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Ep 184, The Devils (1971) l The HorrorBull Podcast

The Devils

This week’s episode revolves around Ken Russell‘s controversial 1971 historical drama / horror, ‘The Devils.’ The film is particularly controversial due to its commentary on the Catholic Church and its  Inquisition-era policies. Here’s a brief summary of the plot:

In 17th century France, hunchbacked nun Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave) lusts after the town’s priest, Father Grandier (Oliver Reed), a sinful but ultimately just man. But when the priest marries, jealous Jeanne accuses Grandier of using witchcraft on her convent, and the other nuns play along, behaving as obscenely as possible. Ken Russell’s savage portrait of religious hypocrisy earned the film the top spot on the list of most controversial horror films ever made — and an X rating.

The movie, it should be known, is based on both the 1952 book The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley, scribe of the essential Brave New World, and the 1960 play The Devils, by John Whiting. It combines the historical backdrop of the 17-century French plague and themes of unrequited sexuality. Honestly, it’s quite a lot like The Crucible, what with the false accusations of witchcraft and whatnot.

Controversy extends the life of art. Such is the case with The Devils, which is STILL missing two-and-a-half minutes of its final cut. (The fact that it might involve some crucifixion-diddling is why…but still.) The Devils is a good movie, and well-acted. It’s a shame that it is on display mostly for being a weird lightning rod, rather than an interesting horror artifact.

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Plug: Pick up Tyler’s newest book, Dirt Merchant, on sale at his Selz page and elsewhere. It’s the third novel in the Rolson McKane series, and Tyler would say it’s kind of like ‘Boyz in the Hood’ meets ‘Silence of the Lambs.’ Or something.

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