M.I.A.: Ken Russell's Mind Bender, The Craziest Film You've Never Seen

1996's Mind Bender is easily one of Ken Russell's most wacked out, batshit films, which, if you're familiar with Russell's complete body of work, is really saying something.  I mean, this movie offers The First Ever Interactive Psychic Experience.  The poster invites viewers to "bring your broken clocks and watches to the theater."  I haven't got any broken clocks or watches to test it, but I'm sure it works.  Or, if it doesn't, that's just because I'm stuck with an ancient, low quality web-rip burned to DVDR because, on home video, I'm afraid it's still quite M.I.A..
And the psychic experience isn't even the looniest part.  This is a very freely adapted biopic about mystifier and paranormalist Uri Geller.  Just to give you a taste of how freely, there's a scene where Geller is driving a stolen army jeep blind, because he's wearing a sensory-deprivation helmet.  His manager and girlfriend help him steer from home by playing with a toy jeep on a map and sending him directions via ESP.  If that's not enough, he's using telekinesis to take out the CIA agents who are chasing him with machine guns.  Everything's going smoothly until his agent is distracted by the family dog, causing Geller to crash and be flown through his front windshield.  Fortunately, he just happened to have been right outside his own home, so he comes crashing through his own picture windows and lands on his couch, next to his childhood friend, who coolly hands him a cigar.  Just like I'm sure it must've happened in real life.
Through all the insanity, Russell does still manage to depict Geller true rise from a small time stage magician in Cyprus to the celebrity illusionist he still is today.  If you've seen Lisztomania, you know just how far Russell has taken his biographical films from his humbly dry BBC documentaries, and to be fair, a lot of what seems to crazy to be true is at least based in actual events.  For example, the CIA really did run tests on Geller in the 70s in attempts to verify and possibly weaponize any mental powers he might actually have.  Read this article in the Washington Post about it.   Sure it says more about our government's gullibility and willingness to burn taxpayers' money than anything about Geller, but it means all the craziness isn't purely spun from Russell's imagination.  And I suspect the over-the-top portrayal Russell gives this material, including his depiction of Geller's abilities as 100% real and very practically effective (at one point he uses his mind to rip somebody out of his limousine and flips him around in the air like a scene from an X-Men movie), is really Russell taking the piss out of what the we've been asked to believe and what many people seemed more than willing to accept.
Or perhaps he's just as happy to buy in as anybody, and this is the natural result of such an outrageous story combined with Russell's unleashed sensibilities.  Geller himself appears in the film at the end, so it's not like the filmmakers were in any kind of adversarial relationship with their subject.  It's also a little tricky to get a read on the film's intentions, because much of the acting is pretty stiff and unnatural.  The guy playing Geller (Ishai Golan) is a relative unknown, and he and his young co-stars often seem to be struggling to get out their lines.  On the other hand, the older end of the cast is considerably more assured, including the one and only Terrance Stamp and Hetty Baynes, who you may remember from Russell's Tales Of Erotica and Lady Chatterley, as well as the 1981 version of Sense and Sensibility.  All together, I'm not saying this is a good film by any traditional standards.  Anyone not wholly prepared for Russell's highly theatrical, cartoonishly camp irreverence, coupled with stiff performances and a ludicrous "true story" are going to be extremely put off.  And even if you're coming in prepared and fully on board, there are still a host of problems that don't tend to plague most of Russell's other works.  But the surrealism and fast paced, good natured spirit of it all leaves a lot for experienced Russell fans to appreciate, if not normies.
Mind Bender has been issued, more than once in fact, on DVD in Germany.  But unfortunately, they only feature the German dub of the film.  All we English-reliant viewers have by way of access to the original, English-language version are US (Republic Pictures) and UK (Buena Vista) VHS releases.  Today, that translates to these bland, fullframe video rips we've been looking at.  But this film did play theatrically in some parts of the world, and it was shot on 35mm, so theoretically there's room for this to look fantastically improved with a proper HD restoration. 
my tired old web-rip.
There's obviously not much reason for delving into the PQ of these screenshots, since they're not from any kind of official release.  But I think it is worth pointing out that this is a 1.33:1 (the German DVDs seem to be 4:3 as well), and look very open matte.  Some shots have miles of empty headroom.  So this film was clearly composed for widescreen.  If anyone were to someday give this film the proper release it deserves [hint, hint], this film would surely look much better in its proper OAR, which would allow viewers to better appreciate this film's qualities and be less distracted by its awkward staginess.  We've missed our chance for a Russell commentary, but an interview with Geller would be just as fascinating; and he might be willing, since he still seems supportive of the film.  He promotes it for streaming on his official site (I checked... it's the same trash transfer) and in his own words, "it's a crazy film but pay attention to the ending!"

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