It was with this bloated, pretentious, vulgar, overblown and generally very dubious biopic that the reputation of Ken Russell began to go downhill. He had never been a stranger to controversy, but it was a nasty surprise that the director whose films about Delius and Elgar had been so sensitive, and whose work had generally been acclaimed for its visual beauty, should manufacture something so deliberately ugly and yet so utterly lacking in analytical depth. The attitudes of Richard Strauss were surely open to criticism, to put it very mildly indeed, but Russell simply indulges in name-calling and caricature - and, given the horrors depicted (sometimes with authentic newsreel footage), this shows alarming shallowness and tastelessness and even seems rather inhuman.
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