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Ken Russell video, radio




video, radio and advertisements

Sitting Duck was the name of a company Russell set up to make videos after the success of Nikita.



In the 1960s while working for the BBC, Ken Russell also made many advertisements for showing on British commercial television. These include baked beans (Horlicks not Heinz) and Galaxy Bar and Black Beauty chocolates. In one advert for washing powder he had to show how easily the soap suds flowed down the sink leaving no mess. He did this by pumping soap into an empty sink, then reversing the film.

Ann Magret Baked Beans In Tommy Russell satirises his advertising days. Ann-Magret is covered by soap suds and baked beans. On the right Russell handles the special effects himself. Ken Russell Tommy



Richard Golub: Trial of the Century

A pop video Ken did for his lawyer Richard Golub as payment for winning the court case concerning the Moll Flanders film. The video is set in Sing Sing prison (!) with Golub as a preaching lawyer dancing and singing through the streets, every so often coming up against the harsh judge, played by Russell.

The image from the film comes from The New York Times 7 Aug 1989.



1988 Cliff Richard: She's so Beautiful

Cliff Richard in Shes so Beautiful  Shes so Beautiful

Hard to believe Ken Russell doing a video for Cliff Richard.  Hard to believe a Cliff Richard video banned by the BBC.  Put them together and it starts to make sense.  Cliff was backed by writer Stevie Wonder on this song from Dave Clark's musical Time. Girls play on a beach and the ball turns into a flaming ball, others play hockey and the ball becomes a globe of the world.  Some of Ken's favourite locations reappear, such as the waterfall from The Rainbow.




1988 Sarah Brightman and Steve Harley: The Phantom of the Opera

Sarah Brightman  Steve Harley

Four videos of songs from Phantom of the Opera.  Ken directs two.  Phantom of the Opera has Sarah Brightman and Steve Harley dueting. She senses the presence of the phantom, and walks through the mirror into a sub-world, going by boat across a River Styx shrouded in dry-ice fog. The gravestones have snakes curled round them.

Not bad as an advert for the opera, the right mixture of the music and suspense. Sarah Brightman at times reminds you of Twiggy in The Boyfriend.

Phantom of the Opera



1988 Sarah Brightman and Cliff Richard: All I Ask of You

All I Ask of You

The second Phantom of the Opera video, with Brightman and Cliff Richard singing All I Ask of You, is abysmal.  Both sing with backdrops of flowing rivers and clear skies. As they kiss the waves crash to the ground. It is that clichéd  The other two videos, both uninteresting, are directed by Tom Gutteridge and Stephen Frears.



1988 Sarah Brightman: Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again

Sarah Brightman Wishing you were somehow here again

At the same time as the Phantom videos Russell also directed Sarah Brightman in Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.  A bit bland, with Brightman walking through a graveyard and laying flowers.



1985 Elton John: Nikita

Elton John Nikita

Following Tommy here have been many attempts by Ken to work with Elton on a full length film, so far none have materialised. Ken did however do Nikita, an example of perfect pop video making, matching the music to an image.

Elton John Nikita

Elton John Nikita

Nikita has Elton John regularly crossing the border post into Communist Europe. One of the guards is Nikita (a girl though Nikita is a boy's name). Gradually the two fall in love.

Elton John Nikita

Elton John Nikita

Elton draws a heart in the snow and sings to her as she watches through security cameras.  And in his dreams they go to a football match, with Elton in his high Tommy shoes.  But they can never get closer than handing over a passport, or dancing in their dreams.

Elton John Nikita



1985 Elton John: Cry to Heaven

Elton John in Cry to Heaven  

On Cry to Heaven Ken says "I saw an allegory of the troubles in Northern Ireland and how the innocent are always the victims...when the record companies saw what was happening they dropped me like a hot condom".

The video is weak (though not as weak as the song) following the lyrics too literally.  Some of the imagery, Elton John in clown make-up, just doesn't work.  The toddler in the film is presumably Russell's child.  One good image is of a toy cat watching a toy mouse.



1993 Bryan Adams: Diana

Bryan Adams Diana

Ken directed Adam's tribute to Diana. Victoria Russell, Ken's daughter, had met Adams when she was stylist on the Run to You video and they became close friends for a number of years.  Diana is a compilation of Diana and Charles newsreel, all too predictable.



Pandora's Box: Its all coming back to me now
Pandora's Box:
Teenager in Love

Its all coming back to me now

Ken Russell directed a music video for Jim Steinman's all-girl band, Pandora's Box.  A site visitor says "Unlike the Celine Dion version, the original song is very wild. The Russell video is shot all in black and white, and features a motorcycle crash, ritualistic orgies, ballet in bondage gear, and paramedics".

Very similar to Aria, the video of Its all coming back to me now is disappointing and drags on without creating excitement.  Elaine Caswell stars in the video.  "On a large soundstage at Pinewood Studios, dancers from the London production of 'Cats' have been strapped into bondage gear at Russell's direction. Studded codpieces, tight leather jockstraps and dangerously spiked brassieres abound" (Jin Hotton, Kerang 1989 quoted on www.jimsteinman.com). You can watch the video on-line click here

Its all coming back to me now

Its all coming back to me now




1995 The Death of Scriabin

A radio play for the BBC Radio 3 directed and written by Ken. "...in 1914, Two men with more than a passing interest in the occult meet in St. Basil´s Cathedral, Moscow- the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin and the notorious English mystic Alesteir Crowley."  James Wilby plays Scriabin and Oliver Reed plays Crowley. Ken plays Professor R J Stone and other parts are Olga (Hetty Baynes), police sergeant (Brian Murphy), headman (Don Warrington), Tanya Schloezer (Kristin Milward), Ernie Gross (Joshua Towb), Arensky (Gavin Muir) and Rimsky-Korsakov (Don Maccorkindale) and announcer (Donald Macleod).  The producer was Adrian Bean.  It was originally a film script, but the film did not go ahead. The dyslexia of Reed gave him problems with the role.  Ken says of Oliver Reed "He came over specially from Ireland to do the recording.  It paid hardly enough to cover the gas bill, but I think the novelty of doing radio appealed to him.  At one point we were all in the studio doing background noise; I don't think anyone's asked Oliver to be an extra before".  It was broadcast on 18 June 1995.  Quotes from The Radio Times, 17/23 June 1995.

A British Picture

Ken reading from his autobiography over a number of evenings as part of BBC radio's A Book at Bedtime series.

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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