The Devils

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MichaelB
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The Devils

#1 Post by MichaelB » Thu Nov 10, 2011 4:48 pm

The Devils

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In seventeenth-century France, Father Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed), uses his powers to protect the city of Loudun from destruction at the hands of the establishment. Soon, he stands accused of the demonic possession of Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave), whose erotic obsession with him fuels the hysterical fervour that sweeps through the convent.

With its bold and brilliant direction, magnificent performances, exquisite Derek Jarman sets and sublimely dissonant score by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, The Devils stands as a profound and sincere commentary on religious hysteria, political persecution and the corrupt marriage of church and state.

Available on DVD for the first time, The Devils is presented in the original UK 'X' certificate version with a host of new and exciting extra features.

Disc One
- DVD premiere presentation of the original UK X certificate version
- Mark Kermode introduction (2012, 2 mins): the broadcaster and critic's newly filmed foreword to The Devils
- Audio commentary with Ken Russell, Mark Kermode, Michael Bradsell and Paul Joyce
- Original UK trailer
- Original US trailer
- Amelia and the Angel (Ken Russell, 1958, 26 mins): a delightful mix of religious allegory and magical fantasy

Disc Two
- Hell on Earth (Paul Joyce, 2002, 48 mins): documentary exploring the film's production and controversial history.
- Director of the Devils (1971, 22 min): documentary featuring candid Ken Russell interviews and unique footage of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies recording his score
- On-set footage with Michael Bradsell commentary (2012, 8 mins)
- Plus: A fully illustrated booklet featuring new essays by Mark Kermode, Craig Lapper (BBFC) and editor Michael Bradsell, with original production materials and on-set photographs.

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bainbridgezu
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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#2 Post by bainbridgezu » Thu Nov 10, 2011 5:23 pm

MichaelB wrote:Oh well, the cat's out of the bag, so here goes...

There are a few things I can't reveal yet, like the extras (though there'll be plenty) - but yes, after much arm-twisting the BFI has indeed persuaded Warner Bros to let them handle The Devils, and a packed two-disc lovingly-curated special edition will be out next March.

I'll get the bad news out of the way right now: as already spotted, it's DVD only, and it's the 1971 British theatrical cut, not the 2004 restoration. Since BFI DVD Publishing is demonstrably run by Blu-ray evangelists and has a policy of sourcing the longest available version of the films they put out, you probably don't need to live at 221B Baker Street to work out the reasons for this.

But that really does appear to be all the bad news. I've seen the full specs, and it looks like an absolute blinder of a release - and hopefully all will be revealed in a matter of days.
Congratulations on this truly momentous release! While I'll definitely be purchasing the BFI edition regardless, is there any word on whether Warner Bros. has been, or could be, coerced into a similar agreement to distribute the film in the US?

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#3 Post by MichaelB » Thu Nov 10, 2011 5:28 pm

From what I understand, it's Warner Bros in the US that's really strongly opposed to the film's very existence - so I wouldn't hold your breath.

Even if they did decide to release it, it may well be the mangled US cut - I don't believe any other version has ever been shown over there.

Confusingly, PAL speedup makes the British version seem shorter (107 mins vs 108), but in fact it's three minutes longer when run at theatrical speed, and the US version also had several shots replaced with less inflammatory material.

In fact, as far as I'm aware, the only differences between the version on the new BFI DVD and the 2004 reconstruction are the "rape of Christ" scene (I understand Warner Bros refused point-blank to license that footage even as a separate extra) and a brief extension to the penultimate scene in which it's suggested that Sister Jeanne pleasure herself with the charred thigh bone of her deceased lust object. So anyone who's only seen the US version will be in for a bit of a revelation.

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#4 Post by McCrutchy » Thu Nov 10, 2011 5:55 pm

I'll be the first one to say it: It's always the scenes I want to see most that end up getting cut out, damn it.

Still TREMENDOUS news (that I cross-posted you know where).

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#5 Post by MichaelB » Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:09 pm

McCrutchy wrote:Still TREMENDOUS news (that I cross-posted you know where).
I fear you may have missed the bit about it being DVD only...

