The Devils (1971)
What a wonderful thing to have on Shudder! I was nothing but overjoyed to see a Ken Russell film in all of its insane glory released on what may be an unsuspecting public. Not long ago, I’d read an account of the possession at Loudon in Witchcraft and Satanism by Jules Michelet even though I had no idea until a few minutes into the film it was the self-same story. This film really and truly brings every aspect to life, from the throes of demonic possession both real and imagined, the startling things the nuns themselves did and said, and the wild life and death of Father Grandier.
A perfect counterpart to The Witch in a way, since both stories sort of bookend the witch-hunting Inquisition. And if you are looking to bookend the horror career of the hypnotizing Vanessa Redgrave, this makes a nice counterpart to The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh – even though her screen time in the former takes less than a minute maybe. She is wondrous in this film, and like most Russell films where each scene could be framed as a painting, most of the stills that are burned in my mind’s eye from The Devils are of her.
I had started writing this post back in March when I watched it with Chris, one lovely evening in the Pennsylvanian hinterland.