Ken Russell's fearless tale of the sexual repression and religious oppression inherent in 17th century British Christianity, THE DEVILS remains one of the most infamous films of all time. Fantastic Fest is proud to screen Russell’s rarely seen masterpiece in conjunction with Ben Wheatley’s A FIELD IN ENGLAND, selected by Mr. Wheatley as an influence on his new film.
Based on Aldous Huxley's THE DEVILS OF LOUDUN, Ken Russell's THE DEVILS is simply a landmark of cinema. It’s based on historical events surrounding Urbain Grandier (played here by Oliver Reed), a 17th century priest who was executed after being accused of sending demonic spirits to possess a convent where one of the nuns (Vanessa Redgrave) cannot control her sexual attraction to him. A story of sexual repression and religious fanaticism, THE DEVILS was heavily edited before its release in both the UK and US due to graphic scenes which mixed sex and violence with both common Christian rituals and religious objects. Despite fully producing the film, Warner Brothers has gone to great lengths to hide it for over four decades, and it wasn’t until last year, when the British Film Institute was granted limited rights to release THE DEVILS on DVD in the UK, that the film was given any sort of meaningful distribution. In the US, it remains one of the least-seen films of its stature in modern cinema. This is most definitely a drop-your-plans-and-do-whatever-you-can-to-see event. (James Shapiro)