Omnibus: Season 3, Episode 22

Dance of the Seven Veils (15 Feb. 1970)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary | Biography
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Title: Dance of the Seven Veils (15 Feb 1970)

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Episode credited cast:
Christopher Gable ...
Judith Paris ...
Pauline Strauss
Kenneth Colley ...
James Mellor ...
Vladek Sheybal ...
Imogen Claire ...
Rita Webb ...
Sally Bryant ...
Maggy Maxwell ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Otto Diamant ...
Gala Mitchell ...
Fallen Woman
Anna Sharkey ...


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15 February 1970 (UK)  »

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Did You Know?


The film caused such a row upon its initial telecast that a motion was introduced on the floor of Parliament to condemn the BBC for airing it. The BBC initially defended the work but eventually sought to mollify critics by airing a panel discussion taking the film to task, prompting Ken Russell to finally part ways with the network. See more »


Featured in A British Picture (1989) See more »

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User Reviews

Omnibus: DANCE OF THE SEVEN VEILS (Ken Russell, 1970) ***
1 December 2011 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

Russell made his name with a series of biopics about several cultural luminaries for the BBC: initially approached in a pretty straightforward manner (ELGAR {1962}), these became increasingly radical, filled to the brim with outrageous ideas teetering on the edge of taste, and culminating in this fantasia (actually referred to as a "comic strip" in a sub-title!) on the life and works of German composer Richard Strauss – which necessitated a disclaimer at the start of the program about the disturbing nature of some of the images that were to follow! While he had already branched out into feature film-making and would famously tackle another trio of composers within that format (namely Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Liszt), this one lasts just under an hour – but the resulting barrage is so potent as to be overwhelming nonetheless!

Incidentally, the presentation is far from optimal: constantly accompanied by a time-code at the bottom of the screen, the colors of the print on display have faded and acquired a reddish hue, there are a number of odd jump-cuts where the film winds back on itself ever so slightly before resuming, not to mention being intermittently plagued with audio glitches! This has to do with the fact that the film incurred the wrath of the Strauss estate, which effectively blocked subsequent showings; the BBC's own banning of it also led to the severing of their long-standing relationship with the director! In any case, Strauss' melodramatic compositions and the turbulent period in which he was active lends itself well to Russell's mad vision – its 7 episodes (hence the title, but not clearly delineated along the way!) being marked by theatricality, hysteria, violence, death and, of course, sex.

Christopher Gable (a recurring presence in Russell pictures around this time) is impressive and versatile in the lead: running the gamut from his concert-engagement prime to being first feted and then denounced by Hitler and his minions (while the former comes across as rather a prancing Chaplinesque figure, Vladek Sheybal – another striking regular in the director's oeuvre – compensates with a decidedly chilling Goebbels!) to old age, but also taking in burlesque interpretations of a caveman (as with Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY {1968}, set to the strains of Strauss' "Thus Spoke Zarathustra"!), Macbeth, Don Quixote, a dashing cavalry officer (a scene which resolves itself into an extended swashbuckling routine during a stage performance!), etc. Apart from which, he is also beset by historical women that presumably inspired his music at some point (I admit to not being familiar with Strauss' backstory), namely Clytaemnestra, Salome' (played, in anticipation of Luis Bunuel, by two distinct women{!} and a character he would return to in the Oscar Wilde adaptation SALOME'S LAST DANCE {1988}) and Potiphar's wife.

Even so, perhaps the most memorable moments here involve the debasement of religion (with self-flagellating monks, love-starved nuns and the willful abuse of holy icons) and depictions of the Nazis exerting their terror-filled stranglehold (an elderly Jew has the Star of David bloodily carved on his chest inside a packed cinema!) – both of which would come to be Russell trademarks. The final insult is having George Gershwin's "By Strauss" (which had earlier been utilized for the classic MGM musical AN American IN Paris {1951}) jokingly heard here over the closing credits!

P.S. I have since found out that Russell managed to record an Audio Commentary for a proposed DVD edition of this one before the BBC once again chickened out and pulled the plug on its release!

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