The Devils

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In 17th-century France, Father Urbain Grandier seeks to protect the city of Loudun from the corrupt establishment of Cardinal Richelieu. Hysteria occurs within the city when he is accused of witchcraft by a sexually repressed nun. Never had there been exorcisms like this.

ACTORS :  Vanessa Redgrave, Oliver Reed, Dudley Sutton

YEAR OF RELEASE : 1971

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The Devils  Cardinal Richelieu and his power-hungry entourage seek to take control of seventeenth-century France, but need to destroy Father Grandier – the priest who runs the fortified town that prevents them from exerting total control. So they seek to destroy him by setting him up as a warlock in control of a devil-possessed nunnery, the mother superior of which is sexually obsessed by him. A mad witch-hunter is brought in to gather evidence against the priest, ready for the big trial.

Ken Russell’s little known masterpiece

The Devils  A few movies are so controversial that the Movie industry does their best to kill them off (see Terry Gilliams’ “Brazil”). Such was the case with “The Devils” First, to clear a few things up…this did NOT come from a play, nor was it a novel. It is based on Aldous Huxley’s painstakingly researched religious history of the famous Loudun exorcisms during the time of Richelieu. The book may be out of print, but my wife found a copy published in 1952 by Chatto & Windus. There are some more recent publications, but this one is lovely, with an engraving of Bishop Urban Grandier(the main character) dating back to 1627. Huxley actually includes original letters, which still exist, written by the participants of this travesty. Much of the dialogue of the film is directly from Huxley. The vision however is uniquely Russell’s. When this movie was originally released, it was given an X rating, not due to sex, or even violence, although there is some of each. The plain fact is that the film in its original form is simply overpowering. The Movie Review board thought so! I was fortunate enough to see the original uncut version, rated X at the local art-house upon its release. This film is a shortened version. While still worthwhile, this film absolutely SCREAMS for a Criterion Collection restoration to its original (brilliant) form.

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