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#6 Post by McCrutchy » Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:11 pm

I did not, we now have a DVD sub-forum. :D

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#7 Post by swo17 » Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:18 pm

I don't care if there's a Blu-ray, it just better have a mean slipcover!

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#8 Post by domino harvey » Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:18 pm

Who else did a full-on double take at seeing this thread's existence?

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#9 Post by cdnchris » Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:21 pm

Me. I came in expecting to delete it.

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#10 Post by Peacock » Thu Nov 10, 2011 7:15 pm

WB licensing to a non-studio label!? Criterion didn't even manage that (although I guess the US is a whole other ballgame) Good work BFI!

Really disappointing that it's DVD only and that the shareholders or other top level people still have a major problem with a couple of scenes being included... how old fashioned can you get? I can only hope that the release might establish something and that perhaps a few years down the line, as the top level WB people change or just change their minds, that a Blu-ray upgrade and release of the long cut might occur.

That said, I'm sure BFI will make sure this transfer looks stunning and that the extras will be special. Can't jump up at down what with this being somewhat butchered; but I'll surely be picking this up when it comes out.

Congrats again guys.

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#11 Post by MichaelB » Thu Nov 10, 2011 7:47 pm

Peacock wrote:Can't jump up at down what with this being somewhat butchered; but I'll surely be picking this up when it comes out.
The US cut was properly butchered - as in extensively interfered with by hands other than the director's, without his consent. But the British cut is merely missing a whole scene and a brief extension of another scene - footage that was long assumed to have been destroyed at the editing stage until it turned up in the early 2000s. So "butchered" isn't quite le mot juste here - this is the longest version most of us will ever have seen, given that the 2004 version has barely been shown.

I think the crucial point is that this is the only commercially released version of the film that was supervised and signed off by Ken Russell himself - which is where it's a pretty dramatic advance on the US or Spanish versions.

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#12 Post by domino harvey » Thu Nov 10, 2011 7:48 pm

The "Rape of Christ" scene is not that much wilder than what's kept in the film, really. It's a bit silly that it's going to forever be MIA (officially at least), but it's also not like the film is totally neutered without it.

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#13 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Nov 10, 2011 8:07 pm

Can I check that I'm correct in the notion that the 1971 British theatrical cut is the same version as shown on the BBC in the mid-90s and briefly released on Warner VHS? Albeit I'm sure this release will finally present the film (outside of the cinema, of course!) in the correct ratio (i.e. 2.35:1 not in a compromise ratio of 1.85:1, which should be a revelation in itself!)

I suppose also that the issues with licensing the 2004 restored version mean that the "Hell on Earth" documentary from 2002 will not appear on this release, given that it was the documentary about unearthing all of the thought lost material? What about the fabled commentary between Kermode and Russell that was recorded years ago for a prospective release? Would it just be enough to edit the track to omit the restored sections, or would it be best to save that for a mythical 'integral' release? (However it is likely much, much too soon to ask for specific information about what will be included - just getting most of the film in a good condition and the correct ratio is more than enough to hope for!)

And it is also kind of ironic that the film may possibly resurface again just as self-governing European citystates seem to be coming under siege from a combination of outside forces and internal excesses!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Thu Nov 10, 2011 8:56 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#14 Post by jamie_atp » Thu Nov 10, 2011 8:13 pm

Happy about this as it's hopefully a sign of better things to come, but its utterly ridiculous that it's DVD only when WB clearly have no plans of their own to release the BR.

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#15 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Thu Nov 10, 2011 11:32 pm

Excellent news! While it feels like Warner Bros. America can keep pretending the film doesn't exist simply by keeping it abroad (even if it can be imported), this compromise is still satisfactory. Although I think that the Rape of Christ scene adds extra emotional dimension to the craziness transpiring in the church, I hope that discussion of it won't be barred from the release itself. Looking forward to the announcement of those extras!

