Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Let’s all go to ‘The Devils’

Since July 3 was the 81st birthday of filmmaker Ken Russell (who has been known to comment on these pages occasionally), I thought I’d use this week’s column to put forth the case for a full-blown DVD release of a restored version of his 1971 film, The Devils—a film many people consider to be his masterpiece. It’s also a film that Warner Bros. stubbornly—and, frankly, stupidly—refuse to make available on DVD. It seemed that it was about to happen this year. An announcement was made. A mock-up of the cover was displayed on the internet. There was much rejoicing among Russellphiles and cineastes in general. Then came the official studio announcement that no such thing was going to happen. No explanation, mind you—just that no such release was planned.

What’s up with Warner Bros., you ask? Well, that’s an interesting question—one to which there’s no clear answer. A few years back—not long after a huge Russell retrospective in Los Angeles—the studio seemed to actually delight in announcing that the archival print of The Devils was worn out, that there were no plans to replace it and that the film would no longer be available for bookings of any kind. As usual, this brought up questions from film fans of a DVD release. (This has been going on in one form or another since the days of laserdiscs.) Warners said “no.”

Well, then, what about letting a company like Criterion bring the film out? The answer was simple—Warner Bros. doesn’t license their films to other companies. The overall implication was—and is—that we should be thankful they ever allowed the film to be released to home video—in a bad, censored pan-and-scan VHS form—at all. End of subject—at least till this latest episode. For whatever reason, Warner Bros. seems fully determined to suppress the film to the best of their ability (more on that later).

So, what is this movie that Warners want to save us from?

The Devils is Russell’s blending of Aldous Huxley’s book The Devils of Loudun with John Whiting’s play The Devils—filtered, redefined and certainly embellished with his own sensibilities. As with all of Russell’s adaptations, it’s as much about his reaction to the material as it is an attempt to translate that material to the screen. In the case of The Devils, it perhaps goes a little further, since the film is as much a reaction to the time in which it was made as it is a reaction to the story.

The Devils was made when the nightly news—both here and in the UK—was filled with ever more graphic footage from Vietnam. Russell’s contention was that people had become numb through overexposure, that the horrors being shown had “normalized” it all. His reaction to this growing sense of moral apathy was to make a film that would jolt viewers out of their complacency by showing them something that would shock them. (There’s a verbalization of this in a different context in Russell’s 1972 film Savage Messiah where his hero answers a museum guard’s concerns over disturbing the other visitors by proclaiming, “Of course, they should be disturbed! Shocked into life!”) The problem was that he succeeded—only too well.

Understand that this was an era of filmmaking when pushing the envelope of what was and wasn’t permissible was not unusual. The ratings system was only three years old and filmmakers were taking full advantage of depicting things that would never have been possible before the advent of the G, M (later GP and then PG), R and X ratings.

The studios supported this freedom in large part because it allowed the movies to offer something TV couldn’t. And when John Schlesinger’s X-rated Midnight Cowboy (1969) went home with Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, the legitimacy of it seemed unquestionable. (The rating was changed to an R a couple years later.) The X rating didn’t then have the pornography connotation it would soon attain. Michael Sarne’s Myra Breckinridge (1970), Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971), Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris (1972) and Paul Morrissey’s two campy horror pictures, Flesh for Frankenstein (1973) and Blood for Dracula (1974) were all released with X ratings. So was The Devils, which became easily the most notorious of all mainstream X rated movies.

Russell had himself been one of the key figures in testing the limits with Women in Love (1969) and The Music Lovers (1970), both of which can only be described as hard R’s. If the sexuality and full-frontal nudity of those films had raised censor eyebrows, The Devils burned the eyebrows clean off their faces—in part because of the subject matter, which was and is both extremely religious and political.

The Devils is the story of an unorthodox (and very sexually active) Jesuit-trained priest, Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed), whose parish was in the town of Loudun, France in 1634. Arrogant and proud to a fault, Grandier made many powerful enemies—something that came home to roost because of his political activities. Grandier dared to stand up to the political machinations of Cardinal Richelieu (Christopher Logue), whose vision of a united France (with himself as the power behind the throne) was hampered by Grandier standing in his way concerning tearing down the walls that encircled Loudun. That Louis XIII (Graham Armitage) had pledged not to touch the city guaranteed Grandier’s power—for a time.

What Grandier had not counted on were the ravings of a sexually repressed nun, Sr. Jeanne of the Angels (Vanessa Redgrave), who accused the priest of debauching her and several other members of the convent she headed up by means of black magic. Richelieu immediately seized on these allegations and used them to destroy Grandier, finally having him burnt at the stake as a sorceror.

This is heady material under any circumstances, but Russell’s decision to present the material in the most graphic manner possible took it to new levels. The depictions of the mass exorcisms on the nuns as public spectacles went far beyond anything anyone had ever put on the screen before. Nothing was spared the viewer in these scenes, nor was much left out of the scenes of Grandier’s torture and execution. Russell’s intent was to shock the viewer into a state of awareness through which his message about the abuse of religion for political purposes would penetrate any and everyone’s sense of complacent detachment.

He would go further. Rather than set the film in the usual period realm, he commissioned artist/filmmaker Derek Jarman to create a fantasticated Loudun—an allegorical setting of gleaming white brick that would convey not only the characters’ own sense of their modernity, but make the film itself seem oddly modern. His view was that the citizens of 1634 did not think of themselves as historical figures. They thought of themselves much as we think of ourselves—modern, enlightened and civilized.

To further this sense, the dialogue—in part after the manner of the Whiting play—was not written in a faux period style, but in a naturalistic, contemporary style. Add to this a variety of pop-culture references—“professional witchfinder” Fr. Barre (Michael Gothard) in John Lennon glasses, references to pop songs, an evocation of Crosby and Hope doing a “patty cake” routine from a “Road” picture, etc.—and a very modern score by Peter Maxwell Davies, and the results were a film of unusual immediacy. Yes, the actual events happened in 1634, but they feel like they’re happening now, imbuing the film with a relevance to a modern audience unusual in a period piece.

The resulting film brought down a firestorm of criticism and censorship. “I consider this to be a nauseating piece of filmmaking. Whatever the deeper meaning intended by Ken Russell, it comes to the screen with such elements of sadism, pornography and blasphemy, it will appeal chiefly to the prurient,” wrote—in part—the British censor at the time the film was submitted. Cuts were demanded and there was even talk of the film being banned outright. (The likelihood of a film by as important director as Russell, coming out from a major studio actually being banned was slim, though The Devils was indeed banned in some parts of Great Britain where local censor boards have the right to overrule the British Board of Film Censors.)

Cuts were made. (Despite what people tend to believe, an X or NC-17 rating does not mean that a film wasn’t cut to receive those ratings.) It made little difference to the film’s reception. What did make it onto the screen was amazingly powerful—so much so in fact that the critic Alexander Walker railed against scenes in the film that did not exist, and never had existed. When Russell confronted Walker on a TV talk show about this, Walker refused to back down. As a result, Russell whacked the critic over the head with a rolled up copy of his own newspaper. (Years later, I asked Russell if he’d learned from this outburst. He admitted he had, and if the opportunity ever arose again, he’d make sure there was an iron bar in the paper.)

