The entertainment industry is filled with scandals, shocks and surprises, but few compare to the story of director Ken Russell’s remarkably censored 1971 film, The Devils, which starred Oliver Reed as Urbain Grandier, a priest in 17th century France.
Since the film debuted it has–almost shockingly–never been seen in its entirety, and that’s because it’s considered too blasphemous for the general public.
Based partially on Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun, which in itself is a historical account of the true story of the execution of Urbain, Russell’s film is still a controversial topic because it mashes together religion with sex and violence in a way that, to this day, is still surprising.
When television personality, critic, and writer Richard Crouse had the opportunity to interview Russell just a few years ago, it led him to a natural question: how can such a remarkable movie, created by one of the cinema’s most admired directors, end up being banned and censored, and generally ignored by the company that owns it?
With the blessing of Russell, just before the director passed away, Crouse started exploring the subject, and tracking down some of the talents who were involved in making the film. The result is Crouse’s mesmerizing, riveting book, Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of The Devils. In it, Crouse unravels some of the mystery, and shares some of the stories behind this remarkable film, and how Russell made his vision of the story a searing reality.
Last week, I had the pleasure to sit down with Crouse at his home in Toronto so we could discuss his book and Russell’s incredible vision for this controversial film.