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Ken Russell links


New links are welcome.  Scroll to the end for other link pages.
click on images for links Films and projects
  Early films

The British Film Institute now have an excellent site covering Russell's television work.  This is highly recommended. Click here www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/1030022/.

click for link Altered States (scroll down the page)

"Exactly how you respond to this visually relentless jackhammer of a film will depend on your tolerance for Russell's orgiastic camera pyrotechnics, which actually manage to surpass here what achieved a few years earlier in Tommy. Fortunately, Russell also keeps a firm grip on the narrative and characterizations (a skill with which has been credited far too rarely), keeping this from descending into a mindless sci-fi freakshow."

click for link Billion Dollar Brain
Ken Russell Billion Dollar Brain
the Harry Palmer films, including Billion Dollar Brain.

"Billion Dollar Brain has never been commercially available. A source on the Internet reports that this is probably due to the licensing rights of the Beatles sounds that can be heard in the movie. They are said to be too expensive."

click for link The Boyfriend

Basic information about the film and songs. And some reviews:

"Ken Russell turned the Sandy Wilson show (first produced in London in 1953) into an anti-musical and destroyed most of the pleasure the audience might have had. Russell's greatest deficiency is that he doesn't understand the charm of simplicity. The glittering, joyless numbers keep coming at you; you never get any relief from his supposed virtuosity."

click for link Crimes of Passion

Kathleen Turner:

"Crimes Of Passion pushed her, she says, "to my limit". After completion, she was so exhausted that she slept for 22 hours. It is a clever film, a kind of maze, that leads you in all sorts of wrong directions, teases you, before finally succumbing - no, wrong word - celebrating what some may think is the biggest cliché in the book, love."

click for link Dance of the Seven Veils (link no longer available for free)

A reprint of an article from 1970 on The Dance of the Seven Veils

"Of his comic strip technique, which most critics did not like either, Mr Russell said: “My intention was to paint in broad strokes. I wanted strong, hard outlines to bring out aspects of this man and his work that to my mind have been overlooked. Strauss was a self advertising, vulgar, commercial man. I took the keynote of the film from the music, a lot of which is bombastic. When you need a 120-piece orchestra to show a child being bathed, your ego has become pretty inflated”. "

click for link click for link click for link The Devils, Grandier, Loudon (links are down)

Questions on The Devils

"What are your overall impressions of the film?  Russell hasn’t attempted to give us a historically accurate account, even though it is based on true events.  His deliberately stylized approach, coupled with the “modern” aspects of the film (set design, music, certain dialogue) indicate that he is, perhaps, equally interested in using this historical event to shed light on dilemmas of the 70s.   What do you think Russell wants to say about contemporary society?"

click for link Elgar

A review of the DVD

"It was filmed in 1962 at a time when Elgar's music – and, it has to be said, British music in general, was in the doldrums. Personally speaking, I well remember being heartily criticised for daring to include Elgar's Symphony No. 2 in a programme I presented to the Peterborough Recorded Music Society in Elgar's centenary year of 1957 – "why choose music from that old has-been – it’s nothing but vulgar tub-thumping jingoistic nonsense", I was reprimanded. A typical opinion in those days! Indeed, several weeks later when I went to a performance of Elgar's The Kingdom at London’s Albert Hall, there seemed to be more people in the choir and the orchestra than in the audience!

But this wonderful (yet flawed) film changed all that. From the time it was broadcast, new recordings, and new books, shedding more and more light on the composer’s life and works appeared in increasing numbers."

click for link Elgar

A review of the DVD

"Ken Russell’s direction is stunning, with scenes of simple rural life imparting particular outdoor splendour, complimenting the composer’s work. Particularly memorable are the pony rides and cycling scenes, shot on location in the Malvern Hills, where Elgar chose to take constitutional walks, saying “I do all my composing in the open. At home, all I have to do is write it down”. Best of all is the scene of the lunatic asylum band playing Elgar's work. Complete with drooling mouths and rolling eyes, they hammer out one of his early pieces."

click for link Elgar tour

The hotel has a video library, and that evening I watch the dramatised biography of Elgar by Ken Russell.  Though the film is more than 40 years old, it has worn well. Elgar's music accompanies black-and-white vignettes, with the Malvern hills as a recurring backdrop. At the end, cine film shows Elgar shortly before his death in 1934, emerging from Worcester cathedral and playing with his dogs in his garden.
I motor on along the well-signed Elgar Route, past houses that he and his wife rented, and schools where he taught music, past the homes of friends who were portrayed in his Enigma Variations, through Great Malvern's elegant Georgian streets to the meadows and lanes where he loved to bicycle... As I buy a video of Ken Russell's film, Elgar's face looks out from my £20 note, with Worcester cathedral beside him.  Thanks to Steve for the link.

click for link Evita (link is down)

About Ken's initial involvement in Evita.

