Ken Russell - the celebrated British director of the Oscar-winning Women In Love, The Who's rock opera Tommy and the sci-fi drama Altered States - has died aged 84.

A maverick who courted controversy, his 1971 film The Devils - starring Oliver Reid and Vanessa Redgrave - was withdrawn by Warner Bros after objections to a scene sexualising the crucifixion.

Womne-in-LoveThe Strauss family objected so strongly to the TV film Dance of the Seven Veils - particularly during a scene where a Jew is tortured by the SS - that they withdrew music rights and imposed a worldwide ban on the film that continues to this day.

However, he had his champions, who hailed a film-maker brave enough to defy convention while railing against his pet hates, particularly corrupt religion.

Born in Southampton, Russell escaped his abusive father with trips to the cinema with his mother and left home to serve both in the RAF and the Merchant Navy.

He moved into TV work, making arts documentaries about Elgar and Debussy, and made his feature debut in 1963 with the comedy French Dressing, starring Roy Kinnear.

The-DevilsHis second big-screen effort - Billion Dollar Brain - formed part of author Len Deighton's Harry Palmer spy cycle but it was 1969's Women in Love that cemented his reputation.

The adaptation of DH Lawrence's novel, starring Glenda Jackson, Reed and Alan Bates, attracted notoriety for its nude wresting scene between Reed and Bates.

He followed it with a string of ground-breaking adult-themed films, including the critically-reviled Tchaikovsky biopic The Music Lovers and The Devils, which topped the box office for eight weeks despite its portrayal (or maybe because of ) a corrupt church.

(the late British film critic Alexander Walker described the film as "monstrously indecent" in a TV confrontation with Russell, leading Russell to hit him with a rolled up copy of the Evening Standard, the newspaper for which Walker wrote).

Russell followed The Devils with a reworking of the period musical The Boy Friend, starring the Sixties model Twiggy, who won two Golden Globe Awards for her performance.

TommyIn 1975, Russell's star-studded film version of The Who's rock opera Tommy featuring Roger Daltrey, Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton and Jack Nicholson, spent a record fourteen weeks at number one.

Daltrey returned to star in Russell's next project - Lisztomania, a fantasy biopic scored by prog-rocker Rick Wakeman that posits that the music of Franz Liszt is stolen by Richard Wagner who, in his operas, puts forward the theme of the Superman.

Switching style, Russell continued with the hallucinatory sci-fi drama Altered States - featuring Russell's religious and sexual obsessions - which landed an Oscar nomination for its score by John Corigliano.

Altered-StatesThe director's next notable offerings were a brace of horror movies - Gothic and Lair of the White Worm - which - although dismissed at the time - have now achieved cult status.

After Women in Love prequel The Rainbow, again starring Glenda Jackson, Russell's last noteworthy film was 1991's highly-controversial Whore, an unflnching look a the sordid world of prostitution.

In 1995, he was honoured with a retrospective of his work presented in Hollywood by the American Cinematheque. Shock Value was a retrospective that included some of Russell's most successful and controversial films and also several of his early BBC productions.

Since 2004, Russell was visiting professor of the University of Wales, Newport Film School.