The controversy over the film became so legendary that a reference to it found its way into Graham Greene’s novel The Honorary Consul where the consul has to travel to another city for a film festival because “the British entry by some fellow named Russell had been called pornographic.” Warner Bros. hated the film from the onset and didn’t really seem to know what to do with it. Their original one-sheet for the American release consisted in large part of a long disclaimer calling The Devils “not a film for everyone,” but saying it was a serious work by a distinguished artist, but one that was likely to shock some viewers, and finally expressing their “hope that only the audiences who can appreciate it” would come to see it.

The studio probably only worsened the situation by slapping an introductory title on the film—“This film is based upon historical fact. The principal characters lived and the major events depicted in the film actually took place.” That’s true enough—certainly, it’s far more true than the “based on actual events” claims that so freely festoons a lot of new releases these days. The problem is that this title is followed by one of the film’s more outrageous and playful scenes—a staging of Boticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus as a drag show at the court of Louis XIII, with Louis himself as Venus. Well, the title does say “major events.”

The strange thing about all this—as Russell has pointed out—is that Warner Bros. had read the script and accepted it, and there was nothing in the film (except, of course, the immediacy of the image over the printed word) that wasn’t in that script. This would not be the last time the studio agreed to a script and an approach, only to turn around when they saw the finished film and act like they had no idea that anything of the sort was being made. Much the same thing happened (for different reasons) with John Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) and with Paul Schrader’s Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), the latter being actually shelved and reshot by the more studio-friendly Renny Harlin.

The film did have its supporters, chief among them Time movie critic Jay Cocks. It also became part of a course on film given by Fr. Gene D. Phillips, S.J. at Loyola University in Chicago. Moreover, even its detractors couldn’t deny that it was visually brilliant and that Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Reed gave shatteringly powerful performances. Over the next few years, the film gathered more and more adherents, though it often played in some pretty peculiar venues. (I first saw The Devils in 1975 at a midnight show in a porno theater in Tampa, Florida.) It also became a staple of the college film circuit—in some part because it was something of a badge of honor to have made it all the way through this disturbing movie.

And it is a disturbing film. That was—and is—part of the point. It’s the story, in Russell’s words, of “a sinner who becomes a saint.” The sinner and saint, of course, is Grandier, and one of the things that makes the film so uncomfortable is that he is not destroyed by his sins. Rather, he is destroyed by his reformation, by his attempts to “do the right thing.” One wonders if he had been destroyed for his sins if the film would have upset as many people as it did.

The film—named on the Sight and Sound list of the greatest British films ever made—has been written about in great detail in a number of books, including my own Ken Russell’s Films (1984). Fr. Phillips wrote an in-depth analysis and defense of the film in his Ken Russell (1979), while film scholar Joseph A. Gomez devoted almost a quarter of his book, Ken Russell: The Adapter as Creator (1975) to it. I even once provided the programme notes for The Devils when it made its first appearance at a film festival in Finland. (I saw the translation. God knows what I actually said in Finnish.)

For all of this, controversy has followed The Devils. When the Asheville Film Festival honored Russell in 2005 and I told the powers that be that we’d be screening one very rare film that we could only list as a “surprise,” I was taken aside and quietly asked with some concern, “It’s not the one with the nuns, is it?” (It wasn’t. Owing to the lack of a good copy of the film, The Devils was never even considered.)

To their marginal credit, Warner Bros. did release the film on VHS, but it was a 101 minute cut (the original US version ran 109 minutes, while the British print ran 111). It was also horribly done in a full-screen pan-and-scan format and (presumably in an effort to obscure detail) printed much too dark. Anyone seeing The Devils in that form, saw only a pale shadow of the film as it was released—and almost no one ever saw the film that Russell intended, owing to the censorship demands from 1971.

While many little cuts were made in the film in order to get it released, the most notorious cut in the film was a sequence—actually, the end of a sequence—that came to be known as “The Rape of Christ.” The sequence is the culmination of the exorcism scenes and was to come when full-scale hysteria breaks out following an incognito visit by Louis XIII. Louis presents the exorcist with a supposed “holy relic from the King’s own chapel,” the presence of which immediately speeds the demons from the bodies of the “possessed” nuns. The King then reveals that the box containing this relic is, in fact, empty, resulting in the vast amusement of the spectators. Outraged, Fr. Barre asks, “What sort of a trick have you played on us?” “Oh, reverend sir, what sort of a trick are you playing on us?” asks the King.

At this point, any vestige of order breaks down into an orgiastic frenzy that, in part, involves the nuns ripping down a larger than life crucifix and…well, doing what the sequence’s title says. It’s a difficult scene to watch—not merely from the shocking imagery, but from the building of a frenzy of camerawork, editing and music that becomes almost unbearable. Yet, as Fr. Phillips put it in an interview for the documentary Hell on Earth, “The scene portrays blasphemy. It is not a blasphemous scene.” He elaborates that what makes the scene work is that it is cross-cut with scenes of Grandier in the wilderness celebrating communion with simple dignity. As a result, “It portrays blasphemy against a true spiritual enrichment.”

None of this cut any ice with the censors of the time—nor did the fact that the film is obviously the work of a very religious man. At the time the film was made, Russell was a practicing Catholic. His reaction here is that of a man who has been outraged over the perversion and debasement of a faith that he holds dear. A later scene ought to make this clear when Grandier walks in on a public exorcism and cries out, “You have turned the house of the Lord into a circus, and its servants into clowns! You have perverted the innocent.” (Circus is a good term for the events when we find such carnival-level huckstering as evidence against Grandier including “the voices of real devils coming from the mouths of Ursuline nuns.”) The intent of the film—both religious and political—is abundantly clear for anyone who bothers to actually watch it rather than simply be offended by its depiction of the perversion of religion for political ends.

For years, the sequence in question was considered lost—possibly destroyed. I would occasionally pester Russell with questions about it. Did he think it was possible that maybe the film’s editor, Michael Bradsell, had held onto the cut footage? Was there any chance—an even longer shot—that cinematographer David Watkin had squirreled the missing scenes away somewhere? He got tired of me bringing it up, I think, and ultimately told me, “It’s gone. You’re not going to see it—and it wasn’t that hot anyway.” I suspect this was mostly to get me to shut up about it.

Enter film historian Mark Kermode, for whom the film was something of an obsession. He wasn’t accepting the idea that the footage didn’t exist—a bit of stubborness that ultimately paid off when a can of film containing the “lost” sequence and other censored bits of the film was finally located. As Kermode put it in Hell on Earth, this was the holy grail for Russell fans. Russell himself, upon seeing the sequence, took a somewhat different attitude than he had when it was supposedly lost—“Yes, well, I can’t think why they cut that except that it’s one of the most mind-blowing sequences ever censored.”

Warner Bros. saw it differently. They didn’t want the footage shown at all. They finally relented and agreed that it could be shown once in the Hell on Earth documentary. Under no circumstances, however, was it to be edited back into the film—or so the story went. That appears to still be the attitude being taken now.

Of course, there’s an irony to all this. While Warner Bros. continues to sit on the film in any version, some enterprising soul (perhaps more than one) combined the “Rape” sequence with a TV transmission of the film (yes, folks, in Great Britain both the film and the notorious scene have been shown on television) and cobbled together something roughly akin to a complete version. The quality isn’t the best (it’s watery and obviously taken from a VHS original), and it’s further hampered by the fact that the broadcast version of the film itself is letterboxed to about 2.0:1, rather than its actual ratio of 2.35:1, meaning that the sides of the frame are still cropped. (The “Rape,” on the other hand, is the full widescreen format.) This version has been burned to DVD and is sold freely on the internet.

