The Devils on DVD


No Blu-ray as yet but this is another excellent BFI release so it looks and sounds fantastic. There’s been some grumbling that the 1971 director’s cut is still being embargoed by Warner Brothers but when the rest of the film looks so pristine I find it difficult to get worked up over a few missing shots of writhing nuns. Among the extras there’s an early Ken Russell short, Amelia and the Angel (1958), and a second disc of supplementary material, including Paul Joyce’s 48-minute documentary about the making of the film, Hell on Earth. Inside the booklet there’s a photo of set designer Derek Jarman looking very young and sweet. A few screen grabs follow to make Russell enthusiasts in Region 1 jealous. (Hi Thom!)










Previously on { feuilleton }
Ken Russell, 1927–2011
Salome’s Last Dance

11 thoughts on “The Devils on DVD”

  1. I remember when “The Devils” was released, travelling to Edinburgh to see it, as the City Fathers decided in their infinite wisdom that such a depraved film could not be shown in the cinemas of Glasgow. I dearly love Glasgow, but as a city then (and now) with some appalling slums, gang violence, deeply entrenched sectarianism and endemic alcohol abuse, I really wondered how things would be worsened by a film.

  2. Maybe they thought it would give people ideas about new ways to break somebody’s legs…

    That kind of attitude was depressingly funny in the 1970s, when films would be advertised as “Banned in Swindon!” (or wherever).

  3. Yeah, that was the tail-end of the censoriousness but it persisted in places. I think The Evil Dead may have been the last film in the UK to be banned by local councils.

  4. Here in OZ the last big media frenzy over a movie I can remember was for Noe’s Irreversible. Pasolini’s Salo was banned for about 30 years or so.
    More recent bans in the UK
    At least The Devils and LoB the ban was over religious controversy but banning films showing smoking seems a bit ridiculous.

  5. The only time I saw The Devils was in pre-DVD era, and the video copy was crap, so this does indeed make me jealous.

    My main reason for commenting though is that you recently tweeted about “Enter the Void” (will watch asap), and the day before I had seen for the first time “Altered States.” I was thinking about how fast Hollywood must have booted Russell out of the country.

  6. Hi Will. Actually, I think Hollywood was still okay with him at that point, at least until he had a row with the writer. All his films in the 1970s were financed by American studios, after all, hence the Warners objection to The Devils still having an effect. Altered States was pretty successful, as I recall, and it came to Russell as a studio-approved script that he was forbidden to tamper with. One reason William Hurt speed-talks through some of the expository dialogue is that Russell hated it but wasn’t allowed to cut a word. I think he was one of many directors (Nicolas Roeg is another) who flourished in the 70s when Hollywood was briefly open to challenge and experiment then found the doors being closed in the 1980s as risk was drained from the medium.

  7. Thanks John. I really need to break out the Lanza “Phallic Frenzy” book which I bought a few years ago but only flipped through.

    Looking at Russell’s filmography now, though, I realize why I haven’t read the book: I still haven’t seen a bunch of his movies! Good times ahead.

  8. Glad to see Ken Russell’s fiery masterpiece get the thumbs up from Feuilleton, I’d long been interested in Ken’s work but had only heard about The Devils through second hand murmurs and lists of ‘controversial’ movies.

    It was some of Mark Kermode’s vlogs calling for it’s release in 2011 that urged me to hunt it down online, with little luck, so having this glowing BFI print widely available at last is something to cheer all around. Derek Jarman’s sets, the surreal blackbird scene, and the energized performances from Reed, Redgrave and Gothard add up to an utterly unique British film.

Comments are closed.

Discover more from { feuilleton }

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading