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November 28, 2011 8:53 AM   Subscribe


 
Oh, wow, that's too bad! He was one of the greats.
posted by OmieWise at 9:00 AM on November 28, 2011


RIP Ken, and thank you for Ann Margret and the beans.
posted by rocket88 at 9:02 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The world just got less interesting once again. It can't stand much more of this.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:03 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


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In addition to the works mentioned above, check out Ken Russell at the BBC for some of his early work. More conservative than his later films, as you'd imagine, but some themes will seem familiar if you're acquainted with the later stuff. The BBC piece on Isadora Duncan, starring Vivian Pickles (Harold's mom from "Harold and Maude") is a standout.

Still hope to see "The Devils" in a proper rendition someday - sadly, this may be the occasion that prompts a restoration.
posted by Currer Belfry at 9:04 AM on November 28, 2011


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posted by Iridic at 9:05 AM on November 28, 2011


I hope he's gone to a better place, but wherever he is now, I'm sure he's writhing. He would have wanted it that way.
posted by ardgedee at 9:06 AM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


The man was much too interesting to get just a '.' from me, so I'll just say that 1) a friend recommended his movie about Mahler to me just last week, and 2) we used to call it "Larry, the White Worm".
posted by benito.strauss at 9:08 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Time for a Russell retrospective, courtesy of zip.ca, including one of my all time favorites, Altered States.

My status update in Facebook reads: "Ken Russell has died. He was 666."
posted by In The Annex at 9:09 AM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Lair of the White Worm and Solome's last Dance were huge favorites of my friends and I once upon a time.

"I will kiss you... John the Baptist Ken Russell!

Also, he gave Derek Jarman his start, which, if Russell had done nothing else, would be worth celebrating.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:10 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love this old AVClub interview with Hugh Grant where he talks about working on LotWW:
Now, Ken Russell is terrific in the mornings. Then he has quite a... "French" lunch, and in the afternoon he's a fascinating director. I had to do a bit in Lair Of The White Worm where I had to pick up a sword and cut someone in half, as one does in a Ken Russell film. And I said, "You know, it doesn't feel quite comfortable doing it this way." And his directorial response was, [slurs speech] "Well, fuck how it fuckin' feels. Do it how I showed you, you fuckin' cunt!" Which is not classic Ingmar Bergman direction.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:12 AM on November 28, 2011 [18 favorites]


Also, he gave Derek Jarman his start, which, if Russell had done nothing else, would be worth celebrating.

I had forgotten that. That's a life's work right there!
posted by OmieWise at 9:12 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


His auto-bio 'Altered States' was a good read. He was fairly funny in talking about how everyone expected him to be a giant freak, and he felt like he was just an old english gent puttering around.

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posted by lumpenprole at 9:17 AM on November 28, 2011


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posted by brundlefly at 9:19 AM on November 28, 2011


RIP

If the only thing he had ever accomplished in his 8-and-a-half decades were these 8-and-a-half minutes, it all would have been worthwhile.

And he did this when he was 48 years old no less!
I should hope my 40s and 50s are as vital as his were.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:20 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


In a particularly dark period of my life I became obsessed with the first part of Tommy (I think my interest waned after the Pinball Wizard scene). I especially loved the Amazing Journey sequence, which I still think is just electric, hallucinatory cinema at its very best. The symbols are layered so thickly and go by so fast and their emotional payload just builds and builds. Watching that over and over, I felt like I was learning a new language, experiencing a form of deep communication I'd never known was possible. I've watched that sequence probably hundreds of times, and it never fails to move me to tears, and the emotional catharsis it provided me back in that dark period may have helped save my life.

For that alone, Mr. Russell, I can't thank you enough.

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posted by treepour at 9:21 AM on November 28, 2011


How awful. As a kid, Altered States blew my mind. (Which means—now that I think of it—that I first learned of Ken Russell from Omni magazine.) Strangely, I was just thinking about Russell last week after reading that his son, Alex Verney-Elliott ( Russell), disrupted a Bruckner performance by the London Philharmonic at the South Bank.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:26 AM on November 28, 2011


I saw Altered States when I was 17, in the theater on acid. Left a rather large and interesting dent in my head. I love Lair of the White Worm, too, although in more ironic way.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:29 AM on November 28, 2011


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:37 AM on November 28, 2011


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Tommy, Altered States, Lair of the White Worm -- no end of food for fun, outrage, argument, provocation in any of these. But I suspect that once the ashes settle, the Ken Russell films we'll keep coming back to are the early ones.

