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The Devils, 1971


Aldous Huxley's "The Devils of Loudon" filmed by Russell.


Ken Russell The Devils

About power, corruption and political expediency in France as the church (Cardinal Richelieu) and crown (Louis XIII) battle for power over the city of Loudon, protected by massive walls.

Ken Russell The Devils

Oliver Reed as Urbain Grandier in The Devils

And Father Urbain Grandier in Loudon will fall victim, a priest who has lovers yet turns out to have nobility.

Ken Russell The Devils

 The film confirms Russell's immense talent, and again the imagery is breathtaking.

Murray Melvin as Mignon in The Devils   Ken Russell The Devils

     Vanessa Redgrave as Sister Jeanne in The Devils

The Devils Ken Russell    The Devils Ken Russell

Gaudier is tortured and burnt alive just before the walls of Loudon, and its independence, are destroyed.  Gaudier's wife is lost among the mountains of bricks as she climbs over the wall to leave the city.

Ken Russell The Devils    Ken Russell The Devils

Ken Russell The Devils

The original version was censored, the later versions include the short but harrowing torture scene.

The power of Russell's imagery was so powerful that many critics complained of scenes which they thought were in the film, but were not, rather they were implied.

Ken Russell The Devils

When on a television programme with Russell, critic Alexander Walker called the film "monstrously indecent". Russell famously hit him over the head with a rolled up newspaper.

people Oliver Reed in another subtle performance as Grandier, possibly his best role.

Oliver Reed in The Devils

Vanessa Redgrave is excellent as the prioress who loves Grandier from a distance. Her frustration causes her to denounce Grandier. Glenda Jackson turned the role down because parts were too similar to the madhouse scenes in The Music Lovers. Just as Jackson previously, Redgrave was pregnant during the filming, eventually having a miscarriage.

Most actors were chosen by Russell based on their physical appearance.

Peter Maxwell Davis provides the music. Derek Jarman provided the sets, massive brick constructions. The photography is by David Watkin, the editor is Michael Bradsell, costumes are by Shirley Russell.

The torture of Reed was censored in the original versions, but is included in later versions (it lasts seconds).  The rape of Christ scene was censored by the studio.  A restored version with the full sequence, was shown at the National Film Theatre on  23 Nov 2004.

Ken Russell The Devils

The films was based directly on Huxley's novel, and on John Whiting´s stage play of the novel. The premiere of the play, 10 years before the film, included Max Adrian as Father Barre and Dorothy Tutin as Sister Jeanne, both in this film, though in different roles.

British comedian Spike Milligan was a candidate for a part in the film (information from Spike by Norma Farnes).  Russell's early documentary Portrait of a Goon was about Milligan.

best image Vanessa Redgrave´s entrance, head bowed under a low arch.

Vanessa Redgrave in The Devils

best scene The girl confessing a love affair to Reed, and by a slip of the tongue giving away that it is Reed she loves.

The girls dancing in devilish ecstasy until the vessel with the relic of the blood of Christ subdues them. Then it is revealed the vessel is empty, there is no blood.

The Devils Ken Russell

The holocaust imagery of bodies in the plague pit resemble the bodies in the bath (Billion Dollar Brain) and the plastic models being burnt in French Dressing.


Lots of nuns.

Unconsummated love (the prioress) and forbidden love (Grandier and lovers, and the homosexuality of the audience in the opening sequence watching the king in drag).

Oliver Reed in The Devils
Christ imagery as the prioress dreams of Grandier as Christ walking on water.

Ken Russell The Devils

The enormous walls of Loudon have the same splendour as the walls in Metropolis.

films Other films released in the same year include A Clockwork Orange, The French Connection and two more Russell films- The Music Lovers and The Boyfriend.


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