A short silent film made for £100. During the making of this film Russell converted to Catholicism. The Bogus Beggar’s Academy trains beggars (dark glasses to appear to be blind, practicing limping with crutches etc). But their earnings fall when a peepshow is set up. Through the hole in the wall is a professor and a mechanical life-size doll, played by Shirley Russell (then Shirley Kingdom). The film is influenced by The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and is also similar to the amateur films Roman Polanski was making round the same time (Two Men and a Wardrobe) but is well below the level of Polanski or of Russell’s later Amelia and the Angel.
British director Ken Russell started out training for a naval career, but after wartime RAF and merchant navy service he switched goals and went into ballet. Supplementing his dancing income as an actor and still photographer, Russell put together a handful of amateur films in the 50s before being hired as a staff director by the BBC. Russell made a name for himself (albeit a name not always spoken in reverence) during the first half of the ‘60s by directing a series of iconoclastic TV dramatizations of the lives of famous composers and dancers. And if he felt that the facts were getting in the way of his story, he’d make up his own — frequently bordering on the libelous. If he had any respect for the famous persons whose lives he probed, it was secondary to his fascination with revealing all warts and open wounds.
A film director since 1963, Russell burst into the international consciousness with 1969’s Women in Love, a hothouse version of the D.H. Lawrence novel. No director… read more