I have it on good word that this release is as good as it will ever get for The Devils. Warners US would happily destroy the negatives and consign it to memory, such is their absolute and utter loathing of this film and for its content. I also have been informed that the 2004 director's cut will NEVER be released onto DVD outside of select cinema screenings. The fact that there is no Blu Ray edition of this release (and it's the future, apparently) should be seen as 'significant' - for some reason, people want this film to vanish.
However, as other reviewers point out, let's not get down here! The theatrical UK cut is a fine version (approved by the late Ken Russell) and even though the notorious 'rape of Christ' scene has been removed - and from the 'Hell on Earth' documentary as well, though it now has extra footage to compensate - The Devils is a powerhouse of a film about corruption, cruelty and sacrifice. Russell said that it was the only truly political film he made and it is a black as midnight, fiercely raging piece of work with an eye popping visual design by Derek Jarman.
The performances are all spectacular, but the story itself is the star. I can't think of a nastier or more disturbing tale of complete religious and political corruption. The scenes of torture and the death of Grandier are a difficult watch, but Reed's flawed priest triumphs - if only spiritually - in the face of insane hypocrisy and evil.
The Devils is a masterpiece and one of the greatest films ever made by a true genius of cinema. Do not hesitate in purchasing a copy.
on 17 August 2002
If you want to see Ken Russell's finest film, The Devils, you MUST buy the version released in the UK in the Maverick Directors series in 1997, and buy it soon, because I think it has been deleted by Warner Bros.
Every other video incarnation of The Devils is a disgrace. The picture is murky, grainy and distorted, ruining the impact of the fabulous sets and photography. And, most importantly, every other VHS uses the heavily censored American version of the film, rather than the full UK print.
Two minutes were chopped, and a further two minutes (approx) were re-edited, so that, in many scenes, the soundtracks of the US and UK versions are identical, but the visuals are completely different. EVERY SINGLE SCENE that has gross, violent or raunchy images (quite a few in this film) was toned down for the US - the orgies and the fiery finale were completely butchered. The US version, which may now be the only version available in the UK, is so heavily censored, it's almost a different film.
Whatever its faults, The Devils is an impressive, provocative film that no major studio would dare to make today, and it deserves to be seen in the best possible condition. When will we get this film, in the UK cut, on DVD? Poor old Ken Russell may not be trendy now, but don't forget that The Devils won several awards, including Best Foreign Film in the Venice Film Festival, and is certainly more worthy of a DVD revival that the heaps of no-brain cr** being released every week.
on 21 February 2011
This dvd contains the most complete version of the devils available (to the best of my knowledge) but is of vhs quality.I think whats happened here is this - channel 4 showed this as part of a season of "banned" movies a few years ago along with a documentary featuring interviews with cast/director/censors etc...someone has taped it off the telly put it on a disc and hey! here it is for you to buy! However as there is no other dvd release of this film at all as far as i can tell and the various vhs versions most definately do not contain some of the scenes included in this release you have to decide do you want to wait forever for warner bros to release the dvd or do you want to buy a vhs video with quiet a bit of material cut from it or will this do? I would like to thank who ever taped&released this for making it available Thank you. An update: The Bfi have released a 2 disc dvd of The Devils which has better picture quality but is still missing some of the footage available in this edition ( The rape of christ scene ).
on 16 February 2003
Why 4 stars? Because this VHS contains a cut version of the original british film release. What we now deserve is a DVD with the full uncensored version of this masterpiece by Ken Russell.
Oliver Reed at his best, a powerful performance by Vanessa Readgrave, a beautiful and daunting photography surely confer classic status to this work of art, with surrealistic undertones.
Based on a historical facts, as told by Aldous Huxley's The Devils of Loudun, this is a riveting story about father Urbain Grandier's martyrdom, during the reign of Louis XIII.
After Richelieu convinces the King that self-government of small provincial towns must end, the feudal nobility lose their independence by an edict calling for the destruction of their castles and walls, whilst the Hughenots are being crushed by force. One of these towns is Loudun, where the priest (a Jesuit) is Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed), an intellectual young priest, that knows the meaning and consequences of the edict calling for the destruction of the fortified walls of Loudun. Consequently, when Laubardemont, an agent of the Cardinal Richelieu arrives in the town, he is confronted and stopped by Grandier.
But Father Grandier is strikingly handsome and a sensualist. His vows of celibacy have not prevented him from fathering a bastard child with the daughter of Trincant, the town magistrate, and performing an illegal marriage with Madeleine, a young lady with whom he has fallen in love.
Meanwhile the Convent of the Ursulines in Loudun is ruled by Sister Jeanne of the Angels (Vanessa Readgrave), a young humped back nun, with a beautiful face. She develops an obsession with Grandier and has sensual visions which involve the young priest. When she hears about the illicit marriage, she loses control and falsely accuses the priest of sorcery and lewdness.
