Uncut and banned from America; “The Devils” is a 1971 film directed by Ken Russell and stars Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave. The film is an adaptation of the book “The Devils of Loudun” by Aldous Huxley. The story is a historical perspective on witchcraft during the 1700’s and the persecution of those accused. Psychological aspects of witchcraft and religion are carefully tailored into a flamboyant tale of paranoia and sexual suppression that sets ups for a brilliant experience on the screen.
Oliver Reed portrays Urbain Grandier; a French Catholic priest who exhibits all traits of a 17th-century ladies man while attending to his Religious duties. Vanessa Redgrave’s characterization of Sister Jeanne of the Angels is a Magnum opus of cinematic performances; Sister Jeanne accuses Urbain Grandier of “fornication” and “seduction” within the Church and a trial begins. He’s found guilty of practicing and invoking witchcraft. Grandier’s head is shaven — he’s tortured and is set on fire amongst the stake.
The film instantly received criticism by the Catholic Church for material that was deemed “blasphemy.”
- The infamous “Rape of Christ” scene which is a two and a half minute sex performance between the nuns and a statue of Jesus Christ.
- Sister Jeanne’s masturbation scene where she uses Urbain Grandier’s charred femur bone for a dildo.
(Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave)
Warner Bros. originally released the film in July 1971. The official “Uncut” version is a length of 117 minutes and has been shown in public only three times since 1971; the latest in 2011 and includes footage of the two omitted sex scenes and others. Inquiries from filmmakers such as Guillermo Del Toro have expressed their disappointment in Warner Bros. refusal to release the film on DVD/Digitial Formats. In 2010, a 108-minute release of The Devil’s was approved by Warner Brothers for distribution on Itunes; it was removed three days later.
The Catholic Church has a history of suppressing films via the “National Legion of Decency” that helped to create the “Motion Picture Association of America“. The National Legion of Decency was a Catholic institution that identified and rated films based on their moral and religious objectives. The Devils received the largest campaign of protestors in the National Legion of Decency’s 1971 movie blacklist which included:
- Billy Jack
- A Clockwork Orange
- The Devils
- The Last Picture Show
- Sunday Bloody Sunday
Legend has it Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” suffered the same fate by Warner Brothers; scenes were cut after his death and the true version has never been seen…
Here are a few clips from The Devils.
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