The Devils
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The Devils 1971

In 17th-century France, Father Urbain Grandier seeks to protect the city of Loudun from the corrupt establishment of Cardinal Richelieu. Hysteria occurs within the city when he is accused of witchcraft by a sexually repressed nun...

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Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Oliver Reed, Dudley Sutton, Max Adrian, Gemma Jones, Murray Melvin, and Michael Gothard.
Written abd Directed by Ken Russell.
Rated R (for disturbing graphic scenes of violence and gore, perverse sexuality, thematic material and some language).
Running time approximately 1 hour 43 minutes.

Ken Russell's film The Devils is a brilliant and provocative experience. When it opened in 1971, it was subject to much controversy, and even now, if this film had been made, all involved would suffer just as much praise and ridicule as those connected with Mel Gibson's masterpiece The Passion of the Christ. The film takes place in Loudun, France in 1634 at an Ursuline convent, where Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave, in a magnificent performance) lusts after Father Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed, very good). The true story unfolds almost like Arthur Miller's The Crucible, with accusations flying about, and an unforgettable and heartbreaking climax. This is one of the best films ever made. **** (out of ****) A

Note: I wouldn't want to call this a horror film, even thought that's exactly what it is. To call a film a horror flick nowadays usually means it's schlock like most every horror film out there. So, yes, this is horror, but it's great horror...and it's true, too.

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Many people have had problems with this film because it was obscene and blasphemous, and indeed it is. Disturbing? Yeah, sure. My problem with the film is that I found it overblown, pretentious, and boring. I think the problem is made self-evident in the making-of featurette that follows the film. (And my, it's a bad making-of featurette, with very fake blue screen.) They all seem so pleased with the controversy. Not with the film, mind--with the controversy. Most people who've done what they love and had it censored seem sad. They seem concerned not with the controversy but with the work itself, and they seem sad that anyone would step in on a work of art that way. Or angry.

This is, at least in theory, based on a true story. There was a convent of Ursuline nuns who suffered from some form of madness that manifested itself in the nuns' publicly exposing their bodies and demanding, as one book I've read that refers to the incident puts it, "sexual satisfaction." I believe it is also true that the priest believed to have caused the situation was burned for heresy and witchcraft--he was supposed to have summoned the devil to possess the women. Of course it was believed to have been the Devil; this was, well, sixteen-something. (I could probably dig out the exact year, if I cared more than I do.) Then again, I don't know of anything that would produce these effects.

Heather saw it in a class at school and found it deeply disturbing; she felt there should have been a warning given to the class in advance, and that was college. And certainly the very first shot isn't pleasant, the shot of maggots swarming over a skeleton. (Yes, I know. A skeleton?) There are many, many disturbing sequences, though I have to admit that I was more focused on their improbability. I mean, wouldn't you, I don't know, lock up the hordes of crazy people instead of letting them run around and have orgies? Would you let them have access to things they could injure themselves with? And why, why, why is the priest sent to cure them stripped half-naked?

Further, I think one of the great symptoms of how pretentious the whole thing is was being told that the reason the sets are so ridiculous and faux-sci-fi is that the director thought that period sets for period pieces had just been done to death. I mean, really. Can you imagine anything more gauche than to film a period piece in period architecture? And even beyond that, there's the whole limp-wristed Louis XIII and so forth. This is not an accurate protrayal of well-documented historical figures. This is a caricature of what the director thinks these people should have been like. Blech.

I can forgive shocking if it's done for artistic reasons. I can forgive shocking if it's done for historical accuracy. I can forgive shocking if it's done for reasons to do with the story. However, this seems to be shocking for the purpose of being shocking. The camera lingers; Probably half an hour or more of this just-under-two-hour film is devoted to showing the wild, crazy acts of the nuns. That's too much, I think, and that's part of why I just didn't care about this film.
This demented puppy caused outrage when it was first released and still does today. Always a good thing in my book.

Nun core went up a few notches with this nasty bit of kit.

I cannot get a copy anywhere which is a complete disgrace.
Adapted from Aldous Huxley's "The Devil's of Loudun," the story revolves around a liberal-thinking priest in 17th Century France, whose womanizing exploits make him unpopular with the Catholic clergy and whose political views make him a liability for Cardinal Richelieu. He is denounced and accused of consorting with the devil and having sexual activities with the nuns in the town's convent, most notably Sister Jeanne, an unsatisfied, humpbacked nun in love with him-- RT

I wanted to save myself the plot telling here since RT did a decent job of it already. Besides, I like to cut to the chase and write what I think about a film.

I saw this film when it was in theatres around 1971 and don't think I would want to see it again. A disturbing dark movie set in medieval France. (advise sherry9lee to see this one)

Well shot and acted, it stars Oliver Reed who in his last years on earth made Gladiator (as the aged owner of a band of gladiators and who finds Russel Crowe half dead).

You get a taste of what it was like to live back then in medieval France, pretty awful. The Church loved witch hunts too and burning at the stake for imagined or real reasons.

Our lead actor, Reed, gets ensnarled as a priest in the sexual perversions of the day. Oliver Reed was quite the actor in his day I thought, similar to what Crowe is today.

Worth watching once for sure, but after that? Its up to you.