Ken Russell the films
Neverlands: The Rainbow


Ken Russell The Rainbow  Ken Russell The Rainbow

Ken Russell is finding it hard to find commercial backers for his films so is retreating to the occasional television documentary and acting roles to support new ventures. The Rainbow was an attempt to revive the success of Women in Love and while it almost succeeds critically, it failed commercially. But typical of Russell he then comes out with a minor classic, Whore.

The Rainbow is the prequel of DH Lawrence's Women in Love. Whereas the novel covers many generations living through the industrialisation of North England, Russell focuses on the rites of passage of Ursula from the child looking at the rainbow through to her self-realisation. She calls herself "a bird blown out of its own latitude".

Ken Russell The Rainbow   Ken Russell The Rainbow

As a teenager Ursula meets the dashing soldier, who almost seduces her in a church, slowly peeling off her glove, reminiscent of Brando picking up the glove in On the Waterfront.

But he cannot compete with the forbidden eroticism of the swimming instructor.  Ursula asserts her freedom by becoming a teacher, in a Dickensian school, but it is an unhappy place as she is caught between leering masters and prank-playing children.

Ken Russell The Rainbow

Discovering she is pregnant her only hope seems to be with the soldier, but she discovers he has since married.  Caught in a fog she comes across horses which terrify her and she flees, the flight across a river causing a fever which almost kills her. She wakes at home, with her parents looking after her, and a rainbow outside her window encourages her to decide her future.

Russell uses many of the same people, actors and technicians, who had worked on Women in Love: Glenda Jackson and Christopher Gable, cinematographer Billy Williams and George Cole, gaffer.  The film company, Vestron, went bankrupt just before the release, so the film had no advertising whatsoever.



Sammi Davis in The Rainbow   Amanda Donohoe in The Rainbow

Sammi Davis (Lair of the White Worm) stars. Amanda Donohoe, also from Lair, has a major role. Both are good.

Glenda Jackson is superb acting as the mother. She plays the part so naturally you would never guess she is a double Oscar winning actress. Christopher Gable is equally convincing.

Christopher Gable in The Rainbow   Glenda Jackson in The Rainbow

Molly Russell, Ken's daughter and Rupert Russell, his son, play the children.  Other regulars are David Hemmings (Clouds of Glory), Judith Paris, Kenneth Colley (Modeste in The Music Lovers).  The music of Carl Davis fits in well with film (for example the scene destroying the cabbages), and Imogen Claire does the choreography.  Photography was by Billie Williams and Peter Davis was the editor.  The book was adapted by Ken and then wife Vivian Russell. The only weaknesses in the script are the cursory references to industrialisation, which should have been dropped, and the confrontation with the horses where the symbolism is not clear.


Best Image

Ken Russell The Rainbow  Ken Russell The Rainbow

The rows of swimmers like tadpoles...  and the lesbian lovers swim against the flow.

Ken Russell The Rainbow

The rainbow sandwich.


Best Scene

Ken Russell The Rainbow

The lesbian seduction in the swimming pool.



Ken Russell The Rainbow   Ken Russell The Rainbow

The rocking horse (A British Picture, Folk Songs) and real horses.

Ken Russell The Rainbow

The schoolgirls wear sailor suits.

The painter and his model.
Sexuality (repressed, lesbian), hills and lakes and Catholicism (various church sequences).



Other films released in the same year include Born on the Fourth of July, Black Rain and Driving Miss Daisy.

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