Episode 14 – Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971)
This month the revised Celluloid Junkies line-up is cloistered in an Ursuline convent, profiling Ken Russell’s disturbing 1971 political horror film The Devils.
This podcast is non-profit and has been broadcast for educational purposes. Excerpts from the following material has been included to enhance the listener experience:
Witchfinder General (1968) dir. Michael Reeves, ENG
The Devils (1971) dir. Ken Russell, ENG
“Devil’s Suite” (1971) w & p: Peter Maxwell Davies
“There is a Light That Never Goes Out” (1992) w: Johnny Marr & Morrissey, p: The Smiths
He could have been James Bond, but British cinema’s most notorious hellraiser lost focus and died at the age of 61, leaving Ridley Scott to piece together his final performance as the slave dealer Proximo in Gladiator (2000) using outtakes, body doubles and CGI. Such was the affection for Oliver Reed among BAFTA members, however, that he was posthumously nominated for the best supporting actor award. But the public had come to think of him as a drunk making a boorish spectacle of himself on chat shows and Channel Four forums like After Dark. “Let’s face it”, Reed told critic Roger Ebert around the time he made Women in Love (1969). “There has to be somebody like me around. The press can’t write about fruits in paisley shirts. They like somebody like Richard Harris or myself, somebody who’s a boozer and gets in fights and is colourful as hell.”
The British Film Institute wrote this, and a lot more, in their list of ten essential Oliver Reed films. The Devils features, as do two more collaborations with Ken Russell.
The Quietus, on the other hand, wrote a stellar defence of the actor when they celebrated the BFI’s release of The Devils on special edition DVD.
Then there’s the modern-day reassessment of the critically panned film, and here’s some of the best:
- Like Touching the Dead: Ken Russell’s The Devils (PopMatters)
- The Devils (Junta Juleil’s Culture Shock)
- Movie Discussion: Ken Russell’s The Devils (Girl Meets Freak)
- Why Ken Russell’s The Devils deserves divine resurrection (Film School Rejects)
- The Devils (MORIA)
- The Devils: Why Ken Russell’s crazy, sexy, heretical shocker is a masterpiece (The Wrap)
Finally, you must watch Hell on Earth: The Desecration and Resurrection of The Devils, a documentary in which critic Mark Kermode goes on the search for the missing footage. Featuring interviews with many of the key players from the film.
If you want to follow us on Letterboxd, we’re always logging and rating films we’ve been watching and occasionally Luke will do some pretty in-depth reviews, too.
Thanks again for checking out Celluloid Junkies. We’ll see you next month with a close-up, in depth look at the various film versions of “A Star Is Born”, focusing on Frank Pierson’s 1976 version starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.