Why X-rated masterpiece the Devils is still censored
One scene that has not escaped British or American intervention is the “Rape of Christ” sequence, the orgy’s finale, which sees a large statue of Christ assaulted by a variety of unleashed naked nuns. On top of that, a sequence in which Sister Jeanne masturbates with Grandier’s charred femur after her death has also been removed in the US and UK versions.
It was thanks to critic Mark Kermode, as well as director Paul Joyce, that these two scenes, which were believed to have disappeared, were unearthed from the archives and reinstated by the film’s original editor, Michael Bradsell. However, despite renewed pressure to release this full director, he remains unavailable. This is despite the fact that when BBFC members attended a special screening of the Cup in 2002, they had no problem with the scenes being restored. Various petitions for Warner Bros. release him are ongoing. According to Kermode, in a 2014 episode of his Kermode Uncut video blog, their latest response suggested that the film’s “unpleasant tone” was the obstacle to its future re-release. Instead, audiences have to make do with the truncated versions: in the UK the UK Cup can be viewed thanks to the release of the BFI DVD in 2012, while in the US the 108-minute cut including Russell Was So Dissatisfied is available to stream on iTunes America.
Despite being mistreated by Warner Bros and, over the years, being difficult to access, The Devils continues to endure in cinematic canon. This is in large part thanks to the passion of his fans, from critics like Kermode to filmmakers like Alex Cox and Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro. In 2014, del Toro called the continued processing of the film “a true act of censorship.”
“Ken made his peace with it,” Lisi concludes. “I imagine that from his greatest vantage point in the cosmos, he undoubtedly hopes against all hope that he will one day be declared acceptable as a significant contribution to world cinema and an example of his insight, talents and of his bravery unique to Reed and Redgrave. “ The only real outrage today about Ken Russell’s The Devils is that this unprecedented British masterpiece is still not available to see as its director intended, even 50 years later.
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