Runtime: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Director: Ken Russell
Starring: Roger Daltrey,Sara Kestelman,Paul Nicholas
Genres: Music, Musical, Comedy
Studio: Warner Bros.
MPAA rating: R (Restricted)
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Ken Russell’s erotic electrifying Rock-n-Roll movie about classicalcomposer Franz Liszt, portrayed as the world’s first Rock idol. StarringRoger Daltrey, Ringo Starr, and Rick Wakeman.
Where else are you going to find a movie about famous composers,Frankenstein, Thor, Hitler, Superman, a lich, cigars, vampires, philosophy,perversion, papacy, war, love, Charlie Chaplin, and heaven? And where elsewill you see a penis kick line? This movie removes the need formind-altering drugs. Seeing it is a trip unto itself.
A FILM THAT IS SO OFF THE WALL
Ken Russell’s "Lisztomania" is such an off the wall movie that it makes"Tommy" look like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood by comparison. Russellassaults all the senses in this film that you leave it exhilarated andmesmerized. This is a three ring cinematic circus and it makes no bonesabout it.
Roger Daltrey stars as Liszt, or a bastardization of the composer. Russellhimself has described his film as "fiction based on fact", so if you’reseeing this for facts, go far far away.
If you’re looking for a one of a kind experience, this is the film for you.Among the more outlandish sights we see in this film are a pope (RingoStarr) wearing cowboy boots and a pirate patch, a papiermache penisravagingthe countryside and Wagner being resurrected as a Frankenhitler monster. Ifyou think I’m providing spoilers, baby, this is nothing compared to therestof the film, which I will leave you to discover.
You’ve probably figured out that "Lisztomania" is not for everyone (howcould it be?). What it is is a highly original and stunning excursion intoinsanity. It’s Ken Russell’s best film (his credits include the brilliantbut unsatisfying "Tommy", the underrated "The Devils", "The Music Lovers"and "The Boy Friend" in which he out-Busbys Berkley) and a true movieexperience. The Academy, naturally, skipped this film for nominations, buthow could they deny this a Best Director nod? It’s all about direction,anyway.
**** out of 4 stars
Classic Ken Russell
This film is brilliant! Casting Roger Daltry (a rock star of his day)as Franz Liszt (a rock star of HIS day) was a master stroke (thoughRussell seemed to always like working with the same people again andagain and he had done Tommy with Daltry). Ringo star in a cameo as thePope was a crack-up and Wagner as a vampire stealing themes from Lisztwas a trip as well. There is a wonderful "silent movie" section withDaltry doing a Chaplinesque sequence which covers several years inSwitzerland and incredible sequences of him as a performer dazzlingteeny-bopper girls in crinolines and bonnets–all screaming andswooning to whatever he plays. The piece-de-resistance is the sequenceat the end with Liszt in a rocket ship "powered" by several formerloves swooping down to destroy a Naziesque Wagnerian FrankensteinMonster who is laying waste to the world with an electricguitar/tommy-gun. This film is so over-the-top I had to have a copy formy collection!
Ken Russell + Musical Genius’s life= Bizarre film
To rate Lisztomania as a movie, i kept in mind that a film like this isultimately for entertainment purposes, and if nothing else it wascertainly entertaining. But it was more than just this: the film was acolourful, artistically created work that reminded me of the sort ofvision someone might conceive on an acid trip. Going into Lisztomania,you have to first remember one thing: this is a Ken Russell film andtherefore its not going to be your conventional or standard movie. Forinstance, Roger Daltrey as Liszt and Ringo Starr as the pope? enoughsaid. While this movie isn’t some acting masterpiece or academy awardwinner it is definitely fun to see especially if you are interested inKen Russell’s films. Overall, this movie reminds me of some distantdream that you would never expect to see be made into a motion picturebut will be glad that it was.
Ken Russell’s Most Unusual Film
It is hard to believe that Ken Russell was able to get this one"green-lighted" for release by a major American distributer as it is quitesimply one of the strangest films to ever grace a screen! Russell, everthevisionary, takes the not so off-target view that Franz Liszt the pop starofhis day and then offers viewers a comic book version of the composer’slifeand relationship with several infamous women and, most importantly,RichardWagner. This film must be seen to be believed! And is a definitemust-seefor all Russell fans. It will also be appreciated by Roger Daltrey fansasthis one captures Daltrey in his prime! Interesting musical work by RickWakeman and great set designs. It would be so cool to see this on DVD withdirector commentary! …Maybe some day.
Pure escapism! This film is fantastic. It contains farce, humour,nudity and crudity along with lots of laughs and many cringes. It’sludicrous, hilarious and colourful with great music and costumes. Ilike the music and also the paradox of some of the scenes. My daughterand I love it, and happy to watch it time and time again, but everyonewe’ve loaned the video to can’t get past the first 20 minutes, andthink we are weird, so maybe we are off-the-wall like the film. Ihaven’t seen the film Tommy and would like to do so now I’ve seen this.Don’t watch Lisztomania if you are easily offended. Sit back, relax,take it all with a pinch of salt and you’ll be grinning all night.
