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Ken Russell omnibus classics

1968 Song of Summer

Ken Russell Song of Summer Delius

Ken's most beautiful work, about creativity and sacrifice. The composer Delius had become paralysed and blind by syphilis and could no longer compose. Eric Fenby volunteered to help him write down his music over the next five years.  As with many of Russell's films the opening seconds are an attention-grabber- Laurel and Hardy, and as the camera pulls back we see Fenby playing piano in the cinema. This short scene is sadly omitted from the re-release of the film.

Fenby reflected in the dark glasses of Delius

Fenby reflected in the blind Delius´ glasses. Only when Delius dies do his eyes open.

Eric Fenby played by Christopher Gable   Maureen Pryor as Jelka

Max Adrian as Delius, Maureen Pryor as his wife Jelka and Christopher Gable as Fenby are totally convincing in their roles "I can't reconcile such hardness with such lovely music".

Gable was a dancer who was going to appear in Nijinsky as the Russian dancer until it fell through. Yet another non-actor Russell is able to turn into a natural actor. Gable also later appeared in Women in Love, The Rainbow and other films and Adrian appeared in The Music Lovers, The Devils and The Boyfriend.

Ken Russell Song of Summer

Elizabeth Ercy is superb as the maid. There is some good subtle writing by Ken Russell. While Fenby goes to bed his voice-over says there is no-one of his own age. The next scene he is woken by the maid, clearly his own age. It says a world about the society and the mental state he lived in

Ken Russell Delius Song of Summer

Some scenes are haunting: after the meal the servant putting Delius over his back like a bag of coal to take him to bed, the scenes of Fenby playing to the irritated Delius´ instructions.

Ken Russell Delius Song of Summer

The film was the first time the taboo subject of syphilis was mentioned.

Fenby was involved in the shooting and said Russell's filming was totally convincing. "I have often been asked whether or not the sprinkling of rose petals over his body was a touch of Ken Russell's fantasy. No, that actually happened at daybreak that morning. Strange, perhaps, to English ways, but it was Jelka's wish, and she did it herself from a wheel-chair. " The same image was copied later in The Year of Living Dangerously.

Ken Russell Delius Song of Summer

When Fenby left Delius he became paralysed, like Delius. He only recovered months later.

Ken Russell in Delius Song of Summer

Ken Russell has a cameo role as the priest.

Death of Delius

2001 A Space Odyssey death

The death of Delius (top) is repeated in Kubrick´s 2001: A Space Odyssey (below) and Russell's Altered States.

The music in the film:

  • On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, the music Fenby hears on the radio

  • Poem of Life and Love which is the main piece Fenby and Delius worked on in the film, and which was renamed Song of Summer

  • A Village Requiem which is the record Jekla plays to Fenby

  • Appalachia when Delius talks about the influence of the negroes

  • The Song of the High Hills when they climb the mountain

  • Requiem when Fenby and Delius are in the boat

  • Hassan, the second record Jelka plays

There are two Percy Grainger pieces- Country Garden when Grainger first appears, and Handel in the Strand when Fenby and Grainger race.

Ken Russell Song of Summer Delius


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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