The Original BJ wrote: Precious Doll wrote:
Greg wrote:I'm pretty sure I saw The Devils on TCM, or some movie TV channel, years ago.
Probably the much censored US version. The complete version which wasn't shown anywhere in the world on it's first release and has only gotten a couple of screenings about 10 years ago in the UK that include the 'rape of christ' scene, it what needs to be shown.
The Devils is now available to watch on a horror movie streaming site called Shudder. Press articles say it's the original, unrated version, not the edited-down U.S. version, although when a movie has gone through as many cuts as this one, it's hard to know what constitutes as the "original" cut.
Chances are it's the US cut version. I'm something of a 'Ken Russell's The Devils' fanatic and have just finally got around to reading Richard Crouse's book on the making of The Devils and all the problems it has faced since titled 'Raising Hell Ken Russell and the Unmaking of The Devils, published in 2012. The books didn't actually tell me anything I didn't already know but lays out it all out in a systematic and concise manner.
To put it in simple terms the history of the various versions of The Devils is as follows:
After filming and then post production were completed Russell presented his finished version to the head of the British Censor Office who though he admired the film and recognised it artistic qualities demanded that several scenes be removed or shortened. Essentially he knew other members of the censorship board were going to have problems with the material. Out went the famous 'rape of Christ' sequence, out when the scene with Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave) masturbating with a charred bone of the executed Father Grandier (Oliver Reed), out went the shit on the alter which was a result of the exorcism performed on Sister Jeanne in the convent chapel and shorted was the torture of Father Grandier.
The shorten version was what played in the UK, Europe and Australia.
The US was a different matter. The executives from Warners sat down to watch the film and a very overworked stenographer made notes all the way through the screening that Russell and his editor Michael Bradsell ended up walking out of because that sensed things were going to end badly.
I'm not sure what version of the film Warners saw. The UK version or Russell original. Either way the US version was cut even further.
Home video versions that became available in the 1980's is when things started getting murky with different versions all over the place.
Fast forward to around 2004 and British film critics Mark Kermonde, after a lot of hard work and persistence was able to locate some of the footage cut from Russell's original cut. Channel 4 in the UK were somehow allowed to show The Devils with the 'rape of Christ' scene reinstated into the film (editor Michael Bradsell had to make some changes to the version shown in the UK first release as scenes crossed over to other characters i.e. Oliver Reed & Gemma Jones). I'm not sure if Vanessa pleasuring herself was added back in but it was featured in a documentary 'Hell on Earth' about the making of The Devils. To my knowledge the shit on the alter and extended scenes of Oliver Reed's torture have not been found.
This Channel 4 screening is where some of the bootleg copies that contact the 'rape of Christ' scene originate from.
In 2012 Warners allowed the BFI to release The Devils on DVD only. This version is the version shown outside much of the US in 1971. Warners would not allow a Blu Ray release nor would they allow the found footage to be included in the special features of the extras on the BFI DVD.
I have heard of numerous screenings in recent years in the US that claim to be the 'original uncut version' only to turn out to be the version released in the US in 1971. Warners really appear to still be embarrassed and scared by the film after all these years and the feeling is they don't want to upset the 'conservative' elements within the US. I'd be really surprised if the streaming site Shudder is showing even the UK version of the film. If they are they may be doing it without the permission of Warners.
The BFI rights to The Devils is due to expire soon so hopefully Warners will get over their 'issues' with the film and unleash the fullest version that has been pieced together onto the world. It's 46 years old for goodness sake. The 'rape of Christ' sequence is strong stuff even by todays standard but it is an essential part of the film. I'm pretty sure it can be found on YouTube.
Warners have the most complete version of the film in their vaults. It has been restored. It is just waiting for the green light.
“Those Koreans. They’re so suspicious, you know, ever since Hiroshima.” Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) from American Horror Story: Season One