Every bootleg copy sold is a copy that Warner Bros. could have sold. Even at that, I doubt there’s a single cineaste or Russell fan who wouldn’t still buy a pristine official studio release of The Devils were Warners to break down and offer it. In terms of film culture, their refusal to do so is little short of criminal. As I wrote in the Xpress when the film was shown locally, The Devils is “one of the very small handful of films to which the word ‘genius’ might reasonably be applied.” It probably won’t make a huge difference—based on the studio’s apparent attitude—but a letter-writing campaign couldn’t possibly hurt.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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109 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Let’s all go to ‘The Devils’

  1. Barry Clarke

    Dear Ken (Hanke),

    ‘The Rape of Christ’ has indeed been integrated back into ‘The Devils’ professionally and the whole film cleaned up. It was shown at the then NFT in London about 3 years ago when Mark Kermode interviewed Ken (Russell) there. And, it was superb!
    That scene has only been shown on TV here in the UK within the ‘Hell On Earth’ TV documentary that you mention above.
    I have championed a petition to have ‘The Devils’ released on DVD that someone created and just left hanging there doing nothing. So, I set to work ‘advertising’ all over the Internet. At that point it had 147 signatures – it has now nearly 1000. When it reaches 1000 I will send it off again to Warner Bros and let’s see what happens.
    By the way, great article and I have had your book for many years.
    I will be seeing Ken tomorrow (July 5th) to help him celebrate his 81st.

    Cheers!

    Barry

  2. ken russell

    This is the best birthday present a man could have. Next to having The Devils re-released. Thanks, T’Other Ken.

    Ken (Russell)

  3. arlene

    THE DEVILS is one of those handful of movies that can be named “genius” and would make the top five or so that I want to take to eternity.

    I am an unabashed Russell devotee, but THE DEVILS is beyond any of my other favorites. It speaks to the past, the horrors of the era when it was released. And yes, it’s speaks to our current horrors.

    I believe I saw the full print when it played at the local “art house” when it was first released. I was stirred and repulsed by the truth of the film at the same time. I think almost all of it is burned into my memory. Finding a decent copy has been a holy grail since the early days of VHS.

    I think if they would but release it, they would be much amazed about the audience for this film.

  4. I think that a Russell collection is long overdue. What other titles do Warner’s own?

    Ken, this movie had a profound impact on my life and I thank you for it.

  5. Ken Hanke

    ‘The Rape of Christ’ has indeed been integrated back into ‘The Devils’ professionally and the whole film cleaned up. It was shown at the then NFT in London about 3 years ago when Mark Kermode interviewed Ken (Russell) there. And, it was superb!

    This is good news. When it was first found, WB wanted to suppress it altogether. Maybe they’ve started to bend a little.

    I have championed a petition to have ‘The Devils’ released on DVD that someone created and just left hanging there doing nothing. So, I set to work ‘advertising’ all over the Internet. At that point it had 147 signatures – it has now nearly 1000. When it reaches 1000 I will send it off again to Warner Bros and let’s see what happens.

    If this is an internet petition, please post a link to it here. I’m sure you can pick up a few signatures — mine included.

    I will be seeing Ken tomorrow (July 5th) to help him celebrate his 81st.

    The party at the Turfcutters Arms? I will be there in spirit at any rate.

  6. Ken Hanke

    This is the best birthday present a man could have.

    And that is the best compliment I could ask for.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I think if they would but release it, they would be much amazed about the audience for this film.

    And the thing is they shouldn’t be surprised at all. Back in the laserdisc era, whenever there was a poll of what needed to be released on laser, The Devils was invariably high on the list. The same people who wanted it in that format are going to buy it in this one — except that there are a lot more people buying DVDs than ever even heard of a laserdisc.

  8. Ken Hanke

    I think that a Russell collection is long overdue. What other titles do Warner’s own?

    Seems to me that WB now owns the MGM/UA catalogue as well as their own material. That would mean they control Billion Dollar Brain, Women in Love, The Music Lovers, The Devils, The Boy Friend, Savage Messiah, Lisztomania, Valentino, and Altered States. In other words, they own every theatrical film from Ken’s richest period except Mahler (which definitely needs a remastering job) and Tommy (I have no complaints with the edition of Tommy that’s currently available, though the US DVD lacks the audio commentary and extras of the UK one.)

    Ken, this movie had a profound impact on my life and I thank you for it.

    I presume you’re thanking the Russell Ken. This multiple Kens business gets confusing.

  9. “I presume you’re thanking the Russell Ken. This multiple Kens business gets confusing.”

    Well Ken since we figured out that you wrote the original article 20 years ago that lead me to THE DEVILS in the first place I guess I owe you SOME gratitude.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Well Ken since we figured out that you wrote the original article 20 years ago that lead me to THE DEVILS in the first place I guess I owe you SOME gratitude.

    Well, alright then. I’ll take some marginal credit.

  11. christiana

    I saw this film for the first time when I was visiting a friend in Louisville a few weeks ago. We rented the restored version from a local video store. Besides the incredible impact of the subjects that it tackles, it is simply the most visually compelling film I have ever seen. The sets are mindblowing. I saw Matthew Barney’s art films when they came through Asheville and The Devils owns them. I can’t even imagine the impact in a theater.

  12. HarryLong

    >>If this is an internet petition, please post a link to it here. I’m sure you can pick up a few signatures—mine included.<< And mine. THE DEVILS (which I saw during its initial theatrical release at a teeny theater just off my college's campus) remains one of the most intense movie experiences of my life. It's one of two films that I came out of with a migraine (THE RULING CLASS is the other). I have the bootleg DVD, but I'd love a proper release. Warner Bros' continued indifference to this title is incomprehensible.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Besides the incredible impact of the subjects that it tackles, it is simply the most visually compelling film I have ever seen. The sets are mindblowing. I saw Matthew Barney’s art films when they came through Asheville and The Devils owns them. I can’t even imagine the impact in a theater.

    I’ve never been able to get into the whole Cremaster thing myself, so I’ll easily agree, but that’s based on very limited exposure. Still, I know they are thought of as visually impressive, so I understand something of the enormity of that statement.

    Tell you what, if WB brings the film out on DVD, I will arrange at least one theatrical screening of it in Asheville somehow.

  14. RingoStarchy

    Tell you what, if WB brings the film out on DVD, I will arrange at least one theatrical screening of it in Asheville somehow.

    If this happens, I’ll make the trip to Asheville, specifically for the screening.

  15. What I don’t understand is that Warner Bros release PERFORMANCE last year, another X rated film that they have never been keen on. What is the holdup?

  16. Ken Hanke

    If this happens, I’ll make the trip to Asheville, specifically for the screening.

    Well, first WB has to do something, but when they do…

    What I don’t understand is that Warner Bros release PERFORMANCE last year, another X rated film that they have never been keen on. What is the holdup?

    Don’t ask me to explain it. Even stranger to me is the idea that the same regime is in charge of the the studio these 37 years later. Can that possibly be true? It seems awfully unlikely.

  17. To be fair, Warner Brothers is probably the best studio when it comes to re-releasing older films on dvd. Their special editions are fantastic and they regularly dig deep in the vaults for obscure films. I’m sure that THE DEVILS would sell better than IVANHOE, or even better than the Noir or Gangster sets that they produce regularly.

