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Ken Russell tv video


Monitor classics 2


1962 Preservation Man

Bruce Lacey seems to keep everything.  The film starts with him riding a penny-farthing (and if you look closely you can just see the feet of schoolchildren chasing after him).  He stops by crashing into a tree.  Throughout the film he seem a mix between Buster Keaton and Groucho Marx and even his children are involved as they play on a giant stuffed camel in his house.

Bruce Lacey in Ken Russell Preservation Man  Ken Russell Preservation Man

Lacey is not interesting enough for the film, he seems merely foolish.  However the films does have some images that Ken would use later- the knife thrower comes back in Mahler, the chain of people on skates in French Dressing.

Ken Russell Preservation Man  Ken Russell Preservation Man

And the dummy coming to life (Lacey wearing what looks like the costume the Beatles would later use on Sgt Pepper) is a reminder of Ken as a young actor when he had to stay on stage inside a suit of armour the whole play, only coming alive for the climax.

Ken Russell Preservation Man

Ken Russell Preservation Man  Ken Russell Preservation Man  Ken Russell Preservation Man


1962 Mr Chesher´s Traction Engines

Mr ChesterTraction Engines- Ken Russell

The films starts with A.W. Chesher lamenting the disappearance of English farmland, with some farms being turned in an aerodrome.  The films moves to Chesher who collects traction engines, and then we discover he does paintings of the engines.  He seems to know everything about the machines, and though he talks of technical details, his hypnotic voice makes it seem like poetry.  His painting style has some traces of Lowry and Stanley Spenser.

He paints in his house on a small table, with his wife beside him: she is devoid of emotion and crocheting continually.  He has to put a sheet over the table to avoid paint spilling- obviously something his wife insisted on. And he draws his engines in country scenes, good primitive paintings. 16 minutes.


1962 Elgar

For the 100th edition of Monitor something special was required.  Russell came up with the documentary about the composer Elgar which became the most loved television programme in the 1960s.

Not only did it establish Russell as a film-maker - it led to him directing his first cinema film French Dressing - but it also started a revival of Elgar, from being totally neglected and regarded as out-of-date (similar to Kipling now) to one of the best loved English composers.  Opening with the boy Elgar riding a white horse over the mountains, the film couldn't fail to win the audience over.

Elgar by Ken Russell

The conventional documentary style (talking heads and empty buildings) is abandoned for a film which gives a feeling for Elgar and how he lived and why he composed.  Using actors to play Elgar at various ages was controversial within the BBC- it was felt actors should not appear in documentaries. For Elgar they were not allowed to speak in the film.

Elgar is played by George McGrath and Peter Brett (who would shortly after write the screenplay for French Dressing).  The editor is Alan Tyrer and sound is by Russell regular John Murphy.  The script is by Russell, with Huw Wheldon writing and speaking the commentary.  Ken Higgins is the photographer, his talent and Russell's imagery is stunning:

Elgar by Ken Russell

Elgar by Ken Russell

Elgar by Ken Russell

Elgar by Ken Russell

Controversially Russell played the patriotic Land of Hope and Glory to scenes of First World War carnage as the blind lead the blind.

Elgar by Ken Russell

Criticism was muted when the queen expressed admiration of the film.  The Catholicism of Russell also comes over:

Elgar by Ken Russell

One of the landmarks of television (Song of Summer is another) alongside Ken Loach (Cathy Come Home).  Russell later tried to raise finance for an Elgar film but didn't succeed.  40 years on he has made a new Elgar film for Melvyn Bragg.


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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