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Ken Russell television
1993 Lady Chatterley
More D.H. Lawrence, this time his most famous novel Lady Chatterley's Lover which was the subject of a trial to prevent its publication. This is a TV mini-series, so Russell has four 50 minutes episodes to cover the story (some video releases are edited down). The television showing attracted a massive 15 million viewers.
Lady Chatterley is the wife of the crippled war hero. But her sensuality soon leads her to the gardener.
Passion is contrasted with sterility.
Russell says "Lawrence frequently repeats his imagery. In Lady Chatterley there was a sequence which called for stallions. Well I'd done stallions already in The Rainbow, but I still had to convey the point Lawrence was making, so it was a question of coming up with a new way of presenting them...Nobody complains about Lawrence repeating himself, but if I did the critics would be after me at once" (from DVD notes).
Russell's film is not particularly inspired. It is too restrained, and ultimately boring. Sean Bean and Joley Richardson (daughter of director Tony Richardson) are not particularly good. Russell regular Judith Paris has a role.
Russell himself appears as does his wife and children.
Xavier Russell is co-editor along with Alan Mackay and Ken operates the camera himself (credited as Alfred Russell). He has long objected to the poor quality of cameramen. Russell co-wrote with the producer Michael Haggiag. Stills photographer is Tony Russell. There are various Russell themes: the Lawrence adaptation, steam trains, kites, a body sinking under the water, the man in a wheelchair, a woman framed by a halo hat (Savage Messiah, Aria).
And only once does Russell strike out with a bold image:
Ken Russell's Treasure Island from 1995, a TV film of Robert Louis Stevenson's children's novel.
The lad Jim Hawkins helps his mother at the inn, and one of their guests is pirate Billy Bones, but Bones is running from his former pirate mates, who deliver a black spot ultimatum.
Bones is killed but leaves behind a treasure map which Hawkins takes, and the local gentry arrange an expedition to find the treasure. Looking for a crew they come across Long Jane Silver played by Hetty Baynes, Ken's former wife. She becomes the ship's cook though she is actually leader of pirates.
Jane helps recruit the crew who of course are pirates.
Hetty Baynes is seductive, speaking breathlessly like Marilyn Monroe, and in homage sings Monroe's rendition of "Happy Birthday".
And Ken does include some phallic imagery.
But the film does drag. It would not appeal to children, and there is little action and the musical sequences are uninspired. It is at times like a lesser provincial pantomime.
Cheap comedy also dates, such as Jim Hawkins singing Mamie in blackface.
The film clearly has a low budget, but I did like the symbolic
scenery, reminiscent of Melies' use of scenery and also Ken's Salome's
I am pretty negative about the film. A slightly more positive review is:
"Ken Russell...wrote and directed this made-for-TV movie...like it was a Carry On film. Not to mention that villain Long John Silver is transformed into Long Jane Silver, a Madonna-like blonde with a peg leg. She and her pirate crew break into song at any cue on their quest for the buried treasure marked on a map belonging to a young boy. Faithful it's not, entertaining, that's hard to say. It's certainly different". The review is by Ryan K. Johnson and comes with kind permission from here.
The film stars Hetty Baynes as Long Jane Silver, Michael Elphick as Billy Bones and Gregory Hall as Jim Hawkins. Russell regular Georgina Hale plays Mum. Ken wrote as well as directed, Maureen Murray produced, Xavier Russell- Ken's son- was editor. The director of photography was Hong Manley who did a number of films with Ken.
It was a Channel 4 Christmas Eve special, but at the same time as the popular British comedy soap "Only Fools and Horses" so lost out in the ratings. It has since been repeated at least once.
All images from the film.
Alice in Russialand from 1993, a sort of documentary TV film about Russia (mainly the USSR) and the Russians.
Hetty Baynes, then Ken's wife, returns again in this film about Russia using Alice in Wonderland as a framework. Hetty, aged 50, is Alice.
Alice falls through a rabbit hole and floats down, with images of Russians floating by- leaders such as Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachov, Yeltsin along with cultural icons such as Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky and national hero Yuri Gagarin. Some of the imagery is reminiscent of early film-maker Mêliés who Ken also paid homage to in Salome's Last Dance.
The Alice in Wonderland themes continue.
Tsar Nicholas II makes an appearance. Holding up a cross like this crops up in a number of Ken's films.
We move from historic pre-revolution Russia to the Russia of Post Revolutionary Art. At first it seems if Ken is going to cover major aspects of Soviet life, such as art, work, revolution and justice.
A good image of art coming to life.
Stalin appears regularly with his hammer and sickle.
A patriotic formation of planes from a Soviet propaganda film, and below religion is tackled briefly but with a beautiful image.
The second half of the film is weak, mostly consisting of clips or full videos from existing Soviet rock music videos or experimental noise installations. The videos are not of interest and the film does become tiring.
Not really recognisable, but the dialogue in the film suggests the hare is Ken. Ken does some of the voiceover, initially in a bad American accent when he covers emigrants to the USA- "kindly drop that phony accent" says Alice.
A Russian cartoon.
Finally Alice awakens. Amanda Ray King plays Alice's sister and previously had a small part in Ken's The Mystery of Doctor Martinu. Other credited actors are Oliver Haden, Peter Majer, Stephen Rouse, Hannah King (who was also in The Mystery of Doctor Martinu), Steve Pemberton, Yuri Stepanov and Ken and Hetty's youngest child Rex though he would have been a baby.
The editor is Ken's son Xavier Russell and Director of Photography is Hong Manley.
All images (poorer quality, sorry) from the film.
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