Grandier's enemies (Laubardemont, Trincant, Father Mignon and others) grasp the false accusation as an instrument for the destruction of the priest. They accuse Grandier of sorcery and call for an exorcist, Father Barre, who starts performing a series of exorcisms never seen before in France. The methods used by him and his assistants to extract the devils reputedly within the bodies of the nuns are base and sadistic. From Sister Jeanne's altered mind come the screams and the behavior that affect the other nuns. From there, collective hysteria spreads and as the nuns bask in their notoriety, their fantasies become more and more unreal. Those who oppose this infernal circus, on the grounds that the exorcists are the ones depraved, deliberately provoking the nuns, are arrested by Laubardemont, who wants to see the matter through. Both Richelieu and his agent are well aware of Grandier's innocence but the raison d' Etat calls for the destruction of the young priest.
Not surprisingly, based on the hysterical accusations of the nuns, Grandier and Madeleine are arrested. Grandier is brought to trial and found guilty of sorcery. He is viciously tortured, vainly, in order to extract a confession of his guilt. When Grandier is burnt alive at the stake, in the public square of Loudun, we see, in the background, that finally the walls of the city are starting to be destroyed...........
A DVD full version of this underrated classic is a must, for the sake of the history of cinema, and to keep alive a strong spirit against political manipulation and religious fanaticism.
on 19 July 2000
Let me first say that if you don't like Ken Russell's work, you probably won't enjoy this. As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the best films ever made and certainly one of the most harrowing. Released in the same year that saw Polanski's MACBETH and Kubrick's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, Russell's THE DEVILS, set in medieval France, explores similar themes of a desensitized, hypocritical, and morally bankrupt society in its story of Father Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed in an electrifying performance), a naughty Huguenot priest whose amorous misadventures raise the eyebrows of some of the more "virtuous" residents of the small but heavily fortified French town of Loudun. After the death of its beloved governor, Grandier, his best friend, was put in charge. When he impregnates the magistrate's daughter, also cousin to fellow priest Fr. Mignon, he unwittingly signs his own death warrant. At the same time, Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave, never more formidable), a hunchbacked and sexually frustrated nun, develops a huge crush on him. Unable to deal with her feelings, her lust manifests itself in disturbing visions of a blasphemous nature. Angry when her advances are rejected, she falsely accuses Fr. Grandier of bewitching her and her sisters. Meanwhile, a certain Baron de Laubardemont (a pity Dudley Sutton didn't make it big) complains to the evil Cardinal Richlieau about the fiercely protective Grandier; he and the Cardinal want Grandier out of the way so that they can form France into one giant Church-State. They despise Grandier because of his education, and his ability to see through their chicanery to the truth. When Sister Jeanne's outcries become public, mass hysteria results and Grandier is put in mortal danger. With the help of evil "exorcist" Fr. Barre (Michael Gothard, whose malevolent face and over-the-top delivery put one in mind of the most insincere and corrupt TV faith-healers), Laubardemont, the magistrate, and the rest of Grandier's enemies (along with some bored townsfolk) "prove" to a panel of priestly judges (who wear KKK robes and hoods) that Grandier is not a priest at all, but in fact is a "devil". With some EXTREMELY difficult-to-watch scenes and magnificent period detail, Russell pulls out all the stops to deliver an overpowering and surprisingly relevant warning against superstition and political corruption. When all is said and done, the viewer realizes that the only "devils" in sight are the men of religion and government who exploit the ignorant townsfolk and murder in cold blood in order to obtain power. An utterly horrifying film during whose climax I nearly wept - not because it's sad, per se, but because it's just SO overwhelming. A GREAT film not for the squeamish. All the more powerful in light of the fact that it's based on a true story! Comic relief supplied by a flamboyant, drag-queen King Louis.
on 19 November 2013
If you have never seen this film but have heard the rumors and the word-of-mouth - it's all true! One of the greatest and best- looking historically fact-based films produced, directed, acted in the 1970s (YES, the events really happened, google the "Loudon possessions, 1634"). A Biting social commentary on politics, religious paranoia/hysteria, torture and sex; as relevant today as it was then (likely, as it has always been). Not a "Horror movie" really in the traditional sense, but it does unsettle and disturb and cause much thought even long after viewing. Some scenes are simply unforgettable.
This is the restored X-rated U.K. version. Although some finicky film fanatics may balk that a few minutes of "explicit" footage remains missing from the completed film, this 'Region 2' BFI (British Film Institute ?) 2-disc edition is the best quality package treatment you're likely to see of THE DEVILS anytime soon. As an American I grew up seeing (as most people have) the widely available R rated U.S. versions, which alone were enough to make me a lifelong fan of this film. In seeing this version, the original U.K. 'X' certificate version (states 107 mins on the package), I'm sure I saw a bit more than I have seen before in other U.S. vhs and dvd editions (esp. of the "Nuns gone wild" scenes). The acting by Vanessa Redgrave (Oscar level) and Oliver Reed (heck, the whole cast!) is top rate!
Disc 2 contains a great documentary 'Hell on Earth' (2002, 48 mins) which gives us some actual clips, substantial glimpses, I'd say, of the suppressed footage (i.e. "Rape of Christ" and "Charred Bone", plus some others, like of the vulgar mummer's play being acted as Grandier burns). It would be really marvelous if all these scenes were one day restored into the body of the film itself as it really all is leading up to and adding to the story, it is NOT simply vulgarity for vulgarity's sake. Ken Russell was one of those rare masters of film and THE DEVILS is arguably his crowning achievement. Also, this depicts the world these 15th century people lived in.
