May 1, 2009 To say that Ken Russell's "The Devils" is forgotten is of course ludicrous, as anyone who has seen it can't get the film out of their mind. This is a relentless, terrifying, over-the-top movie from one of Great Britain's finest art filmmakers. It is easily Ken Russell's greatest film. Yet it remains out of print everywhere in the world, and it looks like Warner Bros. wants it to stay that way.
Amazingly, Warner Bros. actually developed cover art for a DVD release -- then pulled the plug. The film has been remastered -- uncut -- because glorious uncut prints of the film have screened in L.A. It's likely the corporate heads at Warner got nervous about the film's over-the-top naked nuns content. But the film is no more intense than "Passion of the Christ."
"The Devils" is based on Aldous Huxley's "The Devils of Loudon," itself a true story. It's kind of an art nunsploitation film. A thinking man's nunsploitation movie.
It's also the best movie Oliver Reed ever made and one of the best movies Vanessa Redgrave ever made.
Filmed on surreal sets, with a large budget and over-the-top scenes of sadism and sacrilege, this is definitely not the kind of movie studios make today. Only in 1971 (the same year that produced Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange") could a film this disturbing be such a big release.
It's actually infinitely more gruesome than similar grade-Z exploitation witch-hunt movies such as. "Mark of the Devil"
In 1643, as the black death terrorizes the populace of France, an overly libidinous priest (Reed) attempts to protect the city of Loudon from a drive by the French state to rip down its well-fortified walls and, ultimately, destroy the city.
Despite his politically precarious situation, Reed nonetheless beds the daughters of some important men in the community, planting the seeds of his own destruction and for wild accusations of witchcraft and demonic possession.
Redgrave plays a sadistic, hunchbacked nun with a crush on Reed who becomes the French government's chief accuser in its drive to destroy Reed. Michael Gothard is on hand, playing the super-sadistic Father Barre, a church-sanctioned torturer and witchfinder.
This is one of Russell's all-time greatest movies and, despite being so well-made, definitely isn't for all tastes.
Cut to avoid an X-rating, then remastered uncut in 2008, before drifting into oblivion again after Warner refused to release it to DVD. The uncut version actually appeared on British television once and a bootleg DVD of it is now floating around.
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