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Ken Russell Delius on DVD

Fenby and Elgar

Song of Summer and Stone Tape

Darren Arnold´s pre-release review of the DVD version of Song of Summer and more from the BFI

Ask a number of Ken Russell fans what they consider to be the finest Russell television work, and it’s a fair bet that Song of Summer would prove to be the most popular choice.  Made for BBC’s Omnibus at a time when Russell had not only considerable TV experience behind him, but also the benefit of having directed features, Song of Summer features fine performances from Max Adrian (as Delius) and Christopher Gable. Both performers went on to feature in some of Russell’s later features, but it can be argued that neither actor ever topped their work in this poignant and expertly-crafted TV film.

Many Russell fans will be familiar with the film, but nonetheless anyone with the slightest interest in Russell (or TV history) should welcome the release of Song of Summer on DVD.  This disc has been released by the British Film Institute as one of the first DVDs in their new Archive Television series (Nigel Kneale’s classic ghost story The Stone Tape was also released on the same day - 20 August 2001), and besides some nice packaging and sleeve notes, the disc carries some nice extra features.

The disc carries an attractive opening menu, and apart from the typical options that you’ll find on almost any DVD (play movie, scene selection), the real fun is to be had with the other options. Firstly, there’s a bio of Ken, which runs to just over seven screens of info (there’s also an interesting full-screen photo of Russell that can be selected). The biggest attraction among the extras, however, is Russell’s commentary on the movie, which is a fascinating account of the making of the film.  As you might expect, a few of the details are a bit sketchy (it’s been well over thirty years since Russell shot this film), but he’s always got something interesting to say about what’s up there on the screen.

As well as the DVD (which carries a PG Parental Guidance certificate, and is a Region 0 disc, so region free), the BFI are releasing the film (no extras) on VHS.


(thanks Darren)

If by now you've watched your Song of Summer DVD more times than you care to remember, you might be interested in another Omnibus film that's been given the DVD treatment courtesy of the BFI: Jonathan Miller's 1968 chiller Whistle and I'll Come to You.  This creepy tale is an adaptation of M R James' story Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad, and features a superb performance from Michael Hordern. 

Russell regular Dick Bush photographed the film, and his fine camerawork is a key factor in creating the ultra-eerie atmosphere. There's not too much that can be said here, plot-wise, without spoiling the film.  All you need to know is that it concerns a professor who takes a winter holiday in Norfolk. Whilst walking one day, he finds a whistle in a graveyard, but is completely unaware of the significance of his find - until later on.

The film itself clocks in at just over 40 minutes, but the DVD features a huge 85 minutes of extras.  Like Song of Summer (which also appeared in the BFI's Archive Television series), the disc is a Region 0 (so region free) release. 

Darren Arnold


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