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Ken Russell television
1996 Tales of Erotica
Short films by different directors. Russell contributes The Insatiable Mrs Kirsch (made in 1993).
Hetty Baynes stars. Simon Shepherd co-stars. Baynes also appeared in Lady Chatterley, The Secret Life of Sir Arnold Bax and Treasure Island and was a dancer in Classic Widows. She was Ken Russell's wife.
This is possibly Ken's worst ever work. The story is ridiculously clumsy and improbable, and the acting of Shepherd is pedestrian, though the use of voice-overs, meaning he has little dialogue, can't have helped. Baynes comes out better, but has little scope to show her acting ability. The filming is routine.
Another film tackling a similar topic is Woody Allen's All You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex... with the vibrator scene being funnier (in Allen's film the vibrator catches fire) and the Italian sequences more erotic. Xavier Russell is editor, Hong Manley is Photographer. Russell themes that recur are the hill top view of the lake/sea, walking along a dark corridor with light at the end, the use of caves.
Note: some videos have only three of the films, missing off Russell's film.
A prison drama with all the usual characters: the sadistic prison warder, the gang of gay black convicts looking for a "girlie" and the fresh faced new inmate who can fight and take care of himself.
The opening sequence is of an old rusted prison van but this realism is soon forgotten. The prisoners´ uniforms are neat despite it being a hell on earth, the guards´ uniforms look unworn (Russell made the same mistake in Prisoners of Honor) and the sleeping quarters look quite attractive. Prisoners wake up in the middle of the night clean shaven, and they have neat haircuts.
To stop escapes there are guard dogs and as training the convicts run through the grounds and are tracked by the guard dogs. These prisoners are Dogboys. The Australian guard is being investigated for tax fraud and an agent is put in the prison. When the agent gets too close to the truth he is mauled to death by a dog and the hero (a convict) discovers a part of a photo in the pools of blood he has to clean up. The photo is of a prisoner with his hands above his head, but the pose is not natural and the expression is strange.
Tia Carrere, of Wayne´s World, is the prim DA investigator who put the agent in the prison posing as a prisoner. Later she sees a photo of a captured deer strung up and realises the photo of the prisoner with hands above his head is upside down, it is actually a prisoner strung up: prisoners are being hunted and strung up as game. This mystery and the explanation are the only real element of suspense in the story.
The warden, Captain Brown, was improbably married to a famous classical musician but she was murdered, along with their dog, by an escaped convict. Brown moved from Australia and is now taking his revenge in the prison.
Before I had seen the film, I asked about it in an Internet newsgroup: people couldn't believe Russell had directed it: "an entirely undistinguished Southern prison B-flick. Sad to see Russell reduced to cranking out such routine fare". Russell's name only appears in the end-credits. His second ever action film, after Billion Dollar Brain.
Xavier Russell is the editor. The cinematography is by Jamie Thompson and script by Robert Stork& Hugh Martin, David Taylor and Ken. Stork&Martin are also executive producers. The film is also called Tracked.
There are a few Russell motifs: a video within the film, a reference to The Shining (Honey I'm home) and music (J.S. Bach). The solitary confinement is similar to the sensory deprivation of Altered States but it is unconvincing. The scene when the prisoner is being lowered into the pit is at times similar to Glenda Jackson lying on the grill above the prisoners. The film is a professional TV film, not too bad as such but way below Russell's capabilities.
A documentary by Russell on professional female soccer players in Brighton.
It was broadcast on BBC regional television as part of BBC2's Southern Eye series. Here is a review by Ray Allen (thanks Ray):
At the end of Brighton Belles, Ken mentions that Fulham FC are the only professional women's football team in this country. As a season ticket holder of that club and a resident of Brighton (as well as a lifelong enthusiast of Ken Russell) I may, therefore, be seen as having a particular interest in Ken Russell meets the Brighton Belles.
For me, much of Ken's recent work has been spoilt by a tendency to wish to appear like one of his characters from Lisztomania when acting as narrator. I am delighted to say that here he appears rather like a paternalistic grandfather to two young American women football players currently 'over here' to gain experience of playing in another country (at the highest level.) It remains a mystery as to just why they should wish to come to Britain to gain this experience when only three clubs, Fulham, Arsenal and the 'Doncaster Belles' take the women's game at all seriously. The film charts the girls' early experiences of playing for Brighton Ladies at Tranmere in front of a mere handful of spectators whereas at home they might expect crowds larger that the average third division match in this country.
Uncle Ken cajoles and encourages them as they wander around the sights in Brighton 'having fun.' He cooks for them 'Mushroom Risotto a la Russell' (as Ken says "looks like dog sick") but is probably not a match for Ken Hom (certainly not sartorially!) Sitting on a bench (not far from the nudist beach - which is thankfully not mentioned!) Ken shows considerable ability in being able to tease out, in a wonderfully natural way these young ladies' thoughts and aspirations. I doubt these young women will be taken on by Fulham, as the limited footage of their football skills failed to suggest particular ability; but who knows, the evidence of their playful vocalising to guitar accompaniment is surely dreadful enough to suggest a career in pop music!
Ken's homely homily leaves this viewer with the desire to know what becomes of these two obviously delightful young people. Perhaps the BBC would allow Ken in future years to follow Sean and her friend across the pond. I, for one , would be really interested.
2002 Elgar Portrait of the Composer on a Bicycle
Ken Russell's second attempt at Elgar is brave considering the high regard for his original version.
The documentary has no dialogue, rather a voice-over by Ken. But actually the music dominates the film, with the Enigma Variations used as a link with the variations being unravelled.
There are some references back to the original Elgar film: the war wounded and the kite on the hill. And the film ends in the present with Ken looking at a statue of Elgar.
An accomplished work, showing that Ken can still adapt his style to his subject.
Click title for film Picture Stories (Charlotte Bronte) * Peepshow * Knights on Bikes * Amelia and the Angel, Lourdes * Poet's London * Gordon Jacob * Guitar Crazy * Variations on a mechanical theme, Two Painters * portrait of a Goon * Marie Rambert remembers * Architecture and entertainment * Cranks at Work * The miner's picnic * Shelagh Delaney's Salford * A house in Bayswater * The light fantastic * London Moods * Antonio Gaudi * Lotte Lenya sings Kurt Weill * Old Battersea House * Portrait of a Soviet Composer * Pop goes the easel * Preservation man * Mr Chesher´s traction engines * Elgar * Watch the birdie * The lonely shore * Bartok * The dotty world of James Lloyd * Diary of a nobody * The Debussy Film * Always on a Sunday * Don't shoot the composer * Isadora * Dante's Inferno * Song of Summer * Dance of the Seven Veils * William and Dorothy * The Rime of the Ancient Mariner * ABC of British Music * A British Picture * The Planets * Vaughan Williams * The Strange Affliction of Anton Bruckner * The Secret Life of Sir Arnold Bax * The Mystery of Doctor Martinu * Classic Widows * In Search of the English Folk Song * Stories of Seduction * Prisoners of Honor * Lady Chatterley * Alice in Russialand * Ken Russell's Treasure Island * Tales of Erotica * Dogboys, Brighton Belles * Elgar A Portrait of the Composer on a Bicycle * Lion's Mouth * The Fall of the Louse of Usher * Revenge of the Elephant Man (Hot Pants 1) * the Mystery of Mata Hari (Hot Pants 2) * The Goodship Venus (Hot Pants 3) * Advertisements * Trial of the Century * She's So Beautiful * Phantom of the Opera * Nikita, Cry for Heaven * Diana * Its all coming back to me now * Teenager in Love * The Death of Scriabin
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