  18. Ken Hanke

    To be fair, Warner Brothers is probably the best studio when it comes to re-releasing older films on dvd.

    No debate on this. It is, in fact, unarguable, but you’ll also note that the films in question aren’t likely to frighten the horses. At the same time, can they really believe that there’ll be some sort of huge backlash from bringing The Devils out on DVD? Re-releasing it to theaters, yes, but a DVD release? Do people actually picket and threaten boycotts over DVDs? Did anyone ever toss a pineapple through your window because you carry, say, Shortbus? This is what I find so unfathomable about their continued refusal to bring the film out.

  19. Barry

    Here’s the url for the petition:

    http://www.PetitionOnline.com/Grandier/

    I remember seeing ‘The Devils’ when it was first released in Huddersfield. I was underage. But, since ‘Women in Love’ I had to see everything Ken Russell created. I remember after seeing the film the first time I turned to my friend ‘Basil’ and asked ‘Do I look pale?’ Ha!
    Well, I was hooked and took all my school-mates to see it more than once. Then, we would re-enact some of the scenes on the local green – I always played Sister Jeanne – no-one called me names; they just joined in.
    Then, when I migrated across the Pennines to Manchester I took shed- loads of people to see the film every week – I was told I should be presented with a gold watch.
    Oh, yes – also when I came down to London for about 6 months when I was 16 I went to see it every week and even had to walk many miles home one night as the last tube had already departed. I didn’t know London then. But, anyway ‘The Devils’ was more important!
    It is still – all these years later my favourite film of all time!

    Barry

  20. Barry

    I have created a petition to knight Ken at the 10 Downing Street website as well. I only have 15 signatures so far which is not very good. I believe one has to be a UK resident but surely if use a friend’s UK address you can sign it. Have a go anyway and get your friends and family to sign too – he deserves it!:

    http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Ken-Russell-Gong/

    Barry

  21. Ken Hanke

    Here’s the url for the petition:

    Thanks. I’ve already signed it (no. 923) and I urge everyone who’s reading this to do the same. There are some impressive names on that list already — like Gemma Jones and Bryan Pringle (both of whom are in the film) and screenwriter Barry Sandler (Crimes of Passion). I think I also spyed Ian Whittaker who’s been set-dresser on any number of Ken’s movies. There are probably others. I didn’t have time to run through all the signatures.

    Then, when I migrated across the Pennines to Manchester I took shed- loads of people to see the film every week – I was told I should be presented with a gold watch.

    God, you sound like me when I first discovered Ken’s film with Tommy in 1975. Owing to the Quintophonic sound mix, the film was only playing at one theater anywhere near me — near me, in this case, meaning 65 miles away in Tampa Florida. Not only did I rack up 16 viewings before it finally left the Floriland Theater, but I took anyone and everyone who could be coerced into going with me — including my slightly baffled father.

    I have created a petition to knight Ken at the 10 Downing Street website as well. I only have 15 signatures so far which is not very good. I believe one has to be a UK resident but surely if use a friend’s UK address you can sign it. Have a go anyway and get your friends and family to sign too – he deserves it!

    If anyone deserves it, he does.

  22. Chip Kaufmann

    Having recently watched almost all of KR’s films along with those of Michael Winner’s for an article I was writing (a rather daunting but deliciously rewarding experience-the watching not the writing), I heartily concur with what everyone else has said and will add my name to the petition and hope for the best. As for WB, if Criterion can release a newly restored version of Pasolini’s SALO surely they can release THE DEVILS. Better yet they should allow Criterion to release THE DEVILS complete with all the trimmings.
    As for my initial experience with THE DEVILS, I saw it on its 1971 release at the long gone Atlantic Twin Theatres in Columbia, SC. These were X rated theatres and THE DEVILS was playing with some magnum opus called WILBUR AND THE BABY FACTORY. I took some college buddies from the University of South Carolina with me. It was a small theatre and relatively full when the film started but within the first 15 minutes 95% of the audience left (perhaps they went next door). Most of my friends wanted to leave but I had the car so they were stuck. One of them though was so impressed that he joined the school’s student film society (which was a good one) and made sure that THE DEVILS was shown at it ever year for the next 4 years. I didn’t see it again until the release on VHS. I recently purchased the “restored” version on DVD which will have to do for the present. I won’t even get into the lack of KR’s other 1970s on DVD or some of Michael Winner’s for that matter.

  23. Ken Hanke

    I have been quite rightly taken to task over the Warner holdings of Ken Russell films by someone who definitely knows. Seems all WB has are The Devils, Lisztonania and Altered States. The other titles — Billion Dollar Brain, Women in Love, The Music Lovers, The Boy Friend, Savage Messiah and Valentino — are a box set waiting to happen from MGM/UA if anyone’s to do it. Granted the first two are out and the last at least was out, but that hardly precludes packaging them as a set.

  24. HarryLong

    >>I have created a petition to knight Ken at the 10 Downing Street website as well.<< I sincerely hope this refers to Russell, not Hanke...

  25. HarryLong

    Elitist bastard.
    Just remember what happens during the knighting ceremony in THE WRONG BOX…

  26. Ken Hanke

    Elitist bastard.

    You say that like it’s a negative.

    Just remember what happens during the knighting ceremony in THE WRONG BOX…

    “We are frightfully sorry, Sir Kenneth,” doesn’t sound all that swell in context, no.

  27. Chip Kaufmann

    Unless I’m mistaken, I believe that Time Warner owns the rights to the MGM/UA film libraries as well as those of WB which means that they control the release rights to those other KR films. Find a way to economically impact Time Warner and they’ll release them.

  28. Ken Hanke

    Seems all WB has are The Devils, Lisztonania and Altered States. The other titles—Billion Dollar Brain, Women in Love, The Music Lovers, The Boy Friend, Savage Messiah and Valentino—are a box set waiting to happen from MGM/UA if anyone’s to do it.

    Now, I find I have to correct my correction. Somehow — and I’m not even going to try to work this out — WB does own The Boy Friend and Savage Messiah. So what this means is that WB owns the movies that were made for MGM, but MGM (who doesn’t own their own movies) owns the ones that were made for United Artists. I hope that’s clear to everyone.

  29. “These were X rated theatres and THE DEVILS was playing with some magnum opus called WILBUR AND THE BABY FACTORY”

    Hmmm. I stock both. Maybe I’ll make a double bill rental.

    Ken (Hanke), what do you know about the BBC collection? What is on it?

  30. Ken Hanke

    It was a small theatre and relatively full when the film started but within the first 15 minutes 95% of the audience left (perhaps they went next door).

    Well, it’s hard to compete with Wilbur and the Baby Factory, I should imagine.

  31. Ken Hanke

    Ken (Hanke), what do you know about the BBC collection? What is on it?

    According to what’s listed at DVD Empire, it’ll have:

    Diary of a Nobody (1964) which is a literary adaptation of a comic novel of that name, which I read 20+ years ago and remember little about. I’ve never seen the film, but know that Murray Melvin and Vivian Pickles are in it.

    The Debussy Film (1965) w/Oliver Reed as an actor playing Debussy in a film being made by Vladek Sheybal. Choice KR. If memory serves, this is Reed’s first film for Ken. I am really looking forward to this. My copy doesn’t look bad, but the sound is awful.

