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Ken Russell projects

Possible and impossible projects

A Burnt-Out Case A Burnt Out Case

Graham Greene´s novel of the leper colony. When Russell was interviewed by Huw Wheldon at the start of his career, his first suggestion for a documentary was "a film on Albert Schweitzer playing Bach to lepers in the jungle".

Mrs. Dalloway Mrs Dalloway

A novel by Virginia Woolf. It was later filmed in 1997 with Vanessa Redgrave and directed by Marleen Gorris.

A Handful of Dust A Handful of Dust

The novel by Evelyn Waugh. It was filmed by Charles Sturridge, one of the directors alongside Russell of Aria,  in 1988.

The House of Mirth The House of Mirth

Edith Wharton´s novel has been filmed many times, the latest with Gillian Anderson in 2000 directed by Terence Davies.

St Mawr St. Mawr

A novella by D.H. Lawrence.  A woman in a failed marriage encounters the horse, St Mawr.  Ken has filmed two Lawrence films (Women in Love and The Rainbow) and one television adaptation (Lady Chatterley's Lover).

Gargantua Gargantua

Gargantua by Rabelais. Ken calls it "the man with the biggest prick in the world".  There are a number of films called Gargantua, most seem to involve giant lizards, none is related to Rabelais' book.

King of the Crocodiles Robert Southey

The third part of Clouds of Glory, never made, concentrating on Lake District poet Southey.  The parts which were filmed were on Wordsworth (Clouds of Glory) and Coleridge (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner).

Stories of Isaac Babel Isaac Babel

Stories about the Jews of Odessa by the Russian writer who was tortured and executed in 1940.

The Living End The Living End  The Living End

American comic writer Stan Elkin.  A shopkeeper is killed in a robbery and ends up in hell because he opened his shop on Sunday.  A wordy novel, with long monologues and characters either in Hell, or buried and unable to move.  Difficult to visualise on film, so a filmscript would be especially interesting.  The paperback version of the novel from 1977 has the label "soon to be filmed by Ken Russell".

The Rose The Rose - Bette Middler

Given a choice between The Rose, based on the life of Janis Joplin, and Valentino, Russell says "I foolishly chose Valentino".  The Rose with  Betty Midler and Alan Bates was directed by Mark Rydell in 1979.

The Revenge of the White Worm Lair of the White Worm

Ken Hanke says "there was talk of a sequel [to Lair] Revenge of the White Worm, but the idea largely collapsed with Vestron [the film company which went bankrupt]". Some parts of the script took place in Buckingham Palace involving Prince Charles.

All-American Murder All American Murder

A script by Ken Russell´s friend Barry Sandler, it was finally filmed by tv director Anson Williams and starring Christopher Walken (info from Ken Hanke´s White Haired Filmmaker article).  Barry Sandler also wrote Crimes of Passion.

How the West was Lost Ken Russell How The West Was Lost

A western with script by Ken Russell.

Percy Grainger Percy Grainger in Song of Summer

The Australian composer. Percy Grainger was a character in the Delius film Song of Summer.

Mike and Gaby´s Space Gospel Mike and Gaby Space Novel Ken Russell

The bible as science fiction. Russell converted his script into a novel.

Casanova Part 2 Casanova

Casanova 2 with Richard Chamberlain (who played Tchaikovsky in The Music Lovers), Faye Dunaway, Sylvia Kristel, Ornella Muti and Hanna Schygulla.

Shrine/ The Dark James Herbert

In Ingrid Pitt´s interview for Shivers, Russell says "James Herbert [horror writer] gave me two of his books.  One was called Shrine.  It was about this girl who becomes a kind of second-hand Virgin Mary and there were things in the book that I thought were terribly good...but I think it had something like 2000 people at the end."  Maybe the second book was The Dark: Ingrid Pitt reveals in her introduction to the biography of James Herbert (Devil in the Dark by Craig Cabell, 2004) "I was asked to write a screenplay based on his novel The Dark".  The biography itself says of the possible filming of Shrine "perhaps some of this would be lost in a movie version, unless directed by somebody like Ken Russell: a girl floating in the air, her once pure white dress now soaked in blood and dripping over the faces of her smiling disciples".

Neverlands Neverlands

J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan.

Beneath the Underdog Charles Mingus

Russell had long wanted to film jazz musician Charles Mingus´ autobiography Beneath the Underdog. 