The Music Lovers - The Devils - Savage Messiah.

Seriously, if you haven't already crossed paths with these three, do make the effort. The man's commitment to life, art, passion, truth etc was nothing if not feverish.


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posted by philip-random at 9:37 AM on November 28, 2011


Back in 1986 (good god, that's 25 years ago) I was at the BFI for the premiere of Ken Russell's Gothic. The film itself was fairly forgettable, but Russell did a storming Q&A session with the audience afterwards. He was very excited by his discovery that in the nineteenth century, laudanum was used as a general pick-me-up. 'Do you realise what this means? Lord Byron .. Mary Shelley .. they were permanently stoned.' (Nervous laughter from audience.)

He also reminisced about his famously disastrous collaboration with Bob Guccione over the film adaptation of Moll Flanders. He gives a hilarious account of this in his autobiography, summed up in the memorable sentence: 'My mind raced as a dozen heaving breasts threatened to tumble out of their dresses into steaming plates of fettucini alfredo.'
posted by verstegan at 9:39 AM on November 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


I remember The Devils as the movie that convinced me that I was not as big a fan of "disturbing" films as I had thought. Extended rape and murder scene in Man Bites Dog - uncomfortable but OK, preparing the main character for what looked to be an extended torture scene in The Devils after having seen his depiction of a man boiled in oil and all the rest of it - time to find something else to do.
posted by BigSky at 9:43 AM on November 28, 2011


That is sad to hear. I was taken to see Tommy as a kid and it was one of the few times I can recall sitting in a movie theatre and having my internal map of what was possible in the movies get redrawn. I hadn't seen anything new of his since Gothic in 1986 (or technically, his segment of Aria in 1987) and his style of everything-louder-than-everything-else didn't do much for me, but there was really nobody else making movies the way he did.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:06 AM on November 28, 2011


when he was directing the famously terrible 'Lair of the White Worm'.

Pistols at dawn, sir.

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posted by benzenedream at 10:08 AM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]




when he was directing the famously terrible 'Lair of the White Worm'.

Pistols at dawn, sir.


Indeed. Graham Linehan clearly garbled the words "terrible" and "brilliant."
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:14 AM on November 28, 2011


Fun fact: Russell directed the video for Elton John's "Nikita", co-starring the woman from the Apple "1984" ad and a British communications professor.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:23 AM on November 28, 2011


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posted by cazoo at 10:32 AM on November 28, 2011


no mention of "Crimes Of Passion", yet? That was a hell of a film.
posted by Decani at 10:34 AM on November 28, 2011


I loved Gothic, and if you claim it's one of the worst movies ever, I will heartily agree and continue to love it.

Laudanum! The elixir of life, according to Paracelsus - and who are we to argue?
posted by zomg at 10:39 AM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by lalochezia at 10:41 AM on November 28, 2011


when he was directing the famously terrible 'Lair of the White Worm'.

Well, yeah, but he's missing the point. It's all about being massively over the top, isn't it?

It's famously terrible, not accidentally terrible... Like The IT Crowd once they swapped out the original CEO and brought in Matt Berry. That's right, I went there.
posted by Naberius at 10:48 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


oh, and coincidentally from Reddit: Russell's photography from the 1950s. (.pdf link)
posted by Naberius at 11:05 AM on November 28, 2011


Swiss Toni might not have been an entirely successful sitcom, but it did give us Tom Baker as a thinly disguised Ken Russell.
posted by tomcooke at 11:05 AM on November 28, 2011


Not to derail but that "original ceo" was the equally-as-hallucinatory-as-Russell Chris Morris of Brass Eye and Jam fame.

In fact I'm not sure I would recognize the difference between scenes in Jam and many of the scenes in Altered States.
posted by basicchannel at 11:08 AM on November 28, 2011


we rented lair of the white worm in high school and everyone save one friend fell asleep early on. the next morning she tried to explain the Concorde dream sequence to us. we did not believe then.

you showed me the way

flights of blood-spattered nuns send thee to thy rest
posted by beefetish at 11:19 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damn.
posted by item at 11:20 AM on November 28, 2011


Russell was one of the great British film makers, and like the others in the pantheon wholly unique. I used to love people's faces when I just described Lisztomania ("and then he swoops down from heaven in a spaceship shaped like a church organ and shoots Wagner/Hitler with a laser beam").

