Ken Russell

It’s difficult for me to reflect on filmmaker Ken Russell’s career without recounting my own personal relationship to his work. When I was a junior in college, an uncensored 35mm print of his mad and magnificent The Devils (1971) was screened on my university campus. The film is unavailable in the US in its original widescreen, X-rated form in any home video format, so that experience for me remains one of the singular theatrical viewings of my life. Since then, I’ve been hooked on his work. Perhaps more than any director, I’ve felt a habitual need to share Russell’s work with friends. Sometimes they reject his challenging and decidedly non-subtle, often hyperkinetic visions, but it’s always rewarding when I show one of his films to somebody who confirms that I’m not crazy – that there is a brilliant method underlying the batshit madness of the work helmed by this eccentric British director. I recently hosted a Halloween screening of his enduringly fascinating 1980 sci-fi film Altered States (1980) genuinely afraid that the audience would respond negatively to the film’s abject body transformation narrative and overall tonal strangeness, but the end credits were met with a warm round of applause. Russell was certainly one of the most bizarre directors that Britain has ever housed, but he was hardly only that.

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31 Days of Horror - October 2011

We continue our journey through a month of frightening, bloody and violent films. For more, check out our 31 Days of Horror homepage. Synopsis: A contemporary adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel, Ken Russell’s The Lair of the White Worm (1988) begins with archaeology student Angus Flint (In the Loop’s Peter Capaldi) finding a strange serpentine skull in the backyard of an English cottage. After some research, Flint makes the connection between the skull and the “d’Ampton worm,” a giant malevolent worm that was conquered in nearby Stonerich Cavern. The direct ancestor of the worm slayer is the rather charming James d’Ampton (played by a rather charming Hugh Grant), who shares suspicions with Flint that the worm may still be alive under the grounds of their otherwise quaint English hamlet. D’Ampton’s seductive and often leather-bound neighbor, Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donahue) is an immortal, supernatural force subservient to the worm, and her seductive search for a virgin sacrifice brings about all kinds of over-the-top, schizophrenic greatness.

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. Today’s trailer is truly thrilling. It helps that it’s for an insanely brilliant movie, but since movie marketers today can’t seem to sell the hard stuff, maybe this spot can teach a few lessons in doing it right. William Hurt teams up with Ken Russell to do a few experiments on himself in a sensory deprivation tank that ends up unlocking the millions of years of mankind’s memories stored DNA. It causes his arm to do some pretty strange stuff at any rate. Such a great movie. Such a great trailer. Think you know what it is? Check the trailer out for yourself:

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On Sunday’s Reject Radio and in yesterday’s Culture Warrior, I praised to the heavens Ken Russell’s notoriously controversial film The Devils (1971). And now you can see it, in NYC.

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This week’s Culture Warrior helps you fill out your Netflix queue.

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This week, on a very special episode or Reject Radio, Landon Palmer attempts to explain why his fascination with nun orgies hasn’t gotten his Masters degree taken away from him.

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