It was a dark and stormy night . . . There’s obviously no cure for Ken Russell (Crimes of Passion, Lisztomania), the Bulwer-Lytton of our cinematic subconscious, but this travestying of history and literary imagination seems even more overwrought than usual, a free-form, psychodramatic yowl in the direction of Nightmare Abbey. It’s an evening with Lord Byron and the Shelleys that Russell serves up, mad Fuselian geniuses after his own demented design (and if not, well, literary history be damned), and the seeds of the Frankenstein myth and modernist self-consciousness are laid on a long night of excremental (as in sacramental) excess and hysterical acting out. The thematic intermixing of sexuality and death, of imaginative rebirth and visceral disgust, is characteristic of Russell, as is the cartoonishly heavy hand with which he trowels it all on: he’s as subtle as a supermarket tabloid, and just as obsessed with literal, concretizing images of perversity. Still, it’s fascinating to watch this frenetic concoction unwind (an Altered States before the fact, hallucinogenically revised), though I’d probably stop short of calling it a pleasure. With Gabriel Byrne, Julian Sands, Natasha Richardson, Myriam Cyr, and Timothy Spall (1987).