    Always on Sunday (1965) a biopic on painter Henri Rousseau. Oliver Reed narrates. I haven’t seen it. But as Rousseau is my favorite painter…

    Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World (1966). Forget Vanessa Redgrave in Karel Reisz’s Isadora, here you get the magnificently vulgar and just plain magnificent Vivian Pickles (you know, from Harold and Maude) as Isadora. This is one of Ken’s best films. I have never seen a good copy. Ken appears in this both as Isadora’s driver and as Capt. Patterson, the one-legged man who rescues Isadora from an attempt at drowning herself in the sea.

    Dante’s Inferno (1967) is in some ways Ken’s most ambitious TV film. (At 90 minutes, I think it is the longest.) Oliver Reed stars as Dante Gabriel Rossetti of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of artists. An astonishingly textured work with some truly amazing uses of music and image.

    Song of Summer (1968) is often cited by Ken as his favorite of his films. It’s certainly a great one. Max Adrian stars as the blind and paralyzed English composer Frederick Delius, an arrogant, self-centered, curmudgeonly pagan of a man. Christopher Gable plays Eric Fenby, the devout young Catholic who devoted years of his life to help get Delius’ last compositions out of the composer’s head and onto paper. Ken pops up in this as a rather randy priest.

    Dance of the Seven Veils (1970) is Ken’s farewell to the BBC (the only one in color) and the rarest of all Russell films. It was only shown once on TV, due to the combined outrage of some viewers (Britain’s “watchdog for morality” Mary Whitehouse tried to sue the BBC for transmitting it) and the family of its subject, Richard Strauss. Strauss is played by Christopher Gable in what is possibly his best and certainly his most atypical role. The problem with the film is that Ken laid bare the connection between Strauss and the Nazis — and he did it very graphically. There are some shocking moments — like a scene where Strauss urges the orchestra to play louder in order to drown out the sound of a Jew (Otto Diamant) screaming in the audience while a Nazi carves a Star of David on his chest with a knife. The Strausses didn’t care for this and several other things, and apparently missed the fact that there are a few scenes that present Strauss in a more sympathetic light. (It’s not the complete attack most people think.) I’m surprised it’s in here (maybe the music is finally all PD). The only copy I’ve seen is from Ken’s own 16mm print, which had faded badly by the time he had it copied to tape. KR appears as an orchestra conductor.

    Those are the films listed. I was hoping for a few others (and there may be some of the shorter ones, I don’t know), but this is still a huge step in getting the BBC films out there.

  32. Ken Hanke

    Unless I’m mistaken, I believe that Time Warner owns the rights to the MGM/UA film libraries as well as those of WB which means that they control the release rights to those other KR films.

    See the post I made immediately after yours (and before I saw yours).

  33. Chip Kaufmann

    FYI. According to the Amazon.UK site, VALENTINO is coming out on Region 2 DVD on Sept 1. KR AT THE BBC has no release date listed and Michael Winner’s THE SYSTEM (1964) w/ Oliver Reed is being released (Region 2) July 21st. Your book on KR’s films goes for 40 pounds in the U.K. with 13 used starting at 36 pounds. Not bad.

  34. Ken Hanke

    Your book on KR’s films goes for 40 pounds in the U.K. with 13 used starting at 36 pounds. Not bad.

    Be even better if I was still seeing any money off that!

    And I see you’ve become registered. Very nice.

  35. Barry

    Ken Russel at the BBC has a release date of Sep 23rd 2008 on Region 1. We are unlikely to get ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ on Region 2 because of the ban by the Strauss estate.

  36. While we’re talking about Russell releases, ARIA has come out today. Haven’t checked out the quality of it yet though.

  37. Ken Hanke

    While we’re talking about Russell releases, ARIA has come out today. Haven’t checked out the quality of it yet though.

    The only problem with Aria is that Ken’s segment — which is very fine and even more so if you know the story behind its making — is such a small part of the whole film, much of which I find rather tedious (Godard — “Oui!” “Non!” “Oui!” “Non!” — takes the prize for that here).

  38. Barry

    The only problem with Aria is that Ken’s segment—which is very fine and even more so if you know the story behind its making—is such a small part of the whole film, much of which I find rather tedious (Godard—“Oui!” “Non!” “Oui!” “Non!”—takes the prize for that here).

    Couldn’t agree more Ken! Ken’s segment is stupendous! Veritable Ken Russell!

  39. Ken Hanke

    As a completist (I even have Brothers of the Head, Colour Me Kubrick and a box set of Miss Marple episodes for the one he’s in), I really ought to invest in a copy of Aria. It isn’t as if I actually have to watch the Godard section.

  40. Barry

    As a completist (I even have Brothers of the Head, Colour Me Kubrick and a box set of Miss Marple episodes for the one he’s in), I really ought to invest in a copy of Aria. It isn’t as if I actually have to watch the Godard section.

    I have those too Ken. But, which ‘Marple’ was Ken in? That’s news to me. I must get it being a completist too!

    But, ‘Aria’ is woth getting just for Ken’s segment – like you say you can avoid the others :-)

  41. Ken Hanke

    But, which ‘Marple’ was Ken in? That’s news to me. I must get it being a completist too!

    It’s the episode called The Moving Finger. It’s in the series 2 collection in the US.

  42. Barry

    But, which ‘Marple’ was Ken in? That’s news to me. I must get it being a completist too!

    It’s the episode called The Moving Finger. It’s in the series 2 collection in the US.

    Thanks Ken. I’ll have a look here in the UK. Just posting your website address at IMDB.

  43. “But, ‘Aria’ is woth getting just for Ken’s segment – like you say you can avoid the others :-)”

    It’s hard for me to ignore Brigitte Fonda and Elizabeth Hurley.

  44. [b]But, which ‘Marple’ was Ken in? That’s news to me. I must get it being a completist too![/b]

    I’ve only just caught up with the thread, and for a moment, I thought Hanke had been featured in a BBC series. Nothing against Mr. Russell, but I’d pay good money for an episode where Cranky Hanke goes head-to-head with the sleuthing spinster of St. Mary Mead.

  45. Brian

    I have seen the Miss Marple episode with, he has a small role.

    I recently saw The Fall of the Louse of Usher, and I hope I don’t sound cruel, but I think it could have been good if Ken had not cast himself in it. He looked pretty rough (what was that on the side of his face?) and his acting wasn’t exactly a joy to behold. I can understand that he was just goofing off, but why release a video of yourself goofing off on DVD for the public to see? Marie Findley was excellent as the nurse however, and she was the only enjoyable element of the film.

    As for The Devils, I think that the “charred bone” scene is just as important as the “rape of christ” scene (Mark Kermode agrees) and should not be forgotten when discussing a full restoration of the film.

  46. Ken Hanke

    It’s hard for me to ignore Brigitte Fonda and Elizabeth Hurley.

    It’s hard for me to remember Elizabeth Hurley in the film. Fonda, on the other hand, in the Franc Roddam segment, which is the best thing next to the KR one — though I hesitate to make too much of that because I’ve not seen it in years and, as I’ve noted elsewhere, chances are good that if you slap the “Liebestod” on something, I’m going to like it.

  47. Ken Hanke

    I can understand that he was just goofing off, but why release a video of yourself goofing off on DVD for the public to see? Marie Findley was excellent as the nurse however, and she was the only enjoyable element of the film.

