I’m not convinced that an upcoming BFI Region 2 DVD release of Ken Russell‘s The Devils (due on 3.19.12) is the original, super-notorious, naked nun, “rape of Christ” version. A 2.10 Home Cinema posting says that the DVD is “the original UK X certificate version,” but I smell vagueness. Yes, despite Devils restoration champion Mark Kermode delivering a two-minute introduction plus supplying audio commentary with Russell, editor Michael Bradsell and Paul Joyce.
I’m concerned about an oft-repeated qualification found on more than one film website as well as The Devils‘ Wiki page that “the rights for the film are held by Warner Brothers, and BFI has licensed the X-rated cut from them. Unfortunately, WB will not allow BFI or anyone else to release the film in its entirety at the moment. Additionally, the licensors have prevented BFI from releasing the film on Blu-ray as well as denying them access to the 2004 restoration.”
In other words, the BFI DVD doesn’t sound like it’s the forbidden, full-nasty version, which has never been commercially released. This version was assembled in 2004 by Kermode, Russell and Bradsell, and played twice in London, initially at the Nation Film Theatre in 2004 and again at last April’s 2011 East London Film festival. It also reportedly played at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film in March 2006.
The crazy-naked-nuns version (complete with a Vanessa Redgrave bone masturbation scene) runs 111 minutes. The truncated Warner Bros. version that briefly appeared on iTunes a year or two ago ran 108 minutes and 11 seconds.
If my suspicions are unfounded and this new BFI Region 2 version is the Real “rape of Christ” McCoy, great. I just want to hear it from Kermode or someone who knows the hard specific facts.
Here’s a link to numerous Hollywood Elsewhere pieces on the Devils situation over the last four or five years. This is my favorite HE summary piece. And here’s a fairly thorough rundown on the history of censorship of The Devils.