I had never heard of Ken Russell until 1969 when a very controversial film called ‘Women in Love’ was released. I went to see it on my own at the Empire in Huddersfield just for the male nude wrestling scene but what I saw on the screen changed my life. I had never ever seen a film so beautiful. I remember going to school the next day and telling everyone (we were all under-age because it was an ‘X’ certificate film) they must go and see it and would go with anyone who wanted to go. I remember thinking you could stop each frame of the film and take it away and have it as a picture on your wall….but more about my love for Ken Russell films later.
Me and Ken in 2001 at the Curzon Soho for the premiere of his film ‘The Fall of the Louse of Usher’
Me and Ken in 2008 on his 81st birthday in his local pub in the New Forest
Here is a précis of his career from the Homepage of my Ken Russell discussion group at Yahoo called ‘The Lair of Ken Russell’:
(Henry)Ken(neth)(Alfred)Russell was born in Southampton on July 3rd, 1927.
From there he went to the BBC for the Arts programme: Monitor where he madeElgar (1962) which put him on the film-making map!
In 1963 his first feature film French Dressing flopped so he returned to television where he amazed us all with: The Debussy Film (1965); Isadora Duncan: The Biggest Dancer in the World (1966) and Song of Summer(1968) before shocking ‘them’ with the still banned Dance of the Seven Veils: A Comic Strip in Seven Episodes on the Life of Richard Strauss (1970).
Then – cue music – he stunned the world and changed lives with a string of masterpieces starting with Women in Love (1969) for which he was nominated for his only Oscar and sallied forth with The Music Lovers (1970) and, his crowning glory The Devils (1971) which still causes uproar to this very day and still isn’t officially released on DVD!
Besides many other TV films and Operas his films include The Boyfriend; Savage Messiah; Mahler; Tommy; Lisztomania; Valentino; Altered States; Crimes of Passion; Gothic; Lair of the White Worm; The Rainbow and Whore.
2008:Ken directed Anthony Horowitz’s acclaimed thriller ‘Mindgame’ in New York at the SoHo Theatre (Off-Broadway). Also, ‘Boudica Bites Back!’
RIP Ken Russell: The Master: November 27th 2011