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Ken Russell television



The TV films are disappointing. I suspect Russell accepts these commissions to raise money/survive so that he can makes films that interest him. The division between TV and film is arbitrary: Mindbender is a film but could be TV, Dogboys could be a film. All are in the "straight to video" category. Has he lost his talent? No, he has lost his budget. For an example of Russell close to great look at a late film Whore.  And recent films such as Brighton Belles and Elgar show his talent is still there.


1990 Women and Men: Stories of Seduction

Ken Russell Stories of Seduction

Three short films each by a different director, each based on a minor story by a great writer, each about a man meeting a woman. Russell directs as does Frederic Raphael and Tony Richardson. Not very interesting.

Russell's piece is Dusk Before the Fireworks based on Dorothy Parker's short story. Valerie Curtin adapts it for television. The editor is John Jympson and Russell regular Billie Williams is director of photography.

Ken Russell Stories of Seduction

Molly Ringwald and Peter Weller play lovers but his phone keeps ringing as other lovers phone. Neither actor seems comfortable with the dialogue (I'm in little bits, would you mind doing something to put me together again) and neither is really interested in this tedious word-bound adaptation of a tedious story.

Jean Cocteau's play The Telephone handled a similar subject with subtlety and passion, both missing here in the directing, writing and acting.


1991 Prisoners of Honor

A very tiresome filming of the Dreyfus case, a true story in the nineteenth century of a French soldier convicted of espionage. But it became apparent Dreyfus was a victim who was framed, mainly because he was Jewish. Emile Zola the French novelist took up his case with the famous article J´Accuse (I Accuse), Graham Greene later exposed corruption in Nice with the same title.

The film starts promisingly, "Judas sold Christ, Dreyfus sold France" but after seconds descends into mediocrity. The period pieces look very staged, the African scene is clearly a tiny studio, the police holding back rioters look like actors careful not to hurt fellow actors.

Ken Russell Prisoners of Honor

The film plods along without generating any interest. Dreyfus as a character appears too infrequently to be important, neither is Picquart´s (Richard Dreyfuss) dilemma of honour and justice interesting, the anti-Semitism is off-hand and never personal or threatening, and the political machinations (given the title- they were all prisoners of honor- the theme of the film) are tiresome with meeting following meeting, trial following trial.


Richard Dreyfuss in Ken Russell Prisoners of Honor

Richard Dreyfuss stars. Did he do it just because of his name? His acting is stilted. The only person who shines is Oliver Reed who's acting is restrained and convincing, with a measure of cynicism. He is really good, though Russell says "it wasn't the same Oliver. He was a different man".

Oliver Reed in Ken Russell Prisoners of Honor

Kenneth Colley in Ken Russell Prisoners of Honor

Russell regular Kenneth Colley plays Dreyfus.  Lindsay Anderson the director appears as the Minster of War.

Lindsay Anderson in Ken Russell Prisoners of Honor

Other actors come across as actors wearing brand new costumes and fake moustaches. Editors are Mia Goldman and Brian Tagg, and photography is by Mike Southan, though Russell also operated camera a lot.  The film was shot at Pinewood studios in London.

Ken Russell Prisoners of Honor Russell composes his shots carefully.  The composition is often perfect.

The candle-lit scene would be used again in Lion's Mouse.

Ken Russell Prisoners of Honor

There are some brief moments (brief seconds) when Russell becomes interested in the film: the night club singer (Imogen Claire) white faced in a black/red costume with long black gloves looks like a spider; the lines of red uniformed soldiers filmed from high up looking like a row of cherries; the stage show with "Dreyfus the vampire", the police artist drawing the suicide victim's hand holding the razor (compare the opening drawing of Savage Messiah). But I longed for a dream sequence with snakes and nuns.

Ken Russell Prisoners of Honor Ken Russell Prisoners of Honor
Ken Russell Prisoners of Honor Ken Russell Prisoners of Honor


A couple of Russell themes are present: a steam train, a photo of a child in a sailors costume.

Ken Russell Prisoners of Honor

Note the minor difference in title on the video covers.

Ken Russell Prisoners of Honor

The book shown in the film is called Prisoners of Honor.

Ken Russell Prisoners of Honor


More television

Click title for film Picture Stories (Charlotte Bronte) * Peepshow * Knights on Bikes * Amelia and the Angel, Lourdes * Poet's London * Gordon Jacob * Guitar Crazy * Variations on a mechanical theme, Two Painters * portrait of a Goon * Marie Rambert remembers * Architecture and entertainment * Cranks at Work * The miner's picnic * Shelagh Delaney's Salford * A house in Bayswater * The light fantastic * London Moods * Antonio Gaudi * Lotte Lenya sings Kurt Weill * Old Battersea House * Portrait of a Soviet Composer * Pop goes the easel * Preservation man * Mr Chesher´s traction engines * Elgar * Watch the birdie * The lonely shore * Bartok * The dotty world of James Lloyd * Diary of a nobody * The Debussy Film * Always on a Sunday * Don't shoot the composer * Isadora * Dante's Inferno * Song of Summer * Dance of the Seven Veils * William and Dorothy * The Rime of the Ancient Mariner * ABC of British Music * A British Picture * The Planets * Vaughan Williams * The Strange Affliction of Anton Bruckner * The Secret Life of Sir Arnold Bax * The Mystery of Doctor Martinu * Classic Widows * In Search of the English Folk Song * Stories of Seduction * Prisoners of Honor * Lady Chatterley * Alice in Russialand * Ken Russell's Treasure Island * Tales of Erotica * Dogboys, Brighton Belles * Elgar A Portrait of the Composer on a Bicycle * Lion's Mouth * The Fall of the Louse of Usher * Revenge of the Elephant Man (Hot Pants 1) * the Mystery of Mata Hari (Hot Pants 2) * The Goodship Venus (Hot Pants 3) * Advertisements * Trial of the Century * She's So Beautiful * Phantom of the Opera * Nikita, Cry for Heaven * Diana * Its all coming back to me now * Teenager in Love * The Death of Scriabin


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