    Well, knowing the amount of time and effort that was put into Louse I doubt it’s fair to say he was just goofing off. Your view of it is hardly unique, though I don’t share it. It’s not a great film — my major complaint lies with the ending — but I think it has some awfully good things in it and is far better than it has any right to be. Now, if it could have been the almost-made version with Twiggy and Roger Daltrey that was to have been shot as the St. Pancras Hotel…well, but it wasn’t.

    As for The Devils, I think that the “charred bone” scene is just as important as the “rape of christ” scene (Mark Kermode agrees) and should not be forgotten when discussing a full restoration of the film.

    Important? Yes. As important, no, I don’t think so. Granted, if you leave it out, it impacts the final impression of Sr. Jeanne, since the film as it stands without it gives the impression that she’s horrified by what she’s done. (And that is not inconsistent with her earlier, “I’ve wronged an innocent man” scene.) Put it back and a different tone is struck. The “Rape,” however, is a scene that’s necessary to restore the flow of the film. It also brings the hysteria of the exorcisms and the thematic point of the entire film into focus. I’d like to see both scenes put back (has anyone asked Ken how he feels about this?), but if I had to choose one, it’d be the “Rape.”

  48. Ken Hanke

    I’d pay good money for an episode where Cranky Hanke goes head-to-head with the sleuthing spinster of St. Mary Mead.

    Is this a battle of wits type of thing, or a best two falls out of three affair? If it’s the latter, I think I could take her.

  49. Barry

    his acting wasn’t exactly a joy to behold

    Ken (Russell) is not the best actor in the world. Sorry Ken but you are still the best film director in the world!

  50. Barry

    It’s the episode called The Moving Finger.

    Thanks Ken (Hanke) I manged to get the single episode for £4.99 at play.com on Region 2.
    Do you have ‘The Russia House’ too?

  51. Barry

    Ken (Hanke) I hope you don’t mind me posting this here. I have posted the url to this website at my Ken Russell Yahoo! discussion group which is called ‘The Lair of Ken Russell’. When I told him about it last Saturday he just laughed. But, anyone who wants to discuss Ken (Russell) here’s where to go:

    http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/The_Lair_Of_Ken_Russell/

  52. Ken Hanke

    Ken (Russell) is not the best actor in the world. Sorry Ken but you are still the best film director in the world!

    I don’t think Ken thinks he’s the best actor in the world, though he’s very good in his Bax TV film and is probably the liveliest thing in The Russia House. I think he simply enjoys doing it — in itself, this is something that’s expressive of a key element about his movies. That’s to say that they’re all touched by the sense of the sheer joy of making them. Of course, officially, he doesn’t start appearing in his films till Valentino in 1977, but there are earlier cameos — Don’t Shoot the Composer, Isadora, Savage Messiah (I’ve always had the feeling there was more shot here than made it into the film), Tommy. And have you ever noticed whose voice is making many of those comments in the “camera obscura” scene in The Music Lovers.

    I have the laserdisc of The Russia House, but have never gotten the DVD. I probably should.

    And no worries about posting your site link. It’s fine with me. In fact, I’ll look in, but don’t necessarily expect me to post. It’s all I can do to keep up with the Xpress site and the Scarlet Street Message boards!

  53. HarryLong

    >>an episode where Cranky Hanke goes head-to-head with the sleuthing spinster of St. Mary Mead.<< And then gets knighted, I suppose...

  54. Barry

    Ken (Russell) is not the best actor in the world. Sorry Ken but you are still the best film director in the world!

    I don’t think Ken thinks he’s the best actor in the world, though he’s very good in his Bax TV film and is probably the liveliest thing in The Russia House. I think he simply enjoys doing it—in itself, this is something that’s expressive of a key element about his movies. That’s to say that they’re all touched by the sense of the sheer joy of making them. Of course, officially, he doesn’t start appearing in his films till Valentino in 1977, but there are earlier cameos—Don’t Shoot the Composer<>, Isadora, Savage Messiah (I’ve always had the feeling there was more shot here than made it into the film), Tommy. And have you ever noticed whose voice is making many of those comments in the “camera obscura” scene in The Music Lovers.

    I have the laserdisc of The Russia House, but have never gotten the DVD. I probably should.

    And no worries about posting your site link. It’s fine with me. In fact, I’ll look in, but don’t necessarily expect me to post. It’s all I can do to keep up with the Xpress site and the Scarlet Street Message boards!

    Thanks Ken (Hanke) – please pop along to the Lair when you have time.
    Is that Ken’s (Russell) voice at the ‘camera obscura’ – I always thought that was a bit of a camp voice. But, now you mention it I can hear it now – ha!
    In ‘Don’t Shoot the Composer’ (I must remember to send him a copy!) he’s really being himself and it works. It doesn’t work for me in ‘The Russia House’ – maybe it’s me because I know it’s him…
    Where is he in ‘Valentino’? ‘Savage Messiah’ is so quick too. And, Can’t remember him in ‘Isadora Duncan’ – so, it’s an excuse to watch again!
    And, I ahve never seen a laserdic in action ever – they were well-received weren’t they? When did they come into existence?

  55. Ken Hanke

    And then gets knighted, I suppose…

    No, I get a dukedom and a night on the town with Margaret Rutherford.

  56. Ken Hanke

    Where is he in ‘Valentino’?

    He plays film director Rex Ingram working on the set of Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It was a last minute thing when the actor who was supposed to play the role showed up inebriated and dressed like a cowboy. It may be Ken’s most straightforward portrayal — and that may be why you don’t remember him in it.

    And, I ahve never seen a laserdic in action ever – they were well-received weren’t they? When did they come into existence?

    Oddly enough, the laserdisc debuted about the same time as VHS. Problem was you couldn’t record on it and so its appeal was limited — especially in 1977-78 when so little product was available. It became kind of the medium for serious cinephiles for a time, despite its drawbacks (one hour to a side was a big one, so was “laser rot”). It’s the only reason that there are letterboxed copies of The Music Lovers, The Boy Friend and Lisztomania knocking around on DVD-R (at least in the US). Studios hated the format, though, because it was never made with any anti-copying capability.

  57. Barry

    Where is he in ‘Valentino’?

    He plays film director Rex Ingram working on the set of Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It was a last minute thing when the actor who was supposed to play the role showed up inebriated and dressed like a cowboy. It may be Ken’s most straightforward portrayal—and that may be why you don’t remember him in it.

    Of course he does! Yes, I have Ken reading from his autobiography somewhere where he explains the whole thing! And, then Equity got involved, etc…

    And, I have never seen a laserdic in action ever – they were well-received weren’t they? When did they come into existence?

    Oddly enough, the laserdisc debuted about the same time as VHS. Problem was you couldn’t record on it and so its appeal was limited—especially in 1977-78 when so little product was available. It became kind of the medium for serious cinephiles for a time, despite its drawbacks (one hour to a side was a big one, so was “laser rot”). It’s the only reason that there are letterboxed copies of The Music Lovers, The Boy Friend and Lisztomania knocking around on DVD-R (at least in the US). Studios hated the format, though, because it was never made with any anti-copying capability.

    Thanks for that. There’s another thing I don’t understand why aren’t ‘The Music Lovers’ and ‘The Boyfriend’ on DVD??? I do have the NTSC version of the latter with all the cut bits put back in. It does make it a very long film but fun to see them.
    I just found a ‘South Bank Show’ from 2001 that I forgot I had which is great! Lots of excerpts from Monitor films I have never seen. How could I forget I had it!

