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Despite the outdated, distinctly seventies look, during its best stretches The Devils still packs a powerful, non-conformist punch.

Billed as scandalous upon its 1971 release and partly censored by distributor Warner Brothers, Ken Russell's The Devils has been mostly tamed by time.

Few of the depictions of nudity, debauchery and violence will shock today's audiences, while its stark anti-clerical message won't sound nearly as blasphemous as it did fifty years ago. This definitely takes a bit of the sting out of the movie, as does its slightly outdated, distinctly seventies look.

There is no denying though that The Devils still packs a powerful punch when the picture is at its best. The white-tiled set design by Derek Jarman is a compelling character in itself, the editing plays into non-conformism and director Russell's keen eye for visceral images makes for a viewing experience that feels much more modern than the film's age suggests.

Add to this excellent performances by Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave and you have a movie that might not fit all the pieces of the puzzle into a coherent whole, but that has too many merits to discard it on the basis of its outdated elements.

release: 1971

director: Ken Russell

starring: Oliver Reed, Vanessa Redgrave, Dudley Sutton, Gemma Jones


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