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The Devils (1971) Poster

(1971)

Trivia

A major sequence in which the nuns tear down and ravish a life-sized icon of Christ in an orgiastic frenzy was cut from the film and subsequently vanished. Film critic Mark Kermode discovered the footage many years later. Ken Russell was keen to reinstate the scene but found that Warner Brothers were not interested in doing a director's cut. The footage can be seen in a documentary Kermode made about Russell and was subsequently included in an uncut DVD release.
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Derek Jarman's sets are modeled on the sets of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927). Ken Russell wanted to avoid the clichéd look of period films and insisted on anachronistic, even futuristic, design. Russell's guidance to Jarman was that it should echo the 'rape in a public toilet' line from the Huxley novel that inspired the film.
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The role of Sister Jeanne was originally offered to Glenda Jackson, who turned it down because she was tired of playing sexually neurotic leads in Ken Russell movies.
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The film not only was banned in Italy but the government of that country threatened the actors Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Reed to condemn them to three years in prison if they stepped on their territory.
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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 disc 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.
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Subject of an online petition to persuade Warner Bros. to release the movie as a DVD, something the company was reluctant to do, apparently because of its controversial nature. The campaign was ultimately successful with the re-release on DVD, by the BFI, of the 1971 UK X-rated cut of the film.
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When critic Alexander Walker published a unfavorable review of the film in the Evening Standard, he and Ken Russell were invited for a debate on a BBC talk show, where Russell confronted Walker with alleged inaccuracies in his writing. Unfortunately the footage has been lost and stories about what happened differ violently. However, both agree that the argument got so heated, that Russell took his folded copy of the issue of the newspaper with the contentious review and hit Walker on the head with it.
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Supermodel Twiggy and her manager/boyfriend Justin de Villeneuve were given brief cameo roles during the court scene, and appear as a male courtier and a tall silver-wigged gentleman respectively. However once the nuns started stripping Twiggy walked off the set and the pair only filmed one shot.
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Ken Russell has said that he had to be gentle with Max Adrian because he was rather frail at the time.
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Oliver Reed's favourite film of his own.
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Judith Paris is listed as Sister Judith in the credits, but is referred to as Sister Agnes in the film.
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First feature film of Gemma Jones.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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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.
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Filmed in the summer of 1970.
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Max Adrian (Ibert) had played Father Barré in a BBC Radio adaptation of The Devils in 1963.
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Spike Milligan was originally cast as Baron De Laubardemont, but he was replaced when Ken Russell felt he could not properly convince in this straight dark role.
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According to Ken Russell, when the part of Sister Jeanne was offered to Glenda Jackson the script had a scene where Jeanne, after her death, has her head cut off and displayed on the convent altar: "When she saw the final script which ended with the death of the leading man, she said, 'That's not the way you told it to me,' which I had to admit was true. She'd loved the idea of her head in a casket and everyone worshiping her on their knees. And with all that gone, she'd have been just back in the madhouse again."
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