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#16 Post by MichaelB » Fri Nov 11, 2011 3:51 am

colinr0380 wrote:Can I check that I'm correct in the notion that the 1971 British theatrical cut is the same version as shown on the BBC in the mid-90s and briefly released on Warner VHS? Albeit I'm sure this release will finally present the film (outside of the cinema, of course!) in the correct ratio (i.e. 2.35:1 not in a compromise ratio of 1.85:1, which should be a revelation in itself!)
Yes, it's exactly that version - which until 2004 was the only version of the film that had ever been shown in Britain.

And it will be in the correct aspect ratio, and anamorphically enhanced (I really shouldn't need to stress that last point with regard to a 2012 release, but it's probably best to make it clear).
I suppose also that the issues with licensing the 2004 restored version mean that the "Hell on Earth" documentary from 2002 will not appear on this release, given that it was the documentary about unearthing all of the thought lost material? What about the fabled commentary between Kermode and Russell that was recorded years ago for a prospective release? Would it just be enough to edit the track to omit the restored sections, or would it be best to save that for a mythical 'integral' release? (However it is likely much, much too soon to ask for specific information about what will be included - just getting most of the film in a good condition and the correct ratio is more than enough to hope for!)
I understand that full specs will be unveiled early next week.

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#17 Post by GaryC » Fri Nov 11, 2011 4:03 am

Just for the record, we showed The Devils at Southampton University in 35mm in 1985. This was, of course, a British release print with a BBFC X certificate at the start - but it ran short by approximately ten minutes. There was print damage as you might expect, but I wouldn't all have accounted for that discrepancy. The theory we had was that it may have been edited to be reissued on a double bill. I can't remember what was missing.

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#18 Post by MichaelB » Fri Nov 11, 2011 4:19 am

GaryC wrote:Just for the record, we showed The Devils at Southampton University in 35mm in 1985. This was, of course, a British release print with a BBFC X certificate at the start - but it ran short by approximately ten minutes. There was print damage as you might expect, but I wouldn't all have accounted for that discrepancy. The theory we had was that it may have been edited to be reissued on a double bill. I can't remember what was missing.
It might also have been a projectionist "borrowing" some of the footage for his private collection, though ten minutes sounds like a lot.

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#19 Post by MichaelB » Fri Nov 11, 2011 6:57 am

OK, it seems that the full specs are out a little earlier than expected, so...
The Devils (Special Edition)

In seventeenth-century France, a promiscuous and divisive local priest, Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed), uses his powers to protect the city of Loudon from destruction at the hands of the establishment. Soon, he stands accused of the demonic possession of Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave), whose erotic obsession with him fuels the hysterical fervour that sweeps through the convent.

With its bold and brilliant direction by Ken Russell, magnificent performances by Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave, exquisite Derek Jarman sets and sublimely dissonant score by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, The Devils stands as a profound and sincere commentary on religious hysteria, political persecution and the corrupt marriage of church and state.

Finally available on DVD for the first time, The Devils is presented in the original UK ‘X’ certificate version with a host of new and exciting extra features.

Special features*
• DVD premiere presentation of the original UK ‘X’ certificate version
• Newly filmed introduction with director Ken Russell
• Audio commentary with Ken Russell, Mark Kermode, Mike Bradsell and Paul Joyce
• Hell on Earth (Paul Joyce, 2002, 48 mins): documentary exploring the film's production and the controversy surrounding its original release
• Director of the Devils (1971, 21 min): documentary featuring candid Ken Russell interviews and unique footage of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies recording his celebrated film score
• Original on-set footage with commentary by editor Mike Bradsell
Amelia and the Angel (Ken Russell, 1958, 30 mins): Ken Russell's short film, a delightful mix of religious allegory and magical fantasy
• Original UK trailer
• Original US trailer
• Fully illustrated booklet featuring new essays and notes from Mark Kermode, Craig Lapper (BBFC), Sam Ashby and others

* Special features are subject to change
Bear in mind that this is the spec sheet that was sent to Amazon and other online retailers, which means that it's not necessarily the final definitive list - but hopefully nothing that's listed above will actually drop out.

