To the Devil, a YouTube Video...


Finally, after years of trying to find a copy, I have gotten to watch Ken Russell's The Devils (1971), starring Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave. Shudder recently added the film to its streaming service, and I was overjoyed at the chance to finally see it, though I knew the film was not going to be a walk in the park. The Devils is certainly my cup of tea, but I do not recommend it to any but the most sturdy of film completists, Ken Russell nuts (I am assuming my pal Andrea is with me on this?), or those that are fond of genuinely crazy and shocking but well-crafted films.

The Devils – which is generally considered to be a horror film though most of the time it comes off as more of a historical religious drama, albeit one with a high level of surrealistic imagery, dark comedy, extensive nudity, and disgusting moments – has a long history of censorship and controversy owing to its content and imagery. (No surprise: the Catholic Church is deeply involved in all of this.) A complete version of the film was thought to have been lost for decades until just a few years ago when an unedited print running 117 minutes appeared. The version that Shudder is carrying is the theatrical U.S. release version which runs 109 minutes, but it is also the only version currently available. I will take it.

I will save further comments on the film until I decide to write about it on my blog, but seeing The Devils has reminded me quite happily of the silly spoofing of director Ken Russell's style on Monty Python's Flying Circus (in much the same way they also did Sam Peckinpah's Salad Days, an even better skit). [For the novice or unaware, amongst Russell's more mainstream fare were the films Altered States, The Rainbow, The Lair of the White Worm, Gothic, the film version of The Who's Tommy, The Boy Friend, and the Oscar-winning Women in Love.] While I was already pretty immersed in Russell's style through experience will of these films and more, that the Python skit – called Ken Russell's Gardening Club (1958) – is now fleshed out fully in my mind and even funnier due to finally watching The Devils is a happy coincidence. (The skit was aired in 1972, the year after The Devils was released amidst a metric ton of controversy, so it is now clear to me that the film is the direct influence on the joke.) 

Enjoy the silliness in this video...




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