The Devils (1971) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Devils (1971)



Critic Consensus: Grimly stylish, Ken Russell's baroque opus is both provocative and persuasive in its contention that the greatest blasphemy is the leveraging of faith for power.

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Movie Info

The Devils was the Ken Russell film version of the controversial play by John Whiting. The story, based on Aldous Huxley's The Devils of Loudun, concerns controversial 17th century French priest Urbain Grandier, whose radical political and religious notions and profligate sex life earn him many enemies. When a group of nuns appears to have been "bewitched" by Grandier, his rivals feed on the resulting mass hysteria, using this incident as an excuse to have the priest arrested. Refusing to confess to being in league with Satan and to renounce his "heretical" views, Grandier undergoes appalling tortures, and is finally burned at the stake. Vanessa Redgrave co-stars as the head nun. Due to censorship issues in virtually every country in which The Devils has been released, running times vary greatly.

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Vanessa Redgrave
as Mother Joan of the Angels
Oliver Reed
as Urbain Grandier
Dudley Sutton
as the Baron
Gemma Jones
as Madeleine De Brou
Murray Melvin
as Father Mignon
Michael Gothard
as Father Pierre Barre
Georgina Hale
as Philippe Trincant
Christopher Logue
as Cardinal Richelieu
Graham Armitage
as Louis XIII
John Woodvine
as Louis Trincant
Judith Paris
as Sister Judith
Catherine Willmer
as Sister Catherine
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Critic Reviews for The Devils

All Critics (30) | Top Critics (10)

What is quite certain is that Russell has been true to himself as never before and that in doing so, he will irritate, excite, bore and outrage more film-goers than ever before.

March 18, 2020 | Full Review…

What I find such a pity is that Russell should apparently so distrust his own skill as a mesmerising story-teller.

March 18, 2020 | Full Review…

Even more than The Music Lovers, The Devils reveals an infantile compulsion to shock and repel, cost what it will.

March 18, 2020 | Full Review…

The truly provocative -- some might even say blasphemous -- part of the film is its assertion that, even while preaching their rhetoric of sin and salvation, nuns and priests and cardinals are only human, and humans are nothing but animals.

November 8, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

It is like a lunatic opera, an attempt to make a furious poem out of frenzy. Russell's flamboyant theatricality and his interest in the perverse have been too much imposed on his other films; but here, style and subject are perfectly matched.

November 8, 2018 | Full Review…

All the events and persons depicted in The Devils are intended to be confused with actual events and persons. How do I know? Ken Russell tells me so.

April 29, 2018 | Rating: 0/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Devils

Ken Russell's work here is deliberately thought-provoking as a priest (Reed) living on the edge of popular thought, and stubbornly argumentative with the powers-that-be, is therefore expeditiously accused of worshipping Satan. Hysteria follows. The finger pointed at modern society is strong with this one. Don't say I didn't warn you. Parental guidance suggested. For your parents, too.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


For a while, the impression one gets is that Russell is not interested in discussing insanity (or its nature) but just to show it - bare naked - in a purely exploitative, surrealistic way; which is true, until everything moves so confidently towards an apotheotic display of mad depravity.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


One of my all time favorite movies, sadly missing a proper DVD release with the full uncut version to this day. Seems the movie keeps hitting nerves after 40 years. Oliver Reed gives the performance of a lifetime.

Tsubaki Sanjuro
Tsubaki Sanjuro

Super Reviewer

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