russell Gothic

The British Film Institute (BFI) will issue Gothic on Blu-ray on 11 Sept 2023.  No details yet of extras.

Shoddy Wikipedia article on The Music Lovers

To give an example of biased criticism of Ken Russell see the Wikipedia entry.  It quotes Time Out New York "vulgar, excessive, melodramatic and self-indulgent . . . " (Wikipedia, accessed 3 May 2023, click here).

Ken Russell - The Music Lovers - Wikipedia shoddy quote

The "..." cuts out the words "Tchaikovsky's music is indeed all of these things, yet gloriously so, and the same goes for Ken Russell at his freewheeling best"

The full review is "vulgar, excessive, melodramatic and self-indulgent: Tchaikovsky's music is indeed all of these things, yet gloriously so, and the same goes for Ken Russell at his freewheeling best. The director's first composer biopic for the cinema approaches Tchaikovsky's scores as the expression of extreme emotional turmoil. The drama is at fever pitch throughout, from Peter's disturbing recollections of his mother's painful demise, through fear of exposure of his homosexuality to his misguided cover marriage to social-climbing Antonina Milyukova. Chamberlain doesn't quite have the range required in the central role, though his keyboard skills are impressive, even if it's soloist Rafael Orozco we hear on the soundtrack, while Glenda Jackson is at her most physically committed as the ill-fated Antonina. The whirling camera, mercurial cutting and fantasy interludes capture the music's heady mood swings. It's not subtle, but it is all of a piece" (TJ, Time Out, 10 September 2012, click here).

This is shoddy misrepresentation of the review by TJ, of Tchaikovsky and of Ken Russell.

Updates to The Mystery of Dr. Martinu

Ken Russell - The Mystery of Doctor Martinu - Paris


A major update to Ken Russell's television film on the Czech composer Martinu.  "The Mystery of Dr. Martinu subtitled A Revelation by Ken Russell from 1993.  This is Freud meets Buñuel´s Een Chien Andalou meets Hitchcock (Spellbound and Vertigo)".

For the update click here (bottom of page).

Clouds of Glory in London

Ken Russell The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The British Film Institute (BFI) in London will show the two Clouds of Glory films about the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge.  They will be shown on 11 June 2023.  More details soon.

For more on Clouds of Glory see here.

Murray Melvin passes away

Murray Melvin in Ken Russell's The Devils

Sadly Russell regular Murray Melvin has passed away.  He was a loyal  supporter of Ken's works and would attend screenings of his films.

Melvin started acting on stage and was part of Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop company at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in London.  With the company his work included roles in Oh! What a Lovely War and Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey.

Murray Melvin in The Avengers, Hot Snow

His 104 film and television roles include Hot Snow (above), the first episode of The Avengers which would run for 161 episodes.

Murray Melvin in A Taste of Honey

Melvin was iconic reviving his role in A Taste of Honey on film opposite Rita Tushingham, directed by Tony Richardson in 1961.  The film "broke new ground with its adult themes, interracial kiss and its commitment to filming on the streets… And although the Dirk Bogarde-starring Victim (1961), released just a few months earlier, was also groundbreaking in its empathetic portrayal of homosexuality, Murray Melvin reported that when he met him at an awards ceremony, Bogarde said of Melvin’s performance as Geoff, 'You did more for the cause in one scene than the whole of bloody Victim put together'” (Chloe Walker, British Film Institute, 14 Sept 2021, click here).

Ken Russell Diary of a Nobody Murray Melvin

His first role for Ken was 1964's The Diary of a Nobody (above).  Further roles for Ken were in  Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World, The Devils (first photo), The Boyfriend, Lizstomania, Clouds of Glory and Prisoner of Honor from 1991.

Melvin also worked with Kubrick in Barry Lyndon (above) and on 103 other films.

What I have only just discovered was that after The Devils, with music by Peter Maxwell Davies, Melvin directed two work by Maxwell Davies, Miss Donnithorne's Maggot and the opera The Martyrdom of St Magnus.

I was fortunate enough to meet and talk with Melvin, a friendly, open and intelligent person.  Someone asked him how old he was- he said 29 and he said he would continue to say that until he decided to move to 30.

Updates to Tommy

Tina Turner the acid queen in Ken Russell Tommy

Quotes from Tina Turner's autobiography added to Tommy, including "I brought my own clothes to the set, just in case I didn't like the costumes.  Thank God!  You should have seen how they would have dressed me... The costume designer, Russell's wife Shirley, said that I could wear them, although she came up with the Acid Queen's clunky platform shoes.  Ken Russell loved the way I looked"- click here.

