Ken Russell

Ken Russell
Ken Russell's "Mahler" (1974)

Was there ever a filmmaker so drawn to literary sex? Ken Russell's adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love came out in 1969 and won an Academy Award for Best Actress, but what made it interesting was the first full-frontal nude wrestling scene between two men. Can two men fight like this without erections? Above, that's Oliver Reed and Alan Bates going at it, sans erections...

In his long and glorious career, Russell pretty much covered everybody: Lizst (in Lizstomania), Tchaikovsky (The Music Lovers), Mahler (above), Elgar, Delius, The Who (Tommy) as well as Byron, Shelley and Polidori (in Gothic), Salome in Salome's Last Dance and even Edgar Allan Poe (sort of) in The Fall of the Louse of Usher. Then there was that appearance in Big Brother.

Below is a still from one of his best films, The Devils from 1971, starring Oliver Reed again and Vanessa Redgrave, based somewhat distantly on the Aldous Huxley book The Devils of Loudon (1952). It's a wild ride that features among other things, a gang of nuns raping a statue of Christ and masturbating nuns. A complete, uncut DVD won't be available any time soon but, in the mean time, pick up the UK theatrical cut, which is available on DVD in the UK only.


My favorite Ken-ism:

You can be as violent as you want in America, but you talk about sex and everyone reaches for their chastity belts.