The Devils

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

The Devils is a 1971 biographical horror film by English enfant terrible, Ken Russell. It tells the true story of Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed in his best performance), a priest living in 16th-century France who is forced to defend his town of Loudon from the Roman Catholic church, whose leaders want it torn down. The Church decides to instigate a conspiracy against Grandier, framing him for demonic possession of a local nun, Sister Jeanne (Vannessa Redgrave), who is sexually obsessed with Grandier, and the perfect target for the Churches manipulation.

Because the film contains many lovely scenes such as nuns raping a statue of Jesus before having a massive orgy, the film was condemned by virtually every moral guardian at the time of its release, and cut to ribbons on various cinema releases. At the time of writing, it is still unavailable on commercial release(unless you know where to look).

Tropes used in The Devils include:
  • Anachronism Stew: The entire set design, like the convent done up entirely in white tile.
  • Apothecary Alligator: Grandier tosses one out the window during the plague sequence.
  • Berserk Button: Sister Jeanne does not take kindly to the news that Grandier has married.
  • Better Than It Sounds/Film
  • Camp Gay: Louis XIII
  • Downer Ending: And HOW! The walls are demolished. Grandier is tortured and eventually burned alive. The possession is revealed as false, but no one cares. The one man who believed Grandier was innocent is committed to an asylum, and the "exorcist" who tortured the nuns disappears to do more evil.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Grandier's speech as he's slowly being burned alive to the sounds of cheers. Even in his last moments, he stood by what he believed in.
  • Euroshlock
  • Idiot Ball: Grandier may represent the forces of enlightenment, but impregnating the daughter of an influential local resident? And abandoning her? He sows the seeds of his own destruction right there.
  • Karma Houdini: Father Barre, Cardinal Richelieu, The Baron. Though some of this you had to know was a Foregone Conclusion.
  • Large Ham: Father Barre
  • Naughty Nuns: In spades. Sister Jeanne has lurid sexual fantasies about Grandier, mostly involving him as a Jesus-like figure. This eventually becomes her descent into madness. The other nuns are not above this kind of behavior, either. They are manipulated by the Church into stripping off in the church, desecrating the iconography, and eventually losing themselves in one enormous's that kind of movie.
  • The Plague: During an outbreak, Grandier's grasp of the distinction between quackery and medicine makes him some important enemies.
  • Red Right Hand: Sister Jeanne's badly twisted spine, which also indicates the state of her soul.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story