At last an official DVD release for this extraordinary film. Ken Russell knows his classical music, and here presents a personal view of the life of Tchaikovsky. Russell picks out singularly important events in the composer's life (as he was to do, next, in Mahler), and films them to an audio background of Tchaikovsky's music. For example, in the notorious St. Petersburg to Moscow train journey sequence, we see poor Tchaikovsky looking on agast as his nymphomaniac wife (played by Glenda Jackson, before she became an M.P.) rolls naked around the railway compartment, filmed from almost every possible view, as we hear the Pathetique and Manfred symphonies blazing out on the soundtrack.
Critics have generally been very sniffy about Russell's musical film biographies from the '70s, preferring the earlier productions for the BBC (which were very fine, within their limited budgets, and constraints of 'taste'), but The Music Lovers, Mahler, and Lisztomania all showed Russell's ability to condense what made a composer tick, film it with great visual flair, add some controversy and humour, and let us hear (albeit short) samples of the composers' music. I know a number of people whose interest in classical music was awakened by seeing a Russell film, and he certainly triggered my own love of the music of Mahler.
The Music Lovers also had the special benefit of having Douglas Slocombe as Director of Photography (what a career that man has had); luckily, MGM has transferred the image (and sound) to DVD very well. There are some specks visible earlier on in the film, but overall it has never looked better, except in a cinema.
Highly recommended, unless you are unfortunate enough to be allergic to Ken Russell.