Interviews with actors and crew and the director. The bonus material is substantial: 40 page color booklet is nice and completely dissects just what was censored and why, a brief intro before the film by Mark Kermode, a tireless advocate for this film, is good for the uninitiated, audio commentary w/ Ken Russell, Mark Kermode, Michael Bradsell & Paul Joyce is available but I've yet to view with it, also includes some 26 min early film by Russell called 'Amelia and the Angel' - "a delightful mix of religious allegory and magical fantasy". I've yet to view it.
All in all, THIS IS THE VERSION TO GET! I think it will not play on U.S. dvd players but I live in Japan so it plays fine on region 2. If you live in the U.S. and *NEED* this film you can probably find a region-free dvd player somewhere on Amazon or Amazon U.K. enabling you to view it (*?*).
on 8 January 2013
As most readers will know, The Devils was originally released in a censored version in the UK and in an even more censored version in the US. Some of the censored footage was subsequently discovered by the well-known film critic Mark Kermode, was included in a Channel 4 showing of the film, and was also included in a subsequent DVD release by EuroCult (which is also available on amazon but has at present attracted very few customer reviews). So it is disappointing that this DVD release does not include the `Kermode footage' (mainly scenes of the nuns misbehaving and sometimes referred to as the `rape of Christ'). Opinions differ about how important this footage is in the context of the film as a whole: Kermode himself described it as the centrepiece of the film, whereas Ian Armer has expressed the view that `it adds very little'. Personally I am inclined to agree with Mark Kermode rather than with Ian Armer: I think that the juxtaposition of scenes of Grandier calmly celebrating Mass with scenes of the nuns behaving blasphemously is an impressive piece of film-making and is central to an appreciation of the film.
As for the film as a whole, Oliver Reed gives an outstanding performance - in my view the best of his career - as Grandier, but in my view the film is marred by the ludicrously unhistorical portrayal of Louis XIII as an effeminate transvestite (a criticism which was originally made by the film critic Alexander Walker when the film was first released).
on 30 November 2002
This movie is no easier to sit through than it was when it was first released. It's a graphic, grim, horrific look at the confusion, superstition and religious frenzy that took place in a small French province during the reign of Louis XIII, when Cardinal Richelieu reigned supreme and "the Inquisition" had made its way from Spain. The Huxley novel and Whiting play from which it was adapted are well worth looking into, as both do more than adequate jobs at telling the same story.
I believe this was Russell's finest effort, his perfect medium. It is a subject that calls for histrionic direction, of which Ken is the exemplar. He turned his actors and technicians loose and the result is emotional and graphic overload, but (and this is an exception in his case) not overkill. There is actually a detached quality to the depictions that seperates the audience from the scene in a near Brechtian way. I think a lot of this has to do with the actor's choices. Redgrave and Reed were at the height of their respective powers at this point (and both had turned in great performances for Russell beforehand) and were comfortable in their strange roles.
The film is decidedly offbeat and disconcerting, but then so were the novel and the stage-play. Am I imagining this, or has Russell never been up for Best-Director come Oscar time? Hard to believe when one looks back on his career. Then again, I'm not a movie buff, so maybe someone can e-mail me if they know differently.
on 25 June 2010
There is no remaster DVD of the devils as yet.This is a poor visual transfer from video(Probably)
but is the complete uncut version as stated...I thought it is well overpriced for the quality...
However as historical interest it has a few again low quality extras that I had never seen before...
Wait for the remaster(If it ever gets done)
on 22 November 2011
OK, so it's not the restored 2004 director's cut in this release, or a blu-ray edition, but at least we have a 2.40:1 ratio great picture and sound quality of the 111 minute UK theatrical version - this is definitely something to celebrate. After all, only a substandard botch of the American R-rated (104 minute) version with badly inserted deleted scenes previously made a questionable release onto the DVD market, AND only in 1.78:1 ratio. Plus the inclusion of a commentary and the brilliant 'Hell on Earth' doc are definitely extras worth getting, let alone the rest that come in this package.
'The Devils' is an absolutely outstanding film, definitely one of Russell's best, and even in this theatrical version is an extremely powerful and disturbing piece of work. It is to be hoped that a blu-ray director's cut will see the light of day in the not too distant future. Ken was a British treasure and is sadly missed - thank god a commentary with Mark Kermode was recorded before his death - so Warner would be advised to show him some respect and release a full uncut blu-ray version without any more messing about.
So well done, I say, to the BFI - I for one am very thrilled to get my hands on this.
Still on the wishlist, besides a full blu-ray release of The Devils: A widescreen remaster of 'The Rainbow', UK releases of 'The Boyfriend' and 'Savage Messiah' (though the Warner Archives releases in the US are very good), a special director's cut edition of 'Altered States' with decent extras, and availability of 'Whore' and 'Salome's Last Dance'!!!