Forgotten Classic: The Devils

It's hard to believe a film that caused such uproar in the 1970s and should be a cult phenomenon has largely been swept away. This film is Ken Russell's masterpiece The Devils, the story of an outspoken priest (Oliver Reed) facing a corrupt Cardinal who wishes to take-over his fortified town. In order to remove the priest he is set up to be a devil-worshiper in control of a satanically-possessed nunnery. It is not long until witch hunters are called in and the stake is being prepared.

What was possibly the most controversial film of the 1970s does not even have an official DVD release 40 years on, which is a complete travesty. Any film that angers the Catholic Church is worth a watch, in my opinion and the film's highly religious subject matter and symbolism combined with graphic depictions of sex and violence clearly wasn't for them.

After my first watch of The Devils I was completely blown away. It's provocative, disturbing and both wonderfully acted and directed. Oliver Reed's lead performance is without a doubt the finest of his career and completely dominates the screen - the power of his character Grandier is utterly believable (which really makes the end of the film so tragic). Vanessa Redgrave is also sensational as the deformed, obsessive nun combating her overpowering sexual desires for Grandier. One scene that really stunned me was when we see King Louis XIII shooting slaves dressed as crows. There's something very dreamlike and disturbing about it that's stuck with me. However, the film is compiled with several of these bizarre little scenes which have an incredibly long lasting impact.

The set designs from the masterful Derek Jarman really transport us to the time as well as Ken Russell's visionary direction, both make The Devils unforgettable. It really pushes cinematic boundaries and it's a crime that it's not widely available.
The Devils 1665117000559252223
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