Saturday, July 26, 2014

Rare Flix: The Devils (1971)

It is rare and it is crazy!  Today's film is The Devils, a film made by the madman Ken Russell.  He's one of those guys that I had never seen one of his films before- in full, at least- but I knew his reputation quite well.  When I learned that this was made by Ken Russell, I kind of knew what to expect.  So what is The Devils about?  It is a lovely, family film about the Plague and religious control of the land.  The film goes for a mix of surreal and historical drama, but it is clear which side it ends up on most of the time.  Notable Cast Members include Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Reed, who's 'credited' the experience of working on the film as having aged him four years!  He would nearly be killed on-set two years later, so its notable that he still even talked about this one at all.  Is this film Rare because of the quality of its content or because it was just trying to offend anyone remotely fond of Christianity?  To find out, read on...
I like that the film includes this footnote at the beginning about what is about to take place.  I take it with several grains of salt, but so be it.
The early part of the film is made up two clear Themes.  One- the rich (like the Cardinal) live a life of extreme luxury and debauchery.

Just to spare you any future Therapy, I will tell you that this is a guy...
While, in contrast, everyone else live with constant threat of death, starvation and pestilence.  Subtle, huh?
Reed is the lead Priest- Father Urbain Grandier- in the town and struggles with certain parts of his vows.  The main one: not having sex with this Harley Quinn-looking lady and getting her pregnant.
Redgrave's Sister is a bit crazy and repressed.  Some might say that the two are connected.
It gives the film excuses for her to act crazy and to set up bizarre visions like this...
The two stories collide when the elite want to keep exploiting the poor and Reed stands up to them.  This leads to him to him being targeted by so-called Demon Hunters and this early version of the Klan.
As Reed's Father undergoes torture and interrogation, he doesn't crack.

Considering that Reed himself only died after downing an inhuman amount of alcohol and arm-wrestling Sailors (in one night) at age 61, that's no surprise.
Things get really crazy, culminating in the Father's execution, a big explosion and the Sister pleasuring herself with a charred bone of Grandier.

His wife leaves the city, apparently wandering off into a Salvador Dali painting.  The End.
Not recommended for those who are remotely-easy to offend.  Hell, if you've ever been offended at a Catholic Priest joke, this may not be for you.  Devils is a weird sort of masterpiece.  You can see the amount of care and detail work put into it.  Every single detail seems planned out to a meticulous degree.  The question is not one of quality, it is one of taste.  Will the film offend you?  Maybe.  I was pretty tame in my Screencap selection, so bear that in mind.  For all the talk of deviant sexual activity (which there is some) and violence (which there is plenty), there is alot that you don't see here.  So much of Grandier's torture is implied (thankfully) and you can just imagine the kind of stuff that happens.  The same can be said for much of the sex, but to a lesser degree.  The film reads like weird mix of an historical account and one of those Passion Play-style shows that tries to offend.  The film pulls no punches- for better or for worse.  It is bleak.  It is dark.  It is insane.  All of this explains why the film has taken ages to get proper video releases in any format.  It took until 2010 to start seeing proper DVD releases of it and even those were not complete.  Cuts of the Film range from anywhere between 105 minutes to 117 minutes (the Restored Version).  For the record, my general source of DVDs- Netflix- doesn't carry it right now.  One upside of being known as 'someone who likes weird movies' is that people get you stuff like this.  Isn't that just 'for the Birds?'
Next up, I bide my time until I get to see Snowpiercer.  That's a good pretense to do this Chris Evans film that's already on my shelf.  Stay tuned...

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