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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.


Ken Russell


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



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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


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


Never had there been exorcisms like this. See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »





English | Latin

Release Date:

16 July 1971 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Devils of Loudun See more »


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


| (restored)

Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Ken Russell won the Best Director Award from the National Board of Review in 1972 for directing "The Devils" and "The Boy Friend." Both films were released in 1971. See more »


Early in the movie when Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed) is seen grooming his hair. It is a close-up of him supposedly looking at a mirror in the upper left hand corner of the screen, behind the viewer. Obviously there is no mirror as he consistently misses combing the more egregiously messed up parts of his hair and instead repeatedly combs the portions that are already groomed. In fact when he is done, his hair is still messed up. See more »


Trincant: [holding up Grandier's baby as Grandier burns at the stake] Watch, bastard. See how your mother's honor was avenged.
Ibert: Lucky little bastard! It's not every day Baby sees Daddy burn to death.
See more »

Alternate Versions

In 2012 the BFI persuaded Warners to allow them to release the film on video in the UK. Warners refused to allow the director's cut at all and would only allow the BFI to release the original 'X' certificate version on DVD. Warners refused permission to allow a hi rez release. The BFI produced a superb DVD transfer for the first time in its proper 2.35:1 ratio. The Channel 4 documentary 'Hell on Earth' was included but the 'Rape of Christ' sequence was removed. They also cut a line of dialogue when one of the actors refers to Warners as a bunch of 'c**ts'. Before this in the USA the 'unrated' version appeared as an upcoming release complete with sleeve art. 24 hours later Warners stopped the release! See more »


Referenced in The Pit and the Pendulum (1991) See more »


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

Excellent but flawed British film
14 April 2002 | by shotguntomSee all my reviews

British director Ken Russell's adaption of Aldous Huxley's book "The Devils of Loudun" is one of the most origional, controversial and daring films ever made. The film takes place in 17th-century France and centres on the hypocritical and licentious behaviour of debauched priest Father Urbain Grandier, brilliantly played by Oliver Reed. A second plot strand involves the humpbacked nunn Sister Jeanne, played by Vanessa Redgrave, who, along with her fellow nuns, is obsessed with Grandier. When the nuns become seemingly possessed, disgruntled representatives of the Catholic Church and corrupt officials move in and seize their opportunity to get rid of Grandier.

The film gets off to an excellent start, gradually building up the tension and highlighting the flaws within the Catholic religion. However the middle section involving the possession of the nuns is far too theatrical and over-the-top and the action becomes weighed down by the overbearing performance of Michael Gothard as Father Barre and Derek Jarman's lurid sets. The final section of the film, however, is mightily impressive and well-scripted and benefits hugely from Oliver Reed's committed performance.

While Vanessa Redgrave impresses in the role of Sister Jeanne this is Oliver Reed's film and a performance which proves he was a great actor and not just a great hellraiser. This film illustrates that he is easily the equal of his contemporaries including Caine, Connery, Harris and Finney.

While director Ken Russell's films can range from the very good to the absolutely awful "The Devils" is without doubt his best. This is perfect material for Russell to work with and the ideal outlet for his unique vision. Russell was part of the new breed of controversial directors who emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s who courted controversy with images of sex, nudity, violence and shocking images. "The Devils" is no exception and while it will by no means be to everyone's taste it should be commended for its daring take on the hypocritical side to religion and for helping to pave new ground in cinema.

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