Filmmaker Ken Russell died last year at the age of 84. Known for his pioneering work in television and film and for his flamboyant and controversial style, Russell walked the boundaries of art. His most recognized works were the 1970 film “Women in Love” and the 1975 film “Tommy”, based on the rock opera by “The Who”. Russell’s most controversial film was the 1971 release, The Devils.
Cardinal Richelieu and his power-hungry entourage seek to take control of seventeenth-century France. But in order to do so, they need to destroy Father Grandier, a priest who runs the fortified town that prevents them from exerting total control. The role of Grandier was played by the British actor Oliver Reed, who gives a spirited performance as the doomed priest.
So they seek to destroy him by bringing false charges against him, accusing him of being a warlock in control of a devil-possessed nunnery. The leader of the convent is a mother superior, played by Vanessa Redgrave, who is sexually obsessed by him. A mad witch-hunter is brought in to gather evidence against the priest, ready for the big trial.
“The Devils” faced an enormous backlash from the MPAA and the Catholic church, due to its disturbingly violent, sexual, and religious content. It was banned in several countries, and heavily edited for release in others. The film never received a DVD release in its original, uncut form in various countries, and is largely unavailable in the home video market. The version shown below is missing four minutes of footage from the original cut.
This, being the 40th anniversary of the film’s release, “The Devils” should get more exposure because of the political and religious climate taking place in the world. If anything, whether it’s through religious means or by government, the premise that power corrupts doesn’t sit well with some people, and it’s those people who needs to be exposed as who they are.
If you’re a religious church goer, be forewarned. You will be repulsed!