Silence continues to emanate from Warner Home Video about its weird suppression of Ken Russell‘s The Devils, which I reported about yesterday. Last Sunday I rented this 1971 film for iPhone viewing, a day or two before WHV withdrew it from iTunes, and it looked beautiful, obviously indicating that WHV put serious money into remastering it. But they’re now keeping this major film by a respected director from being seen. Okay, by a relatively small (but fanatical) nation of film buffs, but it’s the principal of the thing. Suppressing a film crosses ethical lines.
Presumably a certain Warner Bros. bigwig hates the film and has said “no way…Warner Home Video is not issuing this film…not on my watch.” (Or so the rumble goes.) Either he’s afraid of some sort of adverse reaction by the religious right or he just hates it himself, I’m guessing. In doing this he’s standing, of course, alongside a long line of uglies who’ve made similar calls in the name of governmental or political prohibition. Does he really want to be identified in this light?
This person is personalizing an issue that is of great interest and concern to tens of thousands. He may have the power to suppress circulation of The Devils but he doesn’t have the right to do this. His personal feelings don’t (or shouldn’t) matter. What matters is the right of film lovers to savor valuable films, and the right of filmmakers to see their work distributed as widely as possible. It’s morally wrong to stand in the way of this.
There’s an equitable solution, of course. Warner Bros. simply needs to sub-license the film to someone like Criterion or MPI or Acorn Media — one of those guys. It would be nice if WHV could at least say if discussions have happened along these lines, or if they’re open to same.