And to answer one obvious question that Colin has already raised: the edition of Hell on Earth is a modified version from the one broadcast by Channel 4 back in 2002. Because the "rape of Christ" footage couldn't be licensed under any circumstances, that section of the documentary has been removed - but in its place director Paul Joyce has added additional material, including new stuff about the production and Derek Jarman's contribution.

Director of The Devils turned up in the Warner archives, and has apparently never been shown before.

Amelia and the Angel is a major milestone in Russell's career - it's an amateur film made partly to explore his then newly-discovered Catholic faith (hence its appropriateness for this release), and it's also the film that secured him his first professional commission from the BBC. It's been released before on various online platforms (such as Screenonline) and on a freebie newspaper DVD, but I think this is its first commercial release.

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#20 Post by RobertAltman » Fri Nov 11, 2011 7:45 am

Great specs. Looking forward to picking this up and seeing it for the first time.

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#21 Post by DiVicenzo » Fri Nov 11, 2011 10:06 am

This is indeed fantastic news - I am so excited I can hardly type :D
Pity about 'The Rape of Christ' and no 'Russell's Progress' - a documentary made on the set.
Would be great if the BFI could get a hold of the latter. I did ask at the BFI once and even though they didn't have it in their archives they were willing to search for it for me to view.
Thanks Michael for this great surprise and news! :P

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#22 Post by MichaelB » Fri Nov 11, 2011 10:11 am

DiVicenzo wrote:Pity about 'The Rape of Christ' and no 'Russell's Progress' - a documentary made on the set.
Would be great if the BFI could get a hold of the latter.
Russell's Progress was made for the BBC's Omnibus strand, and the difficulties of licensing BBC material for extras or indeed for any kind of commercial release have been well documented over the years.

It's not that they aren't prepared to license it, but the BBC's notion of what constitutes a reasonable market rate is somewhat at odds with everyone else's - which is why you rarely see BBC material popping up as extras on British DVDs, unless they're released by 2Entertain, the BBC's own DVD offshoot. Another problem in this particular instance is that Russell's Progress also covers The Boy Friend, clips for which would have to be cleared separately - so that's another hefty chunk of the DVD production budget gone.

But from what I know of Russell's Progress, it sounds very much as though the contents are essentially duplicated by extras such as Director of the Devils - in fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there was a hefty footage overlap.

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#23 Post by RobertAltman » Fri Nov 11, 2011 10:20 am

DiVicenzo wrote: Pity about 'The Rape of Christ'
BFI should get someone to do a stop-motion reconstruction a la what Peter Jackson did with the lost scene from King Kong :D

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#24 Post by DiVicenzo » Fri Nov 11, 2011 10:43 am

MichaelB wrote:
DiVicenzo wrote:Pity about 'The Rape of Christ' and no 'Russell's Progress' - a documentary made on the set.
Would be great if the BFI could get a hold of the latter.
Russell's Progress was made for the BBC's Omnibus strand, and the difficulties of licensing BBC material for extras or indeed for any kind of commercial release have been well documented over the years.

It's not that they aren't prepared to license it, but the BBC's notion of what constitutes a reasonable market rate is somewhat at odds with everyone else's - which is why you rarely see BBC material popping up as extras on British DVDs, unless they're released by 2Entertain, the BBC's own DVD offshoot. Another problem in this particular instance is that Russell's Progress also covers The Boy Friend, clips for which would have to be cleared separately - so that's another hefty chunk of the DVD production budget gone.

But from what I know of Russell's Progress, it sounds very much as though the contents are essentially duplicated by extras such as Director of the Devils - in fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there was a hefty footage overlap.

Great! Thanks Michael :D

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Re: The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

#25 Post by Sloper » Fri Nov 11, 2011 11:08 am

I recently saw a documentary on BBC4 called 'Dear Censor', a fascinating skim over the history of the BBFC; I watched it rather late at night so I may be mis-remembering, but I'm sure it showed a few seconds of the 'rape of Christ' sequence. Nuns writhing all over a statue of Christ and so on. If someone else saw this and wants to correct me, feel free.

Anyway, great news about this release - I've been waiting to replace my, ahem, non-widescreen VHS for a long time.

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