By the Greyest of Seas


Ken Russell’s first cinema feature, FRENCH DRESSING, is an underrated oddity and a film which stands comparison with Boorman’s similarly chill and windswept CATCH US IF YOU CAN. The sub-genre of muted romp is initiated.

More discussion of the Russell over at The Notebook, in this fortnight’s installment of The Forgotten.


9 Responses to “By the Greyest of Seas”

  1. henryholland666 Says:

    I did a search to see if you have an entry for it but couldn’t find anything, I’d highly recommend Ken Russell’s Delius film “Song of Summer”:

    What an appalling person Delius was, but I love his music, especially his opera “A Village Romeo and Juliet”.

    In the sub-genre of soggy seaside romps, I’d add “The Girl-Getters” with Oliver Reed, David Hemmings and a cast of hundreds.

  2. AKA The System — yes, it has some groovy non-dancing by Oliver Reed, and comes from that brief period when Michael Winner was kind of good at dyspeptic social observation and comedy.

    Been quite a while since I saw Song of Summer, but I liked it — Ken’s TV work is really remarkable. I was thrilled to discover that even some of the really late works are good, better than the late features I think.

  3. La Faustin Says:

    Re: the “peculiar melancholy of seaside resorts in the off-season”, see this very atmospheric, very cinematic, very horrid Chesterton story:

  4. Oh, I don’t know that one!

    Apart from The Man Who Was Thursday, my favourite is How I Found the Superman, which is like a Lovecraft spoof.

  5. The Straubs had a special loathing for “French Dressing” as their “Not Reconciled” was for some insane reason once booked with it.

  6. Ha! That would be quite a double feature. But not unpleasing, if you could somehow degauss your brain at the intermission.

  7. In the early 80s I did a semi-random tour of England, staying in little hotels that were normally packed with groups of older American couples being shepherded by frazzled young ladies in blazers. It wasn’t quite summer, but close.

    Spent a few nights in Llandudno, Wales: half quaint old town and half undersized seaside resort. Waiters, barmaids, cashiers and other service people all seemed to be teens on summer jobs. Even the two comics doing a set at a cafe looked to be college boys at best. Odd to walk out on a pier to a Victorian gazebo and find nothing but American video games.

    My hotel was a friendly and well-run version of Fawlty Towers, a nice little place trying very hard to be a bit classier than it was. A little American flag was stuck in my muffin at breakfast. Aside from that lost-glory gazebo, it felt like the town had never been a bigger deal.

    Later got to Scarborough, an actual city with a seaside resort attached. Recall a basic carnival billing itself as “The Original Scarborough Fair”, a small theater where Alan Ayckbourn launched his plays (saw “Woman in Mind”), and a lot of interesting beachfront architecture, some of which wasn’t open for the season yet.

    Saw what I took to be the summer version of panto: A musical revue with a relentlessly cheerful comedian, a small group of what looked to be teenaged dancers, a magic act, and a mostly prerecorded orchestra.One of the girl dancers doubled as an impressionist. It was in a theater with folding chairs, evidently meant to double as a ballroom. It wasn’t precisely sad, but there was a definite sense of being a stripped-down version of what used to be really impressive.

    Regret not seeing Brighton or Blackpool; suspect amusements have become much more standardized over the years.

  8. I fear so.

    Went to Scarborough as a kid — all I remember is a harbour. On a day trip to Blackpool, I saw the Dr Who Museum, though, which was awesome for this kid. But all I remember is the Tardis entrance and a model krynoid bursting out of a model house. I guess there must have been a dalek, but it’s hazy.

  9. Llandudno can be seen on film in the ’31 and ’52 versions of “Hindle Wakes”, “The Card”, “Yanks” and “Unman Wittering and Zigo”. Speaking of David Hemmings, I saw a bit of a Welsh TV movie he directed: “Tan ar y comin”. Not bad, a bit schmaltzy, set in Newcastle Emlyn. Scarby has surprisingly only been used for “Little Voice”, but has turned up in many TV dramas such as last year’s “Remember Me” with Michael Palin and Rik Mayall Presents “Dancing Queen”.

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