R.I.P. KEN RUSSELL (1927-2011)

Three-time (and counting) Certified Weird director Ken Russell died yesterday at the age of 84.  No cause of death was reported, but the auteur was known to have recently suffered a series a strokes and was not in good health.

The Ken Russell films that this site has already certified as among the best weird movies of all time are Altered States, Gothic, and The Lair of the White WormAlfred Eaker has also paid tribute to Russell with a review of the mad maestro’s Mahler (1974).  A large legacy of Russell movies remain for us to cover, including The Devils (1971) and Tommy (1975).

Whether bringing nun orgies, seven-horned crucified lambs, or breasts with eyes to the screen, Ken Russell was never afraid of going over-the-top.  In fact, he was afraid of not going over the top.  Where others saw a ceiling, he saw a floor. We were all privileged to witness his madness, and he will be missed by the weird movie community.

The BBC obituary is here.  Among the early tributes, we found Owen Gleiberman’s piece for Entertainment Weekly to be most impressive.  Many more are certain to come.

3 thoughts on “R.I.P. KEN RUSSELL (1927-2011)”

  1. BFI just recently announced that they’ll be bringing THE DEVILS to DVD in March 2012 with a slew of extras, including a commentary by Russell; but with a caveat – Warners is only allowing a DVD release (no Blu-Ray) and only R2; and refused to license out footage of ‘The Rape of Christ’ sequence, which was cut to allow the film to get a British ‘X’ certificate. The version being released is the British theatrical version – the version released in the U.S. was subjected to more cuts.

    Unfortunately, Unkle Ken didn’t get very much respect in regards to his work from the 70s getting the prime treatment: while TOMMY and LISZTOMANIA received deluxe editions w/commentary in the UK, LISZTOMANIA remains M.I.A. in the U.S. except for VHS and laserdisc; TOMMY did get a barebones release; MAHLER has a widescreen R2 release while the only R1 is an OOP, full-screen disc; ALTERED STATES could have stood a Special Edition, and THE MUSIC LOVERS, SAVAGE MESSIAH and VALENTINO are available as MOD disc from Warner Archive and MGM.

    No way to treat a director in my view. Now that the man has finally passed on, there’s no reason NOT to do a fully restored DEVILS and make it available to not just the UK — I’d suggest contacting Warner Bros. and suggesting that a restored THE DEVILS – and even a Ken Russell box set collecting those hard to find masterpieces in one package – might now be a worthwhile enterprise to pursue.

  2. Ken,
    I count you amongst a very small handful of filmmakers who has most impacted my own work. Your renegade spirit will live in your films. Thank you for sharing your unique vision.

    Peace be with you.

  3. Aw, thats too bad.

    I remember watching The Devils when i was a teenager and being sort of bowled over and drained by the movie’s end, totally zonked out by what I’d just seen. Obviously hit at something if the thing is *still* running into trouble decades on. Crimes of Passion, Altered States, Salome’s Last Dance,Lair of the White Worm, Whore…I really enjoyed all those movies.They were colorful & alive. You could always tell who’d made them.


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