Updates to The Music Lovers

Richard Chamberlaine

Details of music added to The Music Lovers- click here.

Novelisation of Gothic

Novel Gothic by Stephen Volk based on Ken Russel's film

Details of the novelisation by Stephen Volk are added to the Gothic page.  Click here.

Updates to the play Weill and Lenya

Weill and Lenya - Big City - Otto Dix

Updates about the play on Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya by Judith Paris and Ken Russell, directed by Russell.  Click here.




Updates to The Rainbow

Ken Russell - The Rainbow - Sammi Davis

The page on The Rainbow has been extensively updated.  Click here.

The Dance of the Seven Veils coming on Blu-ray

Ken Russell Dance of the Seven Veils

The copyright on Richard Strauss' music has expired, so there is no legal obstruction to presenting The Dance of the Seven Veils.  The BFI are looking at issuing a Blu-ray.  More details when known.

Thanks to Alex for the information.

Teddy Girls photos

Ken Russell - Teddy Girls 

21 of Ken's photos of Teddy Girls from 1955.  Nicely printed.  The cover is of Iris Thornton and the other Teddy Girls were Pat Wiles, Rose Price, Vera Harrison, Grace Living, Barbara Wood, Josie Buchan, Eileen Lewis, Rose Hendon, Mary Toovey and Jean Rayner.

"Teddy Girls brings together, for the first time in one publication, images taken by Ken Russell of this scarcely documented subculture.  Taken around London in January 1955 and published in the Picture Post on June 4th that year, these photographs are a testament to the supremely stylish young women depicted.  The style of the Teddy Girls, like that of the Teddy Boys, grew out of a trend for Edwardian influenced fashion in post-World War II London.  However, these women should be seen as more than a feminine facsimile of their male counterparts and Russell’s images document the ingenuity and complexity of their sartorial choices.  As well as recording the style of the Teddy Girls, these images also provide a snapshot of London in 1955, a city in flux, still rebuilding itself after the damage inflicted by war.  An essay by the fashion historian, Mairi MacKenzie, considers the cultural history and context within which these women lived and the photos were taken".



Too late- you missed it

Mahler in Boulder, USA


Roberft Powell as Mahler

The Colorado MahlerFest present Ken Russell's Mahler on 18 May 2023.  It is shown at the Boedecker Theater, Dairy Arts Center, Boulder, USA.

"Cinematically, it is a work of art. “Visually the film is a feast, notable for its dazzling and pointed use of color and movement.” It earns the ire of many Mahlerites for being overly creative with the facts. “Never one to dwell on facts or chronological limitations, Russell set out to capture the spirit of his subject rather than any textbook accuracy.”

Mahler can perhaps best be described as a very creative interpretation of Mahler’s life. One Mahlerite put it this way, “It’s a great music video, which Russell should have subtitled: ‘What I think About When I Think About Mahler Thinking About Music.’ It’s not a biography, just a series of a listener’s impressions”.

Click here for the MahlerFest site.



Crimes of Passion in Massachusetts, USA

Ken Russell Crimes of Passion

Crimes of Passion will be shown as part of the After Midnight film series in Coolidge Corner Theater in Massachusetts.  It is screened on 26 May 2023 at one minute before midnight.

"In the early eighties British enfant terrible Ken Russell traveled to America and placed his unorthodox imprint on a pair of US movies. The first was Altered States, so out-there its screenwriter disowned it. The second was the equally crazy Crimes of Passion, starring Kathleen Turner (Body Heat, Serial Mom) at the height of her powers".

More details at the Coolidge website click here.



Tommy in Ohio, USA

Tommy will be shown at the Robins Theatre, Warren, Ohio on 11 March 2023.

"Tommy is a 1975 British satirical operetta fantasy drama film written and directed by Ken Russell and based upon The Who's 1969 rock opera album Tommy about a "psychosomatically deaf, mute, and blind" boy who becomes a pinball champion and religious leader. The film featured a star-studded ensemble cast, including the band members themselves, Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Elton John, and Jack Nicholson."

The theatre website is here.


Tommy in Nashville, USA

Tommy will be shown at the Belcourt Theatre, Nashville, USA on 13 Feb 2023.


Women in Love in Culpeper, Virginia, USA

Glenda Jackson in Ken Russell Women in Love

Women in Love in the cinema for free!!  It is at the Packard Campus Theater on 11 Feb 2023.


Click here for the news archive



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