For many years — through the 1980s and 1980s — I had a fixed list of 5 films that were my personal favorites. 2 were Ken Russell films: "Mahler" and "The Devils."*
His 1971 film “The Devils,” based on real events that had inspired a play by John Whiting and a book by Aldous Huxley, tells the grotesque story of demonic possession at a French convent, complete with exorcism rituals and blasphemous orgies. Mr. Russell, who converted to Catholicism in the 1950s, saw the film as an attack on the corrupt union of church and state.I don't think there's a decent "Devils" DVD, or I'd order it right now. Wikipedia — with "citation needed" — says: "The British Film Institute have announced they will release the UK-theatrical Version (111 minutes) on DVD in March 2012."
The American funders and the British censors called for cuts. The Catholic Church condemned the movie when it was screened at the Venice Film Festival. Even in its edited version, the film was banned by several local authorities in Britain; it was further trimmed in the United States to avoid an X-rating....
Reviewing “The Devils” in The New York Times, Vincent Canby called Mr. Russell “a hobbyist determined to reproduce ‘The Last Supper’ in bottle tops.” Pauline Kael called him a “shrill, screaming gossip.”
Mr. Russell was not above fighting back. Appearing on live television shortly after the release of “The Devils” with the British critic Alexander Walker, who had denounced the film as “monstrously indecent,” Mr. Russell hit him on the head with a rolled-up newspaper.
I wish, when a great director dies, HBO (or some other TV channel) would put all his movies up on Video on Demand. I hesitate to link to the trailer for the movie because it's such a pathetic trailer.
I can't even find the rolled-up-newspaper incident on YouTube.
* The other 3 were: "Aguirre the Wrath of God," "My Dinner with Andre," and "City of Women."