7.9/10
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102 user 111 critic

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
4,024 ( 965)
4 wins. See more awards »

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Stars: Rudolf Nureyev, Leslie Caron, Michelle Phillips
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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 | USA

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

While preparing for the climactic demolition of the city walls, a technician mistook a signal from Ken Russell and detonated the explosives before the cameras were rolling. A large chunk of the set had to be rebuilt. However, a documentary on the second disk of the 2012 DVD release of the film contradicts this story. In this documentary, Russell states that it was himself that pressed the button which detonated the explosives without communicating this to the camera team. It is also stated that the scene had to be re-shot a month later as a consequence the cameras missing the destruction of the walls. See more »

Goofs

(around 1h18:30) A few scenes after Grandier has been tortured by having a spike pierced through his tongue, he is shown praying despairingly, with the camera focused on his face as shot through the mask-contraption he had worn during this ordeal. The centre of focus is his mouth and tongue. As he speaks, it can be seen that there's no wound on his tongue. See more »

Quotes

Cardinal Richelieu: A most original conception, your Majesty, The Birth of Venus. I pray I may assist you in the birth of a new France, where Church and State are one.
[He holds out his hand to Louis, who kisses his ring]
Cardinal Richelieu: [intoning] And may the Protestant be driven from our land...
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Comix Scrutinizer: Skull #3 (2014) 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

 
astounding
22 January 2006 | by tbyrne4See all my reviews

I love love love love love this movie. Ken Russell (along with Greg Araki) is probably my favorite director of all time. He is an absolute showboat! The Wagner of film. Russell never met a line he couldn't bend into a circle and a light bulb he didn't explode into a star burst supernova. Where most directors are ascetic, Russell is a glutton. Where many whisper their convictions with hushed words, Russell screams through a megaphone. This I adore about him.

And "The Devils" is (drum roll please) his masterpiece! Yes, this film is savage. It is shocking. It is perverse and violent and all of that. But it is also one of the greatest films ever made. Very similar to "The Crucible" (and if you haven't read that, stop what you're doing and read it instead of this).

A priest (brilliantly played by Oliver Reed) in rennaisance era France is caught in a political squeeze play and becomes the subject of a (literal) witch hunt. He is put on trial for being a demon and a group of nuns are bullied by a crazy exorcist into claiming themselves possessed. The whole thing plays out with the maximum amount of grotesque-ness imaginable. Even if one is used to Russell's films what is shown here could prove unwatchable for some.

We get: nuns ripping their clothes off and running around naked (pretending to be possessed), people burned at the stake, forced vomiting, nuns copulating with Jesus (just a hallucination though), physical torture of many different varieties. It's very in your face. However, the subject is topical (obviously) and it really deserves to be seen by more people.

Another great reason to see this movie is Vanessa Redgrave, who plays a hunchbacked mother superior. A very conflicted character attracted to Oliver Reed. I've never liked Vanessa Redgrave much, but she is magnificent in this movie. And her performance is one of the creepiest I have ever seen, rivalling Paul Smith's sweating smiling sinister jail-guard in "Midnight Express".

However, my selfish view remains: I hope this movie never ever gets released on DVD that way it will stay unknown and I (and the rest of the smart people on earth) will get to enjoy it as our treasure and ours alone. It will not spread to the masses and be diluted and trod upon and destroyed. This film is art. It is not junk put out by your local movie studio. This is a film of passion and meaning and sweat and blood. If you are reading this and you have no idea what I am talking about: stop reading and go away and never watch this film. Ever! You will merely dilute it with your stupid, reality-TV watching fingers.

Thank you.

Also, some of Ken Russell's other great beautiful films include: Savage Messiah, Altered States, The Music Lovers, Women in Love, and Mahler.


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