Ken Russell has really done it this time. He has stripped the lid off of respectability off the Ursuline convent in Loudon, France. He has exposed Cardinal Richelieu as a political schemer. He has destroyed our illusions about Louis XIII. We are filled with righteous indignation as we bear witness to the violation of the helpless nuns; it is all the more terrible because, as Russell fearlessly reveals, all the nuns, without exception, are young and stacked.The Devils
is a 1971 biographical horror film by English enfant terrible, Ken Russell
. It tells the semi-true story
of Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed
), a priest living in 17th-century France who is forced to defend his town of Loudon from the Roman Catholic church, whose leaders want it torn down. The Church decides to instigate a conspiracy against Grandier, framing him for demonic possession of a local nun, Sister Jeanne (Vannessa Redgrave), who is sexually obsessed with Grandier, and the perfect target for the Church's manipulation.
Because the film contains many lovely scenes - such as nuns raping a statue of Jesus before having a massive orgy - the film was condemned by virtually every moral guardian at the time of its release, and cut to ribbons on various cinema releases. The film remains unleased on DVD and its US rights holders (Warner Video) has yet to release it .
- Anachronism Stew: The entire set design, such as the convent done up entirely in white tile.
- Apothecary Alligator: Grandier tosses one out the window during the plague sequence.
- Berserk Button: Sister Jeanne does not take kindly to the news that Grandier has married Madeline.
- Camp Gay: Louis XIII
- Downer Ending: The walls of Loudon are demolished, possibly killing quite a few people in the process. Grandier is tortured and eventually burned alive. The possession is revealed as false, but no one cares. The one man who believed Grandier was innocent is committed to an asylum, and the "exorcist" who tortured the nuns disappears to do more evil.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Grandier's speech as he's slowly being burned alive to the cheers of the crowd watching his death. Even in his last moments, he stood by what he believed in.
- Executive Meddling: While Russell cut the infamous "Rape of Christ" scene personally, the film suffered major edits from British censors, then by American censors (whose cuts ironically were nowhere near as bad as what the British censors did to the film). For years the cut footage was presumed to be lost forever, until most of it was ultimately recovered; but while the "rape of Christ" sequences have been restored, the original ending (with Sister Jeanne using the charred bone of Grandier as a dildo) has yet to be found and possibly remains lost forever, though this might be for the best.
- Exploitation Film: As many critics have pointed out, it is hard to tell whether Ken Russell is genuinely interested in the supposed themes of religious faith and corrupt churchmen behind his fascination with lurid hypersexuality and shock value.
- Idiot Ball:
- Grandier utterly underestimates how dire the political game in France was at the time, and is rather naive in thinking himself untouchable - as well as the fact that the town's Catholic/Protestant unity would make it a target for those wanting to wipe out the Protestants.
- Sister Jeanne is even worse: she doesn't fathom what her revenge plot against Grandier will unleash, nor does she realize that she won't be able to control the madness that will ensue.
- Karma Houdini: Father Barre, Cardinal Richelieu, the Baron. Though some of this you had to know was a Foregone Conclusion.
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: Still not available on DVD in the US; the main sources for obtaining the film either are the US edit VHS tape, importing the partially restored BFI DVD from the UK, or pirating it online
- Part of the problem is that Warner Brothers studio owns the US rights to the film and it has been stated that there are people in the studio who find the film to be blasphemous and not worth the shitstorm they fear would be unleashed if it ever saw the light of day in the US as far as the religious right's reaction. Furthermore, any release that the film has would be the heavily butchered US edit, as Warner Brother's contract is for that version and not the recently "restored" version.
- Similarly the rights to the documentary on the making/restoration of the film "Hell on Earth". It's been stated that Warner Brothers has no interest in the documentary whatsoever in the US.
- Large Ham: Father Barre.
- Magic Feather: The king produces a holy relic inside a small box and asks if it will calm the sisters' religious frenzy, and Barre says it will. The nuns do indeed calm down, at which point the king opens the box, revealing it to be empty. Unfortunately, this does not impede Barre's efforts in the town.
- Naughty Nuns: In spades. Sister Jeanne has lurid sexual fantasies about Grandier, mostly involving him as a Jesus-like figure. This eventually causes her descent into madness. The other nuns are not above this kind of behavior, either. They're manipulated by the Church into stripping off in the church, desecrating the iconography, and eventually losing themselves in one enormous orgy......it's that kind of movie.
- The Plague: During an outbreak, Grandier's grasp of the distinction between quackery and medicine makes him some important enemies.
- Red Right Hand: Sister Jeanne's badly twisted spine, which also indicates the state of her soul.
- Sinister Minister: Grandier is about the only religious figure in the movie who doesn't qualify, and even he's no saint.