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The Rainbow (1989)

R  |   |  Action, Drama, Romance  |  26 May 1989 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.3/10 from 900 users  
Reviews: 11 user | 16 critic

A young woman deals in her own personal way with the trials of adolescence and young adulthood in early 1900s England.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Christopher Gable ...
Dudley Sutton ...
Judith Paris ...
Kenneth Colley ...
Mr. Brunt (as Ken Colley)
Glenda McKay ...
Mark Owen ...
Jim Richards
Ralph Nossek ...
Molly Russell ...
Molly Brangwen


Ken Russell's loose adaptation of the last part of D.H. Lawrence's "The Rainbow" sees impulsive young Ursula coming of age in pastoral England around the time of the Boer War. At school, she is introduced to lovemaking by a bisexual physical education instructress. While experiencing disillusionment in her first career attempt (teaching), she has an affair with a young Army officer, who wants to marry her. Unable to accept a future of domesticity, she breaks with him, and eventually leaves home in search of her destiny. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Action | Drama | Romance


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

26 May 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El arco iris  »

Box Office


$444,055 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The picture is book-ended by scenes which both feature a large colorful rainbow. See more »


Follows Women in Love (1969) See more »


The Lancers
Arranged by 'Keith Wilkinson (III)
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User Reviews

THE RAINBOW (Ken Russell, 1989) **1/2
8 December 2011 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

Apparently, the late Ken Russell's dictum was "When in a crisis, turn to D.H. Lawrence": in 1969 he made WOMEN IN LOVE after the critical panning of the Harry Palmer espionage saga BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN (1967), which almost killed his career (to quote the eminent British film critic Leslie Halliwell); that film, which landed him a Best Director nod at the Oscars and awarded the Best Actress prize to the up-and-coming Glenda Jackson led to the full-flowering of his movie career. However, the 1980s would see a slackening in the quality of his work, while taking his trademark vulgarity to new depths in such efforts as CRIMES OF PASSION (1984), Gothic (1986), SALOME'S LAST DANCE and THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (both 1988); so it came to pass that 20 years after his first Lawrence adaptation, Russell returned to the safe prospect of a second (though he had already tried, and failed, to raise the money for it around the time of CRIMES OF PASSION) – ironically, "The Rainbow" was actually the prequel to "Women In Love"(!), and even odder is the fact that the previous year a TV mini-series had been produced based on that very source (directed by seasoned adapter Stuart Burge)! For the record, the director would return once more to Lawrence territory in 1993 with a perhaps inevitable adaptation – in the format of a TV min-series – of the author's most notorious property, "Lady Chatterley's Lover", retitled simply LADY CHATTERLEY...but, although I do own a copy of it in my collection, I decided to bypass it for the present since I also have the earlier 1955 and 1981 film versions of the same sources likewise lying in my unwatched pile!

At least, Russell came to his old battleground, as it were, prepared with several cast and crew members of the earlier film: actors Glenda Jackson (as the mother of her own previous character!) and Christopher Gable (here as the heroine's cheerful father rather than her sister's fiancé!), cinematographer Billy Williams and production designer Luciana Arrighi; besides, he recruited other actors who had stood him in good stead in the past, such as Dudley Sutton, Judith Paris and Kenneth Colley. For the leads, then, he depended upon a couple of new alumni within his oeuvre, Sammi Davis and Amanda Donohoe (both from THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM), and a hot property of the time i.e. Paul McGann (co-star of the cult movie WITHNAIL AND I {1987}); another notable but surprising presence is that of David Hemmings (who was the first choice for the part yet, when the producers balked, Russell audaciously offered it to none other than Elton John but he proved predictably 'difficult' and, then, after Alan Bates – as it happens, one of the leads in WOMEN IN LOVE itself – chose to pass, the role found itself yet again in Hemmings' lap)!

Preceded by some horrid computer-generated titles, the opening scenes feel awkward, as if the director was uncertain of his ability to pull it off, and the narrative loses steam during its last third but, to quote popular American reviewer Leonard Maltin, there are "many beautiful and striking moments" along the way. Even if Davis tries hard, her all-too-modern looks and acting style work against her and she only captures the essence of the central role (played in the sequel adaptation by Jennie Linden rather than Jackson, whose character from the 1969 film is here reduced to a wimpy, jealous sort) in fits and starts! The film's chief bright spot, in fact, is Donohoe (though she too grows stale eventually) as the sports instructress at Davis' school, a free spirit who influences and inspires the younger woman (towards achieving her own freedom from the shackles of convention); perhaps as a means of matching WOMEN IN LOVE's notorious nude wrestling scene, their relationship often gratuitously resorts to nudity but is nonetheless sensitively portrayed (indeed, Russell demonstrates surprising restraint here)! While Davis is later involved with McGann in various couplings, including one by a waterfall that would grace the movie's poster, and Donohoe herself 'falls in with the crowd' by marrying wealthy collier Hemmings (the heroine's uncle), it is the two women's scenes together that stick in the mind...even if, in true Russell style, Davis's confused feelings are expressed in a dream in which she is pursued by both her lovers on the plains (with all three of them stark naked)! The latter romance leaves Davis pregnant but she miscarries the child following a horse scare she receives during a rain-drenched walk in the countryside. Indeed, one of the film's more interesting aspects is the way it introduces social commentary into the mix with Davis' sexual/artistic/vocational/philanthropic awakening is, for all its eventual disappointments, seen as being diametrically opposed to the accepted fashion of the times she lived in: her nude posing for painter Sutton here ends in disaster, she is disrespected by her pupils and lusted after by her superior after applying for a job as a schoolteacher; she stamps all over Hemmings' orchard when she witnesses the cruelty with which the roaming farm animals are treated by his poachers, etc.

All in all, the end result (set to a notable Carl Davis score) did not disgrace the memory of the 'original' but neither did it provide the lease of life to his career that the director had hoped for; indeed, of the 23 subsequent projects that carried his name, only 2 were made for the big-screen and the second (2002's by-all-accounts dreadful Poe pastiche THE FALL OF THE LOUSE OF USHER) barely got released at that!

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