  58. Dionysis

    After all of this focus on THE DEVILS, and never having seen it, I embarked upon a quest to find a watch-able copy. I lucked upon an uncut, widescreen (non-anamorphic) copy. It contains the ‘Rape of Christ’ scene. It is a DVD-R (and was identified as such by the seller on ebay), but the quality is pretty good. I’d say it’s comparable to a good quality (SP speed) factory-produced VHS tape. When played on my HD monitor, the limitations of the source are noticeable, but when viewed on a CRT set, it looks pretty darned good. Not too dark at all. It clocks in at 111 minutes, plus there’s an added preview of the film that runs 1 minute, 7 seconds.

  59. Ken Hanke

    Thanks for that. There’s another thing I don’t understand why aren’t ‘The Music Lovers’ and ‘The Boyfriend’ on DVD??? I do have the NTSC version of the latter with all the cut bits put back in. It does make it a very long film but fun to see them.

    If I understand correctly, WB would own The Boy Friend and MGM would own The Music Lovers, so you’re dealing with two different entities here. Why they haven’t brought them out is a mystery to me. I’d blame it in part on the “democratization” of the DVD — that is titles that were expected to sell respectably as laserdiscs (considered a rather snobbish collectors’ format) often get short shrift in the more mass market mindset of the DVD.

    What’s the South Bank Show from 2001? Is this where Ken’s working on Louse?

  60. Ken Hanke

    It clocks in at 111 minutes, plus there’s an added preview of the film that runs 1 minute, 7 seconds.

    Makes me wonder if there’s more than one version kicking around out there. Even with the “Rape” put back in, I’d think the PAL to NTSC change would make it clock in under 111. Does this come with a copy of Hell on Earth also?

    By the bye, I’m interested to note that since the link to the petition went up here, 65 signatures (not including mine) have been added to it. That only leaves it 12 shy of the stated goal (not personally sure that goal is high enough, though).

  61. [b]By the bye, I’m interested to note that since the link to the petition went up here, 65 signatures (not including mine) have been added to it. That only leaves it 12 shy of the stated goal … [/b]

    Eleven now. I can’t say I’ve seen many of Russell’s films, but any film this interesting should be available for me to potentially find overrated.

  62. Ken Hanke

    Eleven now. I can’t say I’ve seen many of Russell’s films, but any film this interesting should be available for me to potentially find overrated.

    You’ll be relieved to know that it hasn’t any musical numbers — the “Birth of Venus” drag show opening maybe qualifies.

  63. Barry

    By the bye, I’m interested to note that since the link to the petition went up here, 65 signatures (not including mine) have been added to it. That only leaves it 12 shy of the stated goal (not personally sure that goal is high enough, though)

    Indeed! Thanks to posting the url to the petition here it has increased somewhat! Thanks!
    When I discovered the petition on Sep 29th 2006 it was at 147 signatures. So, I ‘advertised’ where I could even Wikipedia but they won’t accept it anymore. I tried contacting the originator of the petition but with no luck so, I suppose you can say I took it over. I have already sent the petition off to Warner Bros in Sep 2007 with 620 signatures so, my next goal, so to speak was to be 1000.
    Now, I hear Warner Bros UK are OK with a release but it’s the US arm of Warner Bros who are not happy to release it.
    Maybe I should send it off to the US too.

  64. Barry

    What’s the South Bank Show from 2001? Is this where Ken’s working on Louse?

    Yes, it is and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Ken dressing up as a nun with make-up whilst filming – ha!

  65. Ken Hanke

    I suppose you can say I took it over. I have already sent the petition off to Warner Bros in Sep 2007 with 620 signatures so, my next goal, so to speak was to be 1000. Now, I hear Warner Bros UK are OK with a release but it’s the US arm of Warner Bros who are not happy to release it.

    Interesting. Where’s this information coming from? I’m assuming you have editing capability on the petition? If so, though it would set things back a little, there are a few signatures on there (Princess Diana “back from the dead,” for instance) that probably ought to be removed.

    Speaking of Ken dressed up as a nun. There’s a book called The Making of the Goodies ‘Disaster Movie’ that includes a photo of Ken on the set of The Devils and he’s in full Ursuline habit. This makes me suspect that somewhere in The Devils there’s a Sr. Ken lurking, but I’ve never spotted him.

  66. Barry

    Interesting. Where’s this information coming from?

    A very reliable source.

    I’m assuming you have editing capability on the petition? If so, though it would set things back a little, there are a few signatures on there (Princess Diana “back from the dead,” for instance) that probably ought to be removed.

    As I didn’t originate the petition I doubt I can touch it – I know this pillocks who find it funny to sign such things. Don’t they know it’s not funny! I suppose when I print it off I could put a line through the pillocks just to show that I am being as honest as possible. And, yes I need to take them into account when totting up the total signatures. Thanks for the reminder :-)

  67. Barry

    Speaking of Ken dressed up as a nun. There’s a book called The Making of the Goodies ‘Disaster Movie’ that includes a photo of Ken on the set of The Devils and he’s in full Ursuline habit. This makes me suspect that somewhere in The Devils there’s a Sr. Ken lurking, but I’ve never spotted him.

    Ha! No, I have never seen this! Do you have it? Could you scan it and post it or send it to me , please? Love to see this!

  68. Barry

    Just went through the signatures on ‘The Devils’ petition and if we discount all the pillocks and one repeat I noticed we are at 976 so, still a way to go (24) before we get 1000.

  69. Ken Hanke

    Ha! No, I have never seen this! Do you have it? Could you scan it and post it or send it to me , please? Love to see this!

    Do I have it? Interesting question, the answer to which is maybe. I’ll look around and see if I can find it. Since I specialize in bringing chaos out of order, this may not be an easy undertaking.

  70. Ken Hanke

    Just went through the signatures on ‘The Devils’ petition and if we discount all the pillocks and one repeat I noticed we are at 976 so, still a way to go (24) before we get 1000.

    Not, I think, insurmountable. I’ll do some plain and fancy provocation.

  71. Barry

    Ha! No, I have never seen this! Do you have it? Could you scan it and post it or send it to me , please? Love to see this!

    Do I have it? Interesting question, the answer to which is maybe. I’ll look around and see if I can find it. Since I specialize in bringing chaos out of order, this may not be an easy undertaking.

    Thank you very much :-)

  72. Barry

    Just went through the signatures on ‘The Devils’ petition and if we discount all the pillocks and one repeat I noticed we are at 976 so, still a way to go (24) before we get 1000.

    Not, I think, insurmountable. I’ll do some plain and fancy provocation.

    We’ll do it! I know we will and we’ll get that film on DVD yet!

  73. Barry

    I just watched ‘The Moving Finger’ – the Marple episode with Ken (Russell) as the local vicar and I must say he did a great job! Perfect part for him!
    Thanks Ken (Hanke) for pointing out that he was in this!

  74. Ken Hanke

    Thanks Ken (Hanke) for pointing out that he was in this!

    My pleasure — now, if I could only get around to watching it myself!

  75. Ken Hanke

    Well, I see it’s at 1001 signatures by the official count of all signers. That’s something.

  76. Barry

    Yep! But we have to discount 16 so we are still 15 shy of 1000 – did I work that out properly – ha!