The Birth of Pop Culture
To many, this film is the stunning-proof that director Ken Russellnever had it, and that idiocy and egotism were mistaken for genius. Youcould say mistaking idiocy and egotism for genius has been the appealof rock music! Others might say that Russell is simply childish orimmature, and that his films are the "masturbatory-fantasies" of anovergrown-adolescent. This belief is unfounded. Is this filmover-indulgent? Yes it is, dear readers, very-much-so, because it isart, not entertainment. That-said, if you chuck any expectations, thisis a funny film and allegory about the rise of pop-culture in the 19thCentury. It draws parallels between Liszt’s fame with the othergenerally-hollow spectacle known as "rock." This is great film-making,and it should be noted that it has similarities between itself and"Rocky Horror," and even "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," as they allexamine and explore the relationships between sexuality and pop-culturein similar-areas. It really is true that women threw their underwear atFranz Liszt during his performances, and that he had many-manylovers–groupies.
Lisztomania is an odd bridge-between "classic" rock and the emergentpunk-movement of the time. The film can also be seen as a statementthat "rock" is not really subversive or rebellious at-all, butultimately arch-conservative, and repressive. Amen. It’s just ahilarious, wild-romp that will make your guests extremely nervous,which films should do. Movies should challenge people to think andreflect–at-least occasionally. Ironically (or maybe-not!), Mr. Russellhad contracted Malcolm MacLaren and Vivienne Westwood to design theS&M-costumes for his film, "Mahler." It should also-be-noted that"Liszt-o-Mania" was released exactly the same year that MacLaren’s shop"SEX" opened on King’s Row, the rest is as they say, is history. Itcouldn’t be more camp, it has Little Nell in it.
Basically-put, this is about the the ins-and-outs of "why" we want andneed pop-culture, and WHAT we generally-want from our "pop-idols" (sex,of-course). One could easily-say this film criticizes the absurdspectacle that rock had become by 1975, and we get this quite-often inthe film. But this theme goes much-deeper, into therelationship-between artist and patron (once, just the aristocracy, nowthe mob is added). The sexuality is about mass-psychology, too, soWilhelm Reich gets-his-due, and there is a plethora ofFreudian-imagery. It is certainly a very-personal film for Russell, andprobably amuses him as much as it does myself that it enrages so-manycritics, but it should be noted that some of the absurdity and excesscame from the producer of the film, not Mr. Russell. Ken Rusell enragesall the right-people, and that’s what some film-making should be.
God love this lapsed-Catholic, and God love his ways. A flawed part ofhis canon, but very watchable and educational. As Russell began hiscareer doing documentaries and impressionistic-films on composers forthe BBC, it makes-sense that this is considered one of his mostheretical-works. He complains about the opening country-song in hisautobiography ‘Altered States’, and there were other aspects of theproduction he didn’t want in the film. It’s interesting to note thatthe 1980s was the period of his purest-work, due mainly to athree-picture-deal with Vestron. The 1970s were actually a verymixed-bag for him, as Lisztomania attests. He isn’t entirely-pleasedwith it, but had some fun with the material, and there it is. I thinkit’s a hoot, which means it isn’t on DVD.
Two Words: Nazi Franken-Wagner
This was one of those films I saw simply because I wanted to see thelead actor without his shirt on. I don’t even remember if somebodyrecommended it to me first. I usually describe this one to people as "atypical Ken Russell crap-fest with penis all over it." Manycommentators imply or state outright that this film has some reallydeep commentary on pop-culture — but I know what’s really going on:there is seriously penis all over this film.
The costumes and sets are more opulent than Tommy, and the plot is onepart "life of Franz Liszt through metaphor" and two parts allegoryabout how pop will eat itself or something. Honestly, the plot inZardoz is easier to follow and the allegory doesn’t get lost in averitable redwood forest of penis, either.
The real reason to watch this film is for the three or four minutes ofNazi Franken-Wagner near the end. Seriously. The first time around whenI saw that, I LOL’d in my pants and had to rewind it just to see itagain and make sure that’s what was really going on.
This is quite possibly the goofiest thing to come out of the mid-1970sand, honestly, it surprises me that it’s not yet available on DVD,considering some of the truly lousy films that end up on DVD uncutspecial editions. This is a must-see for fans of 1970s opulence andsuckers for truly strange films that only appeal to a handful ofpeople. While I see the points other users have commented on, I thinkthe metaphor and social commentary gets lost, as I said, in all thepenis. (It opens with a penis joke, ends with something phallic-like inthe visuals, and there is a twelve-foot plaster doodle jutting fromRoger Daltry’s crotch and straddled by George Sand during a musicalnumber, not to mention all the penis everywhere else in the film.) Ifyou can see past the penis and art-film pretentiousness, several goodand relevant points are made throughout the film. Social commentaryaside, it’s visually impressive with an amazing soundtrack. For manyreasons, I’m proud to have this one as a part of my collection of rareVHS tapes.