"The book is also written in faux-difficult stream of consciousness – many chapters consist of only dialogue between Mingus and musicians, Mingus and pimps, Mingus and psychiatrists or Mingus and women. Who are almost constantly referred to as “bitches”. …
And this is the reason why the book is awful. Mingus can write BEAUTIFULLY about jazz: about the energy, the freneticism of live performance, about the thrill of composition, the joy of musical development, the excitement of learning, creativity, a shared language of artistic expression… But his autobiography is not about jazz... This is a book about the continual, priapic, misogynistic and possibly fictional sex life of the author."  Review of the book by Scott Manley Hadley quoted with kind permission from here https://triumphofthenow.com/2013/04/02/review-beneath-the-underdog-by-charles-mingus/

The Temperance Seven The Temperance seven

Russell suggested the British jazz group The Temperance Seven to Huw Wheldon as a subject for a Monitor short- Wheldon rejected the ideas as too low-brow. They were a 1960s London band performing easy listening Jazz and comedy. Unfortunately for them they were around when The Beatles emerged and changed music.

Venus in Furs Venus in Furs

The novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (from where the word masochist comes).  Polanski would film it decades later in 2013.

Charged: Tesla & Katherine Tesla

Nikola Tesla is now virtually unknown but he was regarded as the greatest inventor of his time.  The film would deal with aspects of his private life based on his correspondence with close friends, Robert Johnson, poet and editor, and his wife Katharine, in New York during 1890s. This is a story of complex and delicate triangular relationship, and Tesla and Katharine's love.  The screenplay is by Ljiljana Kojic-Bogdanovich and Katarina Bogdanovich.  Music is by Michael Nyman.  Russell  renamed it Charged.  2004-2005.

The Wishing Tree Faulkner The Wishing Tree

William Faulkner's childrens story.  Twiggy says  "I first met Ken when I was 17 when he was looking for a young character to appear in a film based on William Faulkner's The Wishing Tree and although it didn't happen, we became friends.  Then, three years later, he cast me in The Boy Friend (info from Twiggy Lawson website here).

"They also had a couple of projects they were interested in.  One was a William Faulkner story about a rather twee girl who goes off with pixies.  Paul McCartney was going to write the music and I met him to chat it over but it felt like a non-starter" (Russell quoted in An Appalling Talent, John Baxter, 1973 chapter 16).

The film could have had similarities with Bernard Roses' Paper House.

Van Gogh with Spike Milligan

In the DVD commentary for Always on Sunday Brian Hoyle says that Ken and British comedian Spike Milligan (the subject of a documentary by Ken) discussed a film on Van Gogh with Milligan in the title role.  Ken decided to wait until he had the opportunity to film it in colour rather than in black and white.

2 Way Romeo Two Way Romeo- click for link

"The plot is a true story of two conjoined twins who were the frontmen in a rock band in mid seventies London. It follows their rise and fall through sex drugs and pub rock, playing alongside the likes of Kilburn & The Highroads".  You can hear Ken talking about the film here.  Thanks to Deborah for the information.

The basis was Brian Aldis' novel Brothers of the Head.  The book was eventually filmed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, with the original title.  Ken appears in the films, along with some scenes from 2 Way Romeo.  In the DVD extras Ken says that he paid Ł50,000 for the rights to the novel, but didn't realise that Brian Aldiss had based his novel on living people.  So after Ken started filming Two way Romeo, he was faced with a lawsuit from the real-life people.

Pearl of the Orient Pearl of the Orient- click for link

"Set in the Philippines of World War II, a headstrong and aristocratic young woman yearns to leave the islands and travel the world, only to fall in love with an American missionary and thereby come to terms with her heritage as a Filipina".  Script was by Richard A. Lasser, screenwriter Peter J. Bartels.  Click on the image for more details, thanks to Peter for the link.  Ken and the film came together via this website!!!  There were problems with financing and rumours of money disappearing.

Kings X. Kings Cross - Kings X

Scriptwriters are Chris and Peter Cleverly and it is described as "A London professional woman takes revenge on gangland hardman after he destroys her life." Emily Lloyd was to be the star.

Voss Patrick White Voss

Ken Russell and then Joseph Losey were first choice for director of the novel Voss by Patrick White.  Donald Sutherland and Mia Farrow were lined up to act.  A young Sutherland appeared in Ken's Billion Dollar Brain.  The image is from here.

King Ludwig of Bavaria  King Ludwig of Bavaria

In The Times of 17 Feb 1970 there is talk of the third film of the United Artists films (The Music Lovers and The Devils were the first two) being King Ludwig of Bavaria.  Ludwig was a patron of Wagner.

Wagner´s Tannhăuser Richard Wagner

An opera not a film. This was planned for Geneva in 1985: "I see it as a psychological-schizophrenic trip in Wagner´s mind".

Tchaikovsky´s Eugene Onegin Eugene Onegin

Invited by Lorin Maazel to direct the opera on the stage for the Vienna State Opera in 1985: "Maazel saw my Music Lovers and thought I´d be very good doing a Tchaikovsky opera".  The image is from here.

The Big Lebowski

Not real but an article on "What if those modern blockbusters were made in the 1950s? Artist imagines their posters and who would star in them".  Ken directing Zappa, Bowie and Iggy Pop alongside Kinski, Warhol and Clint Eastwood.  If only... The article is here.

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