  77. seems like anything with a scene entitled ‘the rape of christ’ might be frightening to WB execs in The USA

  78. Ken Hanke

    seems like anything with a scene entitled ‘the rape of christ’ might be frightening to WB execs in The USA

    “The rape of Christ” never seems to cause much of an uproar when televangelists and politicians do it, but that’s a separate issue — or is it? Regardless, the odd thing here is simply that I’ve never heard of a DVD release causing a furor of any kind. Have I just missed it? Were there massive protests and threats of boycotts when The Last Temptation of Christ came out on DVD?

  79. Barry

    “The rape of Christ” never seems to cause much of an uproar when televangelists and politicians do it, but that’s a separate issue—or is it? Regardless, the odd thing here is simply that I’ve never heard of a DVD release causing a furor of any kind. Have I just missed it? Were there massive protests and threats of boycotts when The Last Temptation of Christ came out on DVD?

    Or ‘The Passion of the Christ’!!!

  80. HarryLong

    LAST TEMPTATION may have benefitted from being released on DVD by a smallish label that is somewhat used to controversial material (Criterion), not the house label of a major company (the bigger they are the more scared they run, it seems).’
    Certainly LAST TEMPTATION was the subject of much controversy when it played in theaters. And when I finally caught up with it as part of an arts festival on censored works, it was the only title in the film series portion that could not be rented in 36 mm. They had to show a 16mm print… so some controversy (and some fear) remains, it seems. I’m trying to remembver who released LTOC… United Artists?

  81. Ken Hanke

    LAST TEMPTATION may have benefitted from being released on DVD by a smallish label that is somewhat used to controversial material (Criterion), not the house label of a major company (the bigger they are the more scared they run, it seems).

    A reasonable point, but it leaves me with an unanswered question — has anyone ever heard, read or experienced a backlash or threat of a boycott over a home video release? I certainly haven’t.

    By the bye, Universal released Last Temptation, and there could be many reasons why it was only available to the festival in a 16mm copy.

  82. Barry

    LAST TEMPTATION may have benefitted from being released on DVD by a smallish label that is somewhat used to controversial material (Criterion), not the house label of a major company (the bigger they are the more scared they run, it seems).

    I mentioned Criterion to Mark Kermode the other day and I can’t remember what he said. If they are so bloody scared (but scared of what!) why don’t they pass the material on! After all they are going to make money and that’s why they seem to be in the business which should part of it as it is a business but also to release wonderful masterpieces such as ‘The Devils’ – we can choose what we want to watch!

    A reasonable point, but it leaves me with an unanswered question—has anyone ever heard, read or experienced a backlash or threat of a boycott over a home video release? I certainly haven’t.

    Exactly! It’s all stuff and nonsense!

    I also remember a furore about Last Temptation but I did live in Spain at the time…and, when I went to see it I wondered what the fuss was all about!

  83. Ken Hanke

    You can mention Criterion all you want, but WB has gone on record saying that they don’t license out films, so that’s out — unless they change their minds.

  84. Barry

    You can mention Criterion all you want, but WB has gone on record saying that they don’t license out films, so that’s out—unless they change their minds.

    Bar stewards! But, something has got to give – as the saying goes!

  85. HarryLong

    >>Universal released Last Temptation, and there could be many reasons why it was only available to the festival in a 16mm copy.<< The festival organizer hinted darkly in his pre-screening remarks that the film's controversial reputation had something to do with why a 35mm print was not to be had. Myself, I asked one of the people I attended with, "Just how much slack should we cut a bad film just because it's heart is in the right place?" It certainly didn't do justice to the book, which remains one of the greatest I've ever read.

  86. Ken Hanke

    I’ve never read the book, but I’ve fallen asleep in the movie three times.

  87. Barry

    Ken (Hanke) may I use the images you have on this page on the Homepage of my Ken Russell Yahoo Group, please?

    Thanks

    Barry

  88. Barry

    You can mention Criterion all you want, but WB has gone on record saying that they don’t license out films, so that’s out—unless they change their minds.

    I have just been reading all the comments about ‘The Devils’ at IMDB and added my own – of course :-)
    But one user says:

    “WB just licensed out Paul Schrader’s brilliant “Mishima” to Criterion.”

    That was posted there July 12th 2008!

    So, we are getting nearer!

    I think when I send the petition off to Warner Bros again I will include the postings from IMDB all but 2 or 3 are very positive.

  89. Ken Hanke

    “WB just licensed out Paul Schrader’s brilliant “Mishima” to Criterion.” That was posted there July 12th 2008!

    Not to throw ice-water, but I find it’s not the best practice to put a lot of faith in things posted on the IMDb. Let’s hope this isn’t one of those occasions.

  90. Barry

    “WB just licensed out Paul Schrader’s brilliant “Mishima” to Criterion.” That was posted there July 12th 2008!

    Not to throw ice-water, but I find it’s not the best practice to put a lot of faith in things posted on the IMDb. Let’s hope this isn’t one of those occasions.

    It seems to be already released and available. How do we confirm it is a Warner Bros film?

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0016AKSOG

  91. Ken Hanke

    I just looked it up and it is Warner Bros!

    Yes, but it appears that WB wasn’t involved in the production and only picked it up for distribution in a deal that ended in 2006.

  92. HarryLong

    I think WB ought to be sent a link to this page. I can’t think offhand of any of Ken’s other columns that elicited this much response … and continued for weeks afterward.

  93. Barry

    I think WB ought to be sent a link to this page. I can’t think offhand of any of Ken’s other columns that elicited this much response … and continued for weeks afterward.

    I agree Harry – do we have an email address for Warners?

  94. Ken Hanke

    Ken is to direct on stage for the first time in New York! The play is a thriller set in an insane saylum called ‘Mindgame’ – read more here!

    Terrific news with major suckage for timing where I’m concerned, since opening night for the play is also closing night for the Asheville Film Festival. The logistics for this are not good.

  95. Brian

    Ken, do you know how much The Devils made in the U.S. at the box-Office? I understand it cost around $2 million to make. And what about the U.K. gross, did it do better business?

    On a side not, Mr. Hanke, did you hear that they yanked The Dance of the Seven Veils from the “Ken Russell at the BBC” box set that comes out on Tuesday? Astonishing what has been done to this man’s work.

  96. Ken Hanke

    Actually, I don’t know what The Devils made on its first run. I may have at one time, but I think it’s important to realize, too, that whatever it made then, it was in constant art house/rep house/college release for a good 10 years or more after 1971, so it was generating money for some considerable time.

    Yes, I know about Dance being pulled, though that had to have happened some time back, since it’s mentioned nowhere on the box. They also didn’t pony up for the Laurel and Hardy footage at the beginning of Song of Summer, so that’s still slightly truncated. That said, however, the films look better than I’ve ever seen them.

  97. Nick Jones

    I have a solution to Warner Brothers intransigence, but it would envolve bribery, breaking and entering, theft, torture, and possibly murder.

    If only we could successfully sue WB on charges of ‘restraint of trade’ or ‘breech of contract’.

  98. irelephant

    Great article. Sounds like an amazing film. The images above are enticing. I’d love to check it out. Am I right in thinking that it can be found at Orbit?

    Russell seems to be one of film’s best kept secrets. Maybe I’ve been reading the wrong articles, but he hardly seems to get any press. From that time, Coppola, Scorsese, Kubrick, Ashby, and Altman, among others, seem to get all the attention.

    I’m surprised at what a year 1971 was for movies. Seems that the 70’s were a time of boundary pushing–something that doesn’t seem to happen