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Phallic Frenzy: Ken Russell and His Films (Cappella Books) Hardcover – August 1, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Joseph Lanza knows more about my life than I do!"  —Ken Russell



"A lively and explicit biography."  —Nerve.com



"A solid, long-overdue reconsideration of director Ken Russell's horrific surrealism."  —PLAY



"It makes for a thrilling read—it vibrates, shimmies, pounds down the pavement of every page."  —Alternative Film Guide



"The core features are discussed in exhaustive detail, blending close analysis with lively anecdote . . . [Lanza] has delved extensively into the more colorful aspects of his subject's life."  —Book Review Digest


"Everything you ever wanted to know—and more—about the wild child of Cinema Britannia."  —Financial Times

About the Author

Joseph Lanza is the author of numerous books, including Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening and Other Moodsong; Fragile Geometry: The Films, Philosophy, and Misadventures of Nicolas Roeg; Russ Columbo and the Crooner Mystique; and Vanilla Pop: Sweet Sounds from Frankie Avalon to ABBA.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cappella Books
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (August 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556526695
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556526695
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #849,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been thinking about Ken Russell since I was a teenager and suddenly discovered what rapturous, personal film making could be. Although I was lucky enough to see most of Mr. Russell's features in cinemas, some on first release and many repeatedly, I always had trouble understanding how such a loon could ever have been allowed to make films and, having made some of the greatest, fall into aobscurity. Joseph Lanza does the impossible here. He writes about the films, succinctly, and excitably, getting to the germ of the idea and putting the films-and the career- in context.
If I can fault this book at all, I would decry the lack of biographical information about the actors and artists who worked with Ken on his films. Also the book's postage stamp sized pictures look Xerox printed. Yet there is a wealth of information here, presented in a way that is a lot of fun to read. For anyone interested in film history, this book could only be a joy.
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Format: Hardcover
"Phallic Frenzy is the book that was screaming to be written. Lanza does with words what Russell does with imagery. Not an easy task. All with the same tongue-in-cheek, wink-of-an-eye humor."

-- Leonard Pollack, Ken Russell's former stills photographer and costume designer
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
LOVE Ken Russell. Learning so much about him and his MANY projects. Such a tragedy he's so written out of our culture. I saw his films when I was in college in the 70s. Otherwise I'd probably not know of him. Very well researched book. Well written. High five starts. Book arrived quickly and in good condition.
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Format: Hardcover
If you have seen the films of Ken Russell, you will find this book to be a valuable analysis of all of them. The writing is not dull and dry. At times, the author's voice is wickedly snarky, acidic and punny, gossipy and mean. One doesn't know if some of the more bizarre phrases are brilliant puns or just unfortunate typos. To call someone "a shrinking violent" (p.69) might be the former; I'm pretty sure watching someone "through a classroom widow" (p. 287) is the latter. He has Lord Byron marrying Annabella in 1915 (p. 263).

We read detailed chapters about every film, the problems before and during filming, the critical reaction afterward. We also read about projects that never came to fruition: the "Evita" with either Streisand or Minnelli. A Sarah Bernhardt biopic. Ah, what might have been!

In addition to the film work, there is a section about opera productions that Russell directed. Someone with a knowledge of opera could have pointed out some errors: tenor Barry McCauley is called Robert (p. 240). Boito's "Mefistofele" is called "Il Mefistofele" (p. 246).

Some of the titles of the more obscure films were totally new to me, and I was able to find them and watch them. I have enjoyed the dvd of "The Boy Friend." "Salome's Last Dance," a still from which graces the cover, is an absolute must-see for anyone who enjoys Oscar Wilde and who wonders why films have to cost over $100,000,000 to make. Russell was always able to make big splashy films on very low budgets, for which I admire him. I wish we could get a definitive dvd of "The Devils." I frequently check amazon.com for new titles of Russell's work.

Just as the films are fun to watch for their decadent excesses, it is also fun to read this book's loving and knowledgeable assessment of them. I can fully recommend it.
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