Issue 61: Ken Russell
Ken Russell: Master of Excess
In March we celebrate the flamboyant brilliance of the late British director Ken Russell with articles on The Devils, his famously outrageous depiction of possession in 17th-century France, released on DVD in its original version for the first time, his psychedelic drug movie Altered States, his take on Byron and Shelley’s famous ghost story writing competition Gothic, and Savage Messiah, his portrayal of French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, as well as a defence of his much decried Litztomania and an article about his fraught relationship with the press. In this month’s Alter Ego, Nick Harkaway is Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer in Billion Dollar Brain while Reel Sounds is about Russell’s composers and we have a Comic Strip Review of Women in Love.
In cinemas we review Werner Herzog’s death row documentary Into the Abyss, uncompromising Spanish award-winner Black Bread, disquieting Austrian paedophile portrait Michael, Argentine corruption drama Carancho and Norwegian thriller Babycall. We have a feature on Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan to mark the release of Once upon a Time in Anatolia and an article on avant-garde Japanese filmmaker Shûji Terayama, whose work is being shown at Tate Modern.
In the DVDs, we look at Polish master Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s 1959 Night Train and affecting, original A Horrible Way to Die. CineLit reviews books on Spaghetti Westerns while in the Jukebox East Asian culture connoisseur and DJ Zoë Baxter picks her favourite films. In the blog, we report back on the Berlinale and FrightFest Glasgow.
Exploring The Lair of the White Worm: In a panel discussion recorded at The Horse Hospital arts club after a screening of Ken Russell’s lurid Bram Stoker adaptation on Wednesday 14 March, Mark Pilkington discusses The Lair of the White Worm (1988) with BFI Flipside programmers Vic Pratt and Will Fowler, touching on the legend of the Lambton Worm, titillation and absurdity in British cinema and Russell’s three-picture deal with Vestron Pictures in the 1980s.
Ken Russell: ‘All Art Is Sex!’: In a special programme to honour the late Ken Russell, Virginie SÃ©lavy is joined by Strange Attractor Press editor Mark Pilkington, Electric Sheep contributor Richard Bancroft and Electric Sheep assistant editor Alex Fitch to discuss the director’s achievements, including The Devils, Altered States, Lair of the White Worm, Lisztomania, Dance of the Seven Veils and Music Lovers.