List price: £12.99|
Average customer rating:
4.0 out of 5
Media: VHS Tape|
ISBN/ASIN : B00004CUX5
Manufacturer : Warner Home Video|
Release data : 08 September, 1997
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Who censors the censors?
I agree with the critique of marquisofbuvano. Reed and Redrave's performances are as superb as expected from two such seasoned film maestros. However, I have seen both the original version, as Russell's genius created this masterpiece, and the version that was 'edited' (castrated) for the US market. The US version maintains the story OK, but I object to now only being able to obtain this version as opposed to the full vision of the inquisitorial horrors as conceived by Russell, one of the worlds greatest film directors ever.
RUSSELL`S BEST:DVD WITH ENGLISH CUT NEEDED....
Why 4 stars? Because this VHS contains a cut version of the original british film release. What we now deserve is a DVD with the full uncensored version of this masterpiece by Ken Russell.
Oliver Reed at his best, a powerful performance by Vanessa Readgrave, a beautiful and daunting photography surely confer classic status to this work of art, with surrealistic undertones.
Based on a historical facts, as told by Aldous Huxley's The Devils of Loudun, this is a riveting story about father Urbain Grandier's martyrdom, during the reign of Louis XIII.
After Richelieu convinces the King that self-government of small provincial towns must end, the feudal nobility lose their independence by an edict calling for the destruction of their castles and walls, whilst the Hughenots are being crushed by force. One of these towns is Loudun, where the priest (a Jesuit) is Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed), an intellectual young priest, that knows the meaning and consequences of the edict calling for the destruction of the fortified walls of Loudun. Consequently, when Laubardemont, an agent of the Cardinal Richelieu arrives in the town, he is confronted and stopped by Grandier.
But Father Grandier is strikingly handsome and a sensualist. His vows of celibacy have not prevented him from fathering a bastard child with the daughter of Trincant, the town magistrate, and performing an illegal marriage with Madeleine, a young lady with whom he has fallen in love.
Meanwhile the Convent of the Ursulines in Loudun is ruled by Sister Jeanne of the Angels (Vanessa Readgrave), a young humped back nun, with a beautiful face. She develops an obsession with Grandier and has sensual visions which involve the young priest. When she hears about the illicit marriage, she loses control and falsely accuses the priest of sorcery and lewdness.
Grandier's enemies (Laubardemont, Trincant, Father Mignon and others) grasp the false accusation as an instrument for the destruction of the priest. They accuse Grandier of sorcery and call for an exorcist, Father Barre, who starts performing a series of exorcisms never seen before in France. The methods used by him and his assistants to extract the devils reputedly within the bodies of the nuns are base and sadistic. From Sister Jeanne's altered mind come the screams and the behavior that affect the other nuns. From there, collective hysteria spreads and as the nuns bask in their notoriety, their fantasies become more and more unreal. Those who oppose this infernal circus, on the grounds that the exorcists are the ones depraved, deliberately provoking the nuns, are arrested by Laubardemont, who wants to see the matter through. Both Richelieu and his agent are well aware of Grandier's innocence but the raison d' Etat calls for the destruction of the young priest.
Not surprisingly, based on the hysterical accusations of the nuns, Grandier and Madeleine are arrested. Grandier is brought to trial and found guilty of sorcery. He is viciously tortured, vainly, in order to extract a confession of his guilt. When Grandier is burnt alive at the stake, in the public square of Loudun, we see, in the background, that finally the walls of the city are starting to be destroyed...........
A DVD full version of this underrated classic is a must, for the sake of the history of cinema, and to keep alive a strong spirit against political manipulation and religious fanaticism.
Morbid Yet Fascinating, Terrifying Yet Illuminating
Let me first say that if you don't like Ken Russell's work, you probably won't enjoy this. As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the best films ever made and certainly one of the most harrowing. Released in the same year that saw Polanski's MACBETH and Kubrick's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, Russell's THE DEVILS, set in medieval France, explores similar themes of a desensitized, hypocritical, and morally bankrupt society in its story of Father Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed in an electrifying performance), a naughty Huguenot priest whose amorous misadventures raise the eyebrows of some of the more "virtuous" residents of the small but heavily fortified French town of Loudun. After the death of its beloved governor, Grandier, his best friend, was put in charge. When he impregnates the magistrate's daughter, also cousin to fellow priest Fr. Mignon, he unwittingly signs his own death warrant. At the same time, Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave, never more formidable), a hunchbacked and sexually frustrated nun, develops a huge crush on him. Unable to deal with her feelings, her lust manifests itself in disturbing visions of a blasphemous nature. Angry when her advances are rejected, she falsely accuses Fr. Grandier of bewitching her and her sisters. Meanwhile, a certain Baron de Laubardemont (a pity Dudley Sutton didn't make it big) complains to the evil Cardinal Richlieau about the fiercely protective Grandier; he and the Cardinal want Grandier out of the way so that they can form France into one giant Church-State. They despise Grandier because of his education, and his ability to see through their chicanery to the truth. When Sister Jeanne's outcries become public, mass hysteria results and Grandier is put in mortal danger. With the help of evil "exorcist" Fr. Barre (Michael Gothard, whose malevolent face and over-the-top delivery put one in mind of the most insincere and corrupt TV faith-healers), Laubardemont, the magistrate, and the rest of Grandier's enemies (along with some bored townsfolk) "prove" to a panel of priestly judges (who wear KKK robes and hoods) that Grandier is not a priest at all, but in fact is a "devil". With some EXTREMELY difficult-to-watch scenes and magnificent period detail, Russell pulls out all the stops to deliver an overpowering and surprisingly relevant warning against superstition and political corruption. When all is said and done, the viewer realizes that the only "devils" in sight are the men of religion and government who exploit the ignorant townsfolk and murder in cold blood in order to obtain power. An utterly horrifying film during whose climax I nearly wept - not because it's sad, per se, but because it's just SO overwhelming. A GREAT film not for the squeamish. All the more powerful in light of the fact that it's based on a true story! Comic relief supplied by a flamboyant, drag-queen King Louis.