From an Oscar-winning film that captured an essence of an era to pictures made in his garage with a cast of amateurs, the output of the director Ken Russell – who has died aged 84 – varied hugely in quality but was never bland.
Today friends and colleagues paid tribute to a man described as flamboyant and visionary and who was always prepared to push the boundaries.
It was scenes such as the naked fireside wrestling between Oliver Reed and Alan Bates in Women In Love that earned Russell notoriety in the late ’60s and ’70s.
“Naked men weren’t seen wrestling in films in 1969,” Russell said.
Russell was born in Southampton in 1927 and worked as a merchant seaman and a dancer before joining the BBC’s arts department where he directed 32 documentaries.
His most famous was an hour-long look at the music of Elgar, which was the first documentary to use dramatisation.
Moving into theatrical filmmaking, he was nominated for an Oscar for Women In Love and the film’s star Glenda Jackson scooped the best actress statue.
A string of hits followed, including rock opera Tommy and the musical The Boyfriend starring Twiggy.
But he will perhaps be best remembered for his controversial work, including The Devils which includes graphic sexual scenes.
Heavily edited at the time, the X-rated version of The Devils is finally due for a release on DVD in 2012.
“If I didn’t know Ken better I’d say it was a publicity stunt,” said film critic Jason Solomons.