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Small-Gauge StorytellingDiscovering the Amateur Fiction Film$
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Ryan Shand and Ian Craven

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748656349

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748656349.001.0001

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. ‘Start as you mean to go on’: Ken Russell’s Early Amateur Films

. ‘Start as you mean to go on’: Ken Russell’s Early Amateur Films

(p.201) 9. ‘Start as you mean to go on’: Ken Russell’s Early Amateur Films
Small-Gauge Storytelling

Brian Hoyle

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines Ken Russell’s first three amateur fiction films, Peepshow (1956), Knights on Bikes (1956) and Amelia and the Angel (1958), the work which famously brought him to the attention of the BBC and eased his transition to professional filmmaker. Through a close examination of these films, the chapter establishes that many of Russell’s persistent concerns, formal techniques and recurrent images are already present in these very early excursions into filmmaking. Exploring the phenomenon of amateur ‘cross-over’ more generally, the section on Amelia and the Angel explains how the reception of this particular film led to Russell graduating to professional filmmaking. It also considers the form and content of the work, and argues that it may be considered the first ‘true’ Russell film, with its Catholic subtext, visual exuberance and often violent shifts in tone. The chapter is based in original archive research, and draws on primary sources including Russell’s own commentaries on his filmmaking.

Keywords:   Ken Russell, Cross-over, Silent film

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