"The 1981 version was slated to have Robert Stigwood co-produce and Ken Russell to direct. But before it could lift off the ground, Ken Russell was dismissed from the project".

click for link The Fall of the Louse of Usher

Joe McNally's photos on location with Ken Russell and The Fall of the Louse of Usher.

click for link Gothic and Natasha Richardson

On Richardson, with a short mention of Gothic:

"Best Line: As Shelley and the other guests plan a scientific experiment after imbibing laudanum, Mary tells Dr Polidori (Timothy Spall), "Oh, it's easy to understand them, doctor - they have it in mind to raise the dead." This, of course, is the supposed inspiration for her to write Frankenstein. "

click for link Gothic (scroll down the page)

"Almost impossible to appreciate on its first viewing, Gothic is definitely not one of Russell's major films but does offer its own modest giddy pleasures."

click for link I Camcorder

"The programme looks at that camcorder favourite, the family wedding. With expert direction from Ken Russell, it would seem that nothing could go wrong, but the bride's uncle still manages to capture a number of embarrassing situations - from the bride's mother wrenching out her newly coiffed hairstyle, to the bride gulping down whisky to steady her nerves"

click for link


In Search of the English Folk Song (the section on the film seems to have gone).

Some photos of Fairport Convention from the film.

click for link Kiplinger (link is down).

Ken's initial involvement in Kiplinger's Syndrome . Ref 81.

"have written 5 screenplays... and started producing upon advice of British director, Ken Russell, who called my script Kiplinger's Syndrome brilliant. He was to direct it, but chose Ilkka based on advice from Hollywood insiders, (Tim Warner, ShoWest; Trimark; Robert Altman, etc)".

click for link Lady Chatterley

"Like The Rainbow, this adaptation finds the outrageous filmmaker more subdued than usual, with delicate pastoral photography and some great period costumes providing all of the visual flair."

click for link Lair

A site about The Lair of the White Worm with detailed analysis. Recommended

"By the time Stoker wrote Lair, he had descended into churning out formulaic fiction (and, depending on which account you read, was on the brink of madness due either to syphilis or Bight's Disease) so while Lair contains some interesting references, it could not be described as a classic work of fiction."

click for link Lair (scroll down the page)

"Perhaps an acquired taste, Lair of the White Worm is in many ways the ultimate Ken Russell film. All of his filmmaking strengths really hit their stride here: a twisty, insane narrative; outlandish sexual imagery and hallucinatory visuals; and pithy, literate banter focusing on class conflicts."

click for link Lair and Salome

The making of the commentary for the DVDs of Lair and Salome.

"It was in the New Forest that I would ultimately catch up with Ken, although finding him was not easy. For starters, we didn’t know he’d returned to the south of England, and so we set out expecting a trip to the Lakes District in the north. Once we located him, we discovered that the town he lived in was not on any map, and in fact didn’t even have a post office, as his postal code was that of Brockenhurst, the closest town of any significant size."

click for link Lion's Mouth (Leomania) (page no longer available for free).

"The lion, which had been waltzing around the lake (as lions do in Ken Russell films) is on loan from the BBC costume department. Inside it are three of Russell's best swansdown pillows, some very soggy newspapers and a young woman called Marie.

She stands in her underwear, her (lion's) head in her hands, as the drying out operation is carried out by the entire cast and crew for this scene; that is to say Russell, me, Evening Standard photographer Denis Jones and Marie's co-star, Emma.

Emma wears a toga she has obviously made from a sheet. Clearly no expense has been incurred on Leomania."

click for link
Lion's Mouth

A small booklet "The Rector of Stiffkey" written and illustrated by Ross Collins. Though not the basis for the film, it does give the life story of the Rector. The book is VERY well written and illustrated, and is available in a limited (but inexpensive) edition from the author rsncollins@yahoo.co.uk.

  The Rector of Stiffkey
click for link Louse

The Peter Pan of Shock: an interview on Louse.

"We are sitting at the top of exhausting stairs in a tiny Soho studio watching a blow-up sex doll and a blow-up Godzilla having simulated sex, filmed on a camcorder, while Britain's one-time most famous director attempts to dub in orgasm noises lifted from a porn movie".

click for link Louse

Ken in Cannes with Louse:

One British director with no illusions that he will win anything is Ken Russell who is premiering his latest film tomorrow. Shot largely in his back garden, The Fall of Louse of Usher is a sex comedy loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher. Russell, who at his peak 35 years ago, was responsible for such classics as Tommy and Women in Love, joked that his new work would go down in the "anus of film history".

Louse (page no longer available for free).

A tiny snippet on Louse.

"The creator of such gaudy gems as Lair of the White Worm has also spent £20,000 of his own money on the eight-part satirical adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher".

click for link Mahler (scroll down the page)

"Arguably the high point of controversial British director Ken Russell's forays into musical biographies (which include Clouds of Glory and the outrageous Lisztomania), the 1974 biopic Mahler remains lesser known most likely due to the absence of any big stars."

click for link Mindbender

An review of Mindbender (in Dutch).

"Met hun oeuvre in het achterhoofd rijst het vermoeden dat deze regisseurs het expres verpesten" (remembering his oeuvre I suspect that he deliberately sabotaged the film).

click for link The Miners' Picnic

Ken revisits the sites and people from his 1960s documentary.  You can watch part of the film on-line.


click for link Phantom (site has changed and I can't find the Phantom section now).

