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The Devils (1971)

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.

Director:

Ken Russell

Writers:

Ken Russell (screenplay), John Whiting (based on the play by) | 1 more credit »
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Popularity
2,141 ( 2,779)
4 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Vanessa Redgrave ... Sister Jeanne
Oliver Reed ... Urbain Grandier
Dudley Sutton ... Baron De Laubardemont
Max Adrian ... Ibert
Gemma Jones ... Madeleine
Murray Melvin ... Mignon
Michael Gothard ... Father Barre
Georgina Hale ... Philippe
Brian Murphy ... Adam
Christopher Logue Christopher Logue ... Cardinal Richelieu
Graham Armitage ... Louis XIII
John Woodvine ... Trincant
Andrew Faulds ... Rangier
Kenneth Colley ... Legrand
Judith Paris ... Sister Judith
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Storyline

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. Written by Niz

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Never had there been exorcisms like this. See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English | Latin

Release Date:

16 July 1971 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Devils of Loudun See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$2,000,000, 31 December 1971
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Russo Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (restored)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Judith Paris is listed as Sister Judith in the credits, but is referred to as Sister Agnes in the film. See more »

Goofs

Judith Paris's character is referred to as Sister Agnes in the film but listed as Sister Judith in the credits. See more »

Quotes

Jeanne: Whore! Strumpet! Hypocrite! You tell me you have no vocation? Of course you have a vocation! Fornicator! Fornicator! Sacrilegious bitch! Seducer of priest, that's your calling! Your place is in a brothel. You filthy whore! Get back to the gutter where you belong!
See more »

Alternate Versions

Film Censorship In Australia. The Commonwealth Film Censorship Board imposed unprecedented advertising demands on a British film, 'The Devils', directed by Ken Russell. 'The Devils', produced by Russo Productions Ltd, has been registered "restricted" uncut on condition that all advertising be cleared by the chief film censor and carry a notice about the nature of the film. These details were contained in the Film Censorship Bulletin for January 1972, and a 9979-feet (110:53) version of THE DEVILS was passed with an R classification. It was registered, subject to the special conditions that:-
  • - - All advertising clearly indicates that this film is classified as shown on the Certificate of Registration,
  • - - All advertising (including any trailers) shall carry the following words:- "The Devils' is not a film for everyone. It tells of hideous events which allegedly occurred in France in 1634. Because the film is explicit and highly graphic in depicting those events, some-people will find it visually shocking and deeply disturbing."
  • - - A notice bearing the words:- " 'The Devils' is not a film for everyone. It tells of hideous events which allegedly occurred in France in 1634. Because the film is explicit and highly graphic in depicting those events, some people will find it visually shocking and deeply disturbing" shall be displayed outside all places where the film is being or is to be exhibited.
  • - - All advertising, whether - imported or locally-produced (or combination of imported and local produced) shall be submitted to the Chief Film Censor and shall be approved by him before release.
  • - - These conditions are imposed under the general power to put whatever conditions are thought appropriate upon the registration of any film.
In the United Kingdom, the BBFC demanded cuts to several scenes, including the masturbation by Jeanne with the black charred bone that Laubardemont gave to her as a souvenir. Warner Brothers to obtain a BBFC classification rating, made distributor cuts that eliminated the four-minute sequence showing a group of demented nuns raping a statue of Christ which brought the orgy to a climax, the so-called "Rape of Christ" before finally submitting their cut version to the British censors. The BBFC then removed a further 89 seconds. The resulting 110:53 minutes BBFC version was shown in Australian cinemas, and is the longest approved version of THE DEVILS. Warner Brothers have never allowed any of the eliminated sequences to be reinstated. See more »

Connections

Featured in X-Rated (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Bourrée d'Avignon
from Secretum musarum (1615)
Music by Nicolas Vallet.
Played as the king's dance in the opening.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Religious fundamentalism goes mad
26 April 2007 | by ExpendableManSee all my reviews

When reading the following review, please keep in mind that I saw this film in slightly unorthodox circumstances. Without meaning to sound smug, the screening I attended took place at my University, was chaired by Ken Russell and was of a restored version of The Devils. The missing footage found by the critic Mark Kermode had been spliced back in and the film restored to the director's vision as close as possible. Given that I've never seen the original edit released to cinemas back in the 1970s and that this was only the second time this version had been screened, I think its fair to estimate that the film I'm reviewing will be significantly different to the one that is widely available so please keep that in mind.

Anyway...starting with a bizarre sequence involving an androgynous, foppish King prancing around a theatre stage done up like an Egyptian Queen, Ken Russell's The Devils is a film that over the course of its subsequent hour and forty minutes is liable to offend as many people as it will entertain. The extravagance of the Royal French Court filled with laughing nobles and brown nosing politicians resplendent in the very finest dark ages fashion is soon juxtaposed when the film turns a stark gaze on a rotting countryside filled with pestilence and disease. Maggot infested corpses line the road and the attention is quickly turned on the town of Loudun, where Priest Father Grandier battles not only the plague, but the political schemers who want to demolish the walls. Grandier is such a charismatic public figure however that the politicians are powerless, until they elaborate a plan to have him tarnished with accusations of blasphemy.

Central to this conspiracy is a chapter of Nuns living near by, of whom the hunched Sister Jeanne proves instrumental. Scared of her own sexual desires, the woman is driven mad by her very human nature and soon, the inquisition are knocking on her door and every woman in the building is being tortured and brain washed in the name of Christianity. The evils of religious fanaticism are plain to see, with Michael Gothard's scene stealing extremist Father Barre being the most disgusting example of a Priest you are ever likely to see on film. He batters and humiliates women for the sake of getting his own way and is so inflexible that he will send people to their deaths rather than admit his own fallibility. Controversial scenes abound as Barre's determination brings about nothing but misery, with the brainwashed nuns stripping off and indulging in a mass orgy, culminating in perhaps the most offensive scene when a statue of Christ is pulled down from the chapel walls and used by the nuns as a sexual play thing.

While it may depict blasphemy though, the film itself is not blasphemous and believe it or not, actually celebrates Christianity. It does so through the figure of Grandier (Oliver Reed at his very best), a man whose faith in God is so strong that he will not allow the misled elders of the Church deviate him from his path. He isn't a perfect man and has a weakness for the fairer sex, but he will not bow down to pressure or allow physical pain to weaken his love of God, he is a fine depiction of a Priest of which the Church can be proud.

However, religious sermonising isn't the chief attraction because let's face it, the reason most of us would want to see this movie is because it's controversial. With the aforementioned cavorting on the cross and nun orgies it's not hard to see why and the Inquisition don't exactly come off particularly well either as they stride around the countryside, bullying and torturing and ultimately teaching their flock to hate, not to love. Furthermore, The Devils is possessed (pun very much intended) by a ceaseless, madcap energy that is easy to get swept up in and over the course of the film, you will witness flagellation, nun on nun lesbian action, deranged inquisitors chanting "confess" as they beat people with hammers and (perhaps most bizarrely of all), Oliver Reed duelling with a man using a stuffed crocodile in place of a sword.

Yes, it is a bit uneasy to watch sometimes. Yes, at times it does resemble little more than visual extremity taken to the limit and no its not likely to find it's way into the Pope's DVD collection any time soon. The underlying message is ultimately a pure one though and it has the added benefit of being one of the most insane films you're ever likely to see, as well as making you glad you don't live in the middle ages. If you ever get a chance to see the restored version I couldn't recommend it higher.


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