Ken Russell's unfinished projects and unmade films, 1956-1968 : the BBC years

Melia, Matthew (2020) Ken Russell's unfinished projects and unmade films, 1956-1968 : the BBC years. In: Fenwick, James , Foster, Kieran and Eldridge, David, (eds.) Shadow cinema : the historical and production context of unmade films. New York, U.S. : Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 91-108. ISBN 9781501351594


As with his contemporary, Stanley Kubrick, the career of the maverick idiosyncratic and often iconoclastic British director Ken Russell is as notable for the amount of projects which were planned and never realised as it is for his ‘official’ body of work. Up until now, however, there has been little critical work devoted to these films which have fallen through the cracks of Russell’s career. I argue, however, that understanding their place within the matrix of Russell’s film and television helps us to reappraise the existing material . This paper, draws upon extensive archival research carried out at the BBC, BFI, The Bill Douglas Centre (Exeter University), and other locations that has uncovered several previously unrecognised films, as well as unmade scripts from my personal archive, and interviews conducted with Russell’s family and collaborators. It aims to consider the nature of these unmade films and discuss how these projects change the accepted narrative of Russell’s singular career which ended very much as it began – in amateur, experimental film making. I will consider the personal and institutional factors which prevented their completion or production and consider what they tell us about Russell as a director. This chapter focuses primarily onthe period 1956 to 1958, and Russell's time at the BBC. It excavates unmade material from the files at both teh BFI and BBC written archives, Caversham

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