The early 70s is a rich mine of the flagrantly, carelessly imaginative and hopefully Russell will be recognised as the master of it.
posted by Grangousier at 11:23 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


~


It's a single dot after too much time in a sensory deprivation tank.
posted by Elsa at 11:35 AM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's all about being massively over the top, isn't it?

This x 1000. Or, to put it another way, as Jack Nicholson said about playing the Joker, you don't have to worry about going over the top because there is no top.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:53 AM on November 28, 2011


Damn.

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posted by Sailormom at 12:04 PM on November 28, 2011


.

The man gave us China Blue and the second greatest insane stabbing ever.

Sigh.
posted by sonascope at 12:51 PM on November 28, 2011


I hope that wherever Russell is now, there are satanic lesbian nuns waiting for him.
posted by Gelatin at 1:20 PM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


SAVAGE MESSIAH - whole movie

MUSIC LOVERS - whole movie
posted by philip-random at 1:24 PM on November 28, 2011


What? Man...
Bummer.
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posted by Minus215Cee at 2:24 PM on November 28, 2011


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posted by emperor.seamus at 2:58 PM on November 28, 2011


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posted by motty at 3:14 PM on November 28, 2011


My introduction to Russell came quite late - I was too young to go and see Lair of the White Worm in the theatre, but I still vividly remember the trailer. No, the first proper Russell film I can remember seeing was Whore, and my best friend and I almost wore out the tape as we watched, over and over, the alcoholic husband come home and puke into the salad his pretty little wife had set out for him. Puking into salad! It was the most subversive, anti-suburban thing we had ever seen (and had us pissing ourselves laughing).

Worm came later, as did all the other mind-boggling antics he committed to celluloid. Brilliant, hilarious stuff. He will be missed.

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posted by Chichibio at 3:35 PM on November 28, 2011


Altered States changed my life...

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posted by jammy at 4:11 PM on November 28, 2011


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My first Russell experience was his contribution to "Aria." I admit it wasn't my favorite of the collection, but it was interesting.
posted by dnash at 4:24 PM on November 28, 2011


Dude was definitely out there. Tommy was unparalleled genius but China Blue was one of the few films I've actually walked out on.

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posted by fuse theorem at 5:00 PM on November 28, 2011


Ah, Lair of the White Worm. My mother requested that a I bring a movie home and hey, she likes scary films, why not this film (unwise, I was, not to get advice from the resident film geek clerk at the rental place) I popped it in, and slowly sank into the couch as the movie progressed, but like Cortez, my boats had been burned and we could only progress forward. The viewing was punctuated with my very Catholic mother asking pointed questions about scenes and good gravy, complaining about the cheesy ending. As the tape wound down, my mother looked at me and said, "Hmph, you and your father like awful films."

So Mr. Russell, thanks for a body of work, that I cannot show my mother. No, seriously, that is a good sign, I think.
posted by jadepearl at 5:18 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Lair of the White Worm" was described to m e in high school as "There is a naked lady and Hugh Grant gets eaten by a giant snake." So, sold me. "Altered States" was also the first film that tried to mind fuck me and actually was able to.

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posted by Snyder at 11:14 PM on November 28, 2011


I think seeing the Devils at an early age influenced me more than seeing Women in Love--though both did things to me that I am still trying to explain.

The Devils, actually, I can trace most of my interests---desire, mania, control, gender, sexuality, excess, ecstacy, the monastic, phallocentric power, filmic grammar, to that film. It was also the first film that my mother was morally disgusted by, and that I was entranced by.

As for Women in Love--i could talk about butchness, machismo, the collapsing of the homosocial and the homoerotic, a v. english, v. artistocratic sense of bodies negotiing ever so slightly outside of sexuality--like Hausman, Symonds, Swinbourne, Simeon, and even Wilde in his way, which was all there...but it was also really really hot.

Genius.
posted by PinkMoose at 12:11 AM on November 29, 2011


Ken Russell 1927-2011: 'The maverick at the party' Guardian film writers Xan Brooks, Catherine Shoard and Andrew Pulver discuss the life and career of the 'grand enfant terrible' of British film, Ken Russell NSFW brief nudity
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:34 AM on November 29, 2011




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