Costumes based on Ken's Phantom of the Opera video.

click for link Pop Goes the Easel

Minor trivia on Pop Goes the Easel.

"Ken Russell used the studio for the final party section in his film about the British pop artists, Pop Goes the Easel".

click for link Salome's Last Dance (scroll down the page)

"The results divided viewers sharply down the middle, with the literate and often claustrophobic approach faring better on the small screen than in the theater."

click for link Song of Summer

A good analysis of Song of Summer.

The gulf between the man and the art is one that has always intrigued Russell; he was to tackle it again in his film on Richard Strauss, but there his personal aversion to the composer toppled the portrait into caricature. His achievement in Song of Summer is to make us see the pathos in this callous old man, and to feel the urgent hunger for life trapped in his crippled frame that at last finds vicarious outlet in the music Fenby sets down. It is also a touching story of selflessness on the part of the 22 year-old Fenby. Russell, himself a lapsed Catholic, described Song of Summer as 'the most Catholic film I have ever done. Fenby was a newly converted Catholic when he volunteered to help Delius, and he sacrificed himself, his life and his future for an ideal and a talent he thought greater than his own.'

click for link Song of Summer

You can listen to the music from the programme here.

It includes a link to an interview with Fenby including:
"A fortnight, later, quite unexpectedly, I was back in Grez - this time with Ken Russell. We had been sent for the weekend by the BBC to see if the original settings might be used in making the proposed film We met the new owner of the home, Madame Merle d'Aubigne, who had asked us to tea in the garden. She was somewhat alarmed at the prospect of a film being made an her doorstep, but I saw at a glance she had no cause to worry. My old quarters had been pulled down, the music room had been made into bedrooms, the out buildings and studios had been renovated and the garden bore evidence of much attention.  From that moment I accepted the change. The tale of the Deliuses was over, and with it the place where it was lived.  And as we walked up the village street with its television aerials on every chimney and modern sports cars parked by the verge, I felt a great relief of mind as if I had laid some ancient ghost."


Song of Summer Song of Summer

Fenby on Delius and Song of Summer:

"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. "


"I little thought when I was struggling to take down Delius' music at Grez, that one day I should see the scene enacted in my own home. Ken Russell's film was disturbingly life like. I had net seen it before its public showing being myself out of action during the weeks of shooting. Even so. Christopher Gable, playing me, had asked me to spare his feelings and keep away front the set. Eventually I was rolled to the studios to record the music of the scene where Delius, propped up in bed, listens to Percy Grainger and me playing Grainger's two-piano arrangement of The Song of the High Hills in the music-room. On my arrival I found Russell immersed in directing a 'retake' Of my first meeting with Delius which. apparently, had not satisfied Max Adrian. I was ushered into the studio to wait, and was just in time to hear that deliberate and unforgettable greeting 'Come in, Fenby!' I had mimicked Delius weeks before at Russell's suggestion as a guide to Adrian to learning his line, and behaving like Delius, but this was too much for me - the voice, the inflection. the image of Delius sitting there, a rug over his knees, with a great screen about him, slowly extending his hand in welcome. I lived that momentous moment again, I am unashamed to say, and not without a tear. Max Adrian told me later that of all the roles he had ever played he had never before had such difficulty in ridding himself of involvement".

click for link Song of Summer (link has gone)

"Watching Song Of Summer is a timely reminder, if one were needed, of the dumbing down of TV drama over the last ten years. With its literate script and challenging subject its highly unlikely that we will see this type of programming again".

click for link Tommy

An excellent site on Tommy. It includes the full transcript of the film, as well as lots of good photos via the hyperlinks.

"She brings eyesight to the blind.
Oh, yeah. You know, her daddy gave her magic.
You know, her daddy gave her magic.
I can tell by the way she walks.
Everytime she starts to shake, The dumb begin to talk"


click for link Tommy (scroll down the page)

"visual feast with a host of familiar names delivering one song after another without any dialogue to impede the flow of music."

click for link Weill and Lenya

Ken directing Judith Paris´ stage play Weill and Lenya.

"It's difficult to get Russell to answer a straight question. He starts talking and you think he's answering, until you realise that he's swerved off on a tangent of his own and possibly doesn't even remember what he has been asked".

"[Ken] fell in love with the ultra avant-garde Danish film Festen".

Reviews Reviews

Reviews of Altered States, Billion Dollar Brain, Crimes of Passion (soon), The Devils and The Lair of the White Worm.

"[The Devils] There is a beautifully literate script - the dialogue positively sings at times. The surprise is that it is from the pen of Russell himself, although one suspects based on the relative hamfistedness of many other Russell-penned scripts, that this more due to Russell preserving the essence of Whiting's play intact than any original writing of his own."


A short piece by David Bowie remembering Ken Russell from the Tommy/ Mahler period.

"... I'm pleased to report that [Tommy] was quite fabulous! Ken Russell has always been one of my favourite directors - I love all the special effects he uses in his films. I met him while Dana was working in one of his films [Mahler] and we talked about his film technique and such. "


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