Ken Russell’s View of The Planets, Blu-ray (1983/2016)

An interesting visual version of the Gustav Holst score.

Ken Russell’s View of The Planets, Blu-ray (1983/2016)

Director: Ken Russell
Performed by: The Philadelphia Orch. cond. by Eugene Ormandy
Music: Gustav Holst
Studio: Monarda/ ArtHaus Musik 109169 (3/25/16)
Video: 4:3 1080i HD color
Audio: PCM stereo
All regions
Extras: introduced by Melvyn Bragg
Length: 50 min.
Rating: ****

This is surely one of the most-loved pieces of 20th-century music and one of the classic cinema images onscreen to a classical work. Ormandy and the Philadelphians are of course excellent, and the screen is filled with a mass of documentary material from Russell, some of it illustrating his strong convictions about the world at large.

The cuts are often timed to match the Holst score and point up various spots in it. Of course we expect a lot of shots of the Nazi and Soviet military for the Mars (God of War) movement which opens the work. It’s most interesting that for Uranus (the God of Magic) there is a great deal of footage of The Pope blessing people from his Popemobile. (I wonder what images he would have, if any, of the current Pope.) Mixed in, of course, with plenty of Chinese communist and Soviet demonstrations and marches. However, a few shots of U.S. military might are also cut into the film in the Mars movement.

There was a laserdisc of this film, and the new Blu-ray is a gigantic improvement in both the sonics and image from that one. A wonderful and very watchable tribute to the wild style of Ken Russell.

—John Sunier

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