Ken Russell will long be remembered as a film director who was highly skilled in putting his various passions on the screen. He employed extreme and vivid imagery energized by surreal juxtapositions. Classical music was an obsession for him and his bio-pics of composers ranged from the paroxysmic (THE MUSIC LOVERS – Tchaikovsky, LISZTOMANIA – Liszt and Wagner) to the profound (SONG OF SUMMER – Delius, MAHLER). He never flinched from depicting eroticism and sexuality and his adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s WOMEN IN LOVE may be his finest exploration of that topic.
Those who enjoy classic horror fiction will appreciate GOTHIC, which explores the dynamics of the individuals surrounding Marry Shelley when she conceived of her novel FRANKENSTEIN as well as the campy LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, based on a Bram Stoker tale.
His Hollywood career peaked with ALTERED STATES which employs unfettered religious iconography to depict scientific experimentation with consciousness-altering substances.
Many Satanists hold THE DEVILS to be his most powerful work. Starring his frequent collaborator Oliver Reed in what may be his best performance, this film examines the madness of religious fixation fueled by sexual repression as a French convent’s nuns consider themselves to be possessed. This was based on a historical incident, and Russell masterfully exposes the horrors which can be wrought by theism allied with governmental power and driven by erotic mania.
Farewell to thee, Maestro Russell. Your imagery will both sustain and shatter many beholders now and into the future!
Magus Peter H. Gilmore