Aldous Huxley's "The Devils of Loudon" filmed by Russell in 1971. About power, corruption and political expediency in
France as the church (Cardinal Richelieu) and crown (Louis XIII) battle
for power over the city of Loudon, in France, protected by massive walls. And Father Urbain Grandier in Loudon will fall
victim, a priest who has lovers yet turns out to have
The film confirms Russell's immense talent, and
again the imagery is breathtaking.
Gaudier is tortured and burnt alive just before
the walls of Loudon, and its independence, are destroyed.
Gaudier's wife is lost among the mountains of bricks as she climbs over
the wall to leave the city, and the colour is bled away.
All released versions have been censored. The
power of Russell's imagery was so powerful that
many critics complained of scenes which they
thought were in the film, but were not, rather
they were implied.
Correspondence from the British Board of Film
Censorship on The Devils detailing the cuts they required (from BBC4
When on a television programme
with Russell, critic Alexander Walker called the film
"monstrously indecent". Russell famously hit
him over the head with a rolled up newspaper.
The torture of Reed was censored in the original
versions, but is included in later versions (it lasts seconds).
The rape of Christ scene was censored by the studio and was thought to
be lost. Mark Kermode did research on the filming of The Devils.
He says in The Observer 4 Dec 2011 "I was standing in Mothercare in
Southampton when my mobile phone rang and a familiar voice came on the
line. It was Tim, an archivist from Warners whom I had been pestering
for years about trying to track down some long-lost film footage. 'I've
got the tin you were asking for,' said Tim, with an edge of excitement
in his voice. 'I'm not sure what's on it, because when I opened it, it
smelt of vinegar, so I've sent it to be treated. But I had a quick look
at the first couple of frames and from what I could see there was a
bunch of naked nuns and a bloody massive crucifix…' 'I'll call you
straight back,' I said, hastily hung up the phone and dialled another
number. 'Ken, it's Mark. Listen, I'm in the nappy department of
Mothercare and I think we just found the rape of Christ…'." A restored
version with the full sequence, was shown at the National Film Theatre
on 23 Nov 2004.
The film was based on Aldous Huxley's 1952 rambling but interesting account of
the actual incidents at Loudun, and on John
Whiting´s 1961 stage play of the novel. The premiere of the
play, 10 years before the film, included Max Adrian as
Father Barre and Dorothy Tutin as Sister Jeanne, both in this film,
though in different roles.
Left Huxley's book reissued to cash in on the
film and right an excellent 2015 performance of John Whiting's play by Sedos in London.