It’s taken me nine and 1/2 years to finally get around to buying Richard Crouse‘s “Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of The Devils,” which was published on 1.1.12. It’s now in my Kindle archive. I’ve seen this 1971 film six or seven times. I own a British DVD of the restored 117-minute version, but where’s the Bluray version? Why hasn’t Criterion released one?
From Josh Stillman’s 10.1.12 EW review: “The story of 1971’s The Devils‘ is an unpleasant one. Based on Aldous Huxley’s book The Devils of Loudun’ and a play by John Whiting, the film details an episode of alleged demonic possessions and exorcisms — and the innocent priest who was executed for heresy — in 17th-century France. And that’s just the plot line.
“The real story of The Devils took place behind the camera, in the movie’s production process and its reception among censors, critics, and audiences. The intensity of the shoot cost director Ken Russell his marriage and tested the nerves of its stars, British screen legends Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave.
“Later, after facing numerous cuts from the British Board of Film Censors for material deemed inappropriate (or, according to the Catholic Church, blasphemous), The Devils received an abysmal response from critics, was banned in several countries, and basically vanished for three decades.
“In recent years, though, the movie’s seen a bit of a resurgence. Fan sites are popping up and bootleg copies with fewer cuts have surfaced (Russell lamented that a fully uncensored version simply doesn’t exist); critics, for their part, have begun to see the film in a different light, hailing it as a provocative masterpiece in league with A Clockwork Orange.”