Ken Russell: a bold and daring filmmaker and one of the greats of British cinema

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Ken Russell, one of the great mavericks of British cinema, has died aged 84. A larger than life figure whose work often attracted controversy as much as acclaim, he should be remembered as one the country’s most pioneering and bold filmmakers. Perhaps forgotten – or at least underrated – by current generations, the flamboyant Russell is perhaps best known for his Oscar-winning 1969 film Women in Love, adapted from the DH Lawrence novel, which offered up the

(then) controversial sight of Oliver Reed and Alan Bates wrestling naked in front of a

blazing log fire. The film, which also starred Glenda Jackson and Jennie Linden, was a challenging and intelligent film, and when Jackson won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance (Rus

sell was nominated as Best Director) the director found himself propelled into the limelight and able to take his pick of edgy films. In 1971 he followed up with The Devils, again starring Glenda Jackson and Oliver Reed, a

film so controversial that its financier and distributor Warner Bros refused to show it uncut. Inspired by Aldus Huxley’s book The Devils of Loudun. With Reed playing an oversexed priest and the film featuring scenes of sexuality amongst the nuns, it topped the UK box office for several weeks. Famously it led to a television confrontation between Russell and the late Alexander Walker, the film critic for the Evening Standard. With Walker decrying the film, Russell hit Walker with a rolled up copy of the Standard. In the 1970s Russell continued to make distinctive and varied films, with releases including his 1975 film version of The Who’s rock opera Tommy, starring Roger Daltrey, Elton John, Oliver Reed (who worked with him on a regular basis) and Jack Nicholson; the period musical The Boy Friend (1972), which starred model Twiggy, and the 1977 film Valentino, a biopic of silent film star Rudolph Valentino. The on-set issues during the filming of his 1980 sci-fi film Altered States and the failure of his US set drama Crimes of Passion (1984) saw him return to Europe, and embark on a delightfully oddball series of films. In 1986 he made Gothic, starring Gabriel Byrne, about the drug-soaked night Mary Shelley told the tale of Frankenstein, and in the 1988 cast Hugh Grant and Amanda Donohoe in the wild and weird The Lair of the White Worm, based on a Bram Stoker novella, which has now become something of a cult oddity. In subsequent years his output has been scattershot and varied, though Ken Russell as the bold and intelligent personality continued to receive attention. He went in front of the cameras for the 1990 film the play a gay British spy in The Russia House, starring Sean Connery and M

ichelle Pfeiffer, while in 1991 courted controversy again with his tough drama Whore. Perhaps most oddly – and which brought him his largest audi

ence in recent years – he joined Celebrity Big Brother in January 2001 at the start of the series, though left after just four days in the house after an altercation with Jade Goody, citing difficulty between Goody and her family during a task set by the show that asked eight celebrities to take 今期香港六和跑狗图 part in a servant task and wait on Goody, her family and three other contestants, including Ken Russell. Ken Russell was a bold and daring filmmaker never afraid of a challenge...and he should be remembered as one of the greats of British cinema.