The Devils

Critics Consensus

Grimly stylish, Ken Russell's baroque opus is both provocative and persuasive in its contention that the greatest blasphemy is the leveraging of faith for power.



Total Count: 26


Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,943
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Movie Info

The Devils was the Ken Russell film version of the controversial play by John Whiting. The story, based on Aldous Huxley's The Devils of Loudun, concerns controversial 17th century French priest Urbain Grandier, whose radical political and religious notions and profligate sex life earn him many enemies. When a group of nuns appears to have been "bewitched" by Grandier, his rivals feed on the resulting mass hysteria, using this incident as an excuse to have the priest arrested. Refusing to confess to being in league with Satan and to renounce his "heretical" views, Grandier undergoes appalling tortures, and is finally burned at the stake. Vanessa Redgrave co-stars as the head nun. Due to censorship issues in virtually every country in which The Devils has been released, running times vary greatly.

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Vanessa Redgrave
as Mother Joan of the Angels
Oliver Reed
as Urbain Grandier
Dudley Sutton
as the Baron
Gemma Jones
as Madeleine De Brou
Murray Melvin
as Father Mignon
Michael Gothard
as Father Pierre Barre
Georgina Hale
as Philippe Trincant
Christopher Logue
as Cardinal Richelieu
Graham Armitage
as Louis XIII
John Woodvine
as Louis Trincant
Judith Paris
as Sister Judith
Catherine Willmer
as Sister Catherine
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News & Interviews for The Devils

Critic Reviews for The Devils

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (19) | Rotten (7)

  • The truly provocative -- some might even say blasphemous -- part of the film is its assertion that, even while preaching their rhetoric of sin and salvation, nuns and priests and cardinals are only human, and humans are nothing but animals.

    Nov 8, 2018 | Full Review…

    Katie Rife

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • It is like a lunatic opera, an attempt to make a furious poem out of frenzy. Russell's flamboyant theatricality and his interest in the perverse have been too much imposed on his other films; but here, style and subject are perfectly matched.

    Nov 8, 2018 | Full Review…
  • All the events and persons depicted in The Devils are intended to be confused with actual events and persons. How do I know? Ken Russell tells me so.

    Apr 29, 2018 | Rating: 0/4 | Full Review…
  • Reed carries the film with an admirably restrained portrayal of the doomed priest. Redgrave, on screen only sporadically, is stunning as the salacious sister.

    Aug 14, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • No matter how thickly Russell piles on the masturbating nuns, tortured priests and dissolute dauphins, there's no getting round the fact that it's all more redolent of a camp revue than a cathartic vision.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It's a see-through movie composed of a lot of clanking, silly, melodramatic effects that, like rib-tickling, exhaust you without providing particular pleasure, to say nothing of enlightenment.

    May 9, 2005

Audience Reviews for The Devils

  • Aug 03, 2018
    Ken Russell's work here is deliberately thought-provoking as a priest (Reed) living on the edge of popular thought, and stubbornly argumentative with the powers-that-be, is therefore expeditiously accused of worshipping Satan. Hysteria follows. The finger pointed at modern society is strong with this one. Don't say I didn't warn you. Parental guidance suggested. For your parents, too.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • May 09, 2018
    For a while, the impression one gets is that Russell is not interested in discussing insanity (or its nature) but just to show it - bare naked - in a purely exploitative, surrealistic way; which is true, until everything moves so confidently towards an apotheotic display of mad depravity.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 27, 2011
    "The Devils," a 17th-century tale of religious fanaticism, may be writer/director Ken Russell's best film, but it could have been even better if he hadn't pushed his actors so far over the top. It's bad enough that Oliver Reed has steam coming out of his ears whenever he's onscreen and that Vanessa Redgrave is often a cringe as the twitching, hunchbacked Sister Jeanne. But the worst offender is Michael Gothard as the histrionic, witch-hunting Father Barre. Not only is Gothard engaged in a persistent contest with Reed and Redgrave to see who can screech his/her lines the loudest, but his hippie haircut and John Lennon spectacles are ridiculously out of place in a period film. It's impossible to take his character seriously, and that's a significant problem for someone who emerges as the story's top villain. Dudley Sutton and Murray Melvin are actually more effective in much smaller nemesis roles. On the other hand, the film's look is incredible (the sets, courtesy of the young Derek Jarman, are intentionally restricted to austere black and white) and Peter Maxwell Davies' assaultive score is one of the most thrilling works of contemporary classical music I've heard in a film. Otherwise, it probably goes without saying that if you have a fetish for writhing, naked nuns in heat, this will be the greatest movie you ever saw. I believe that I caught a nearly unedited version of this still-controversial film, but I did read something online about a closing shot of Sister Jeanne stimulating herself with a phallus-shaped bone fragment. Alas, the cut I saw did not include this.
    Eric B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 17, 2010
    There have been quite a few movies on false accusations of witchcraft, but the highly extra-ordinary execution of the subject matter herein makes this one, one devil of a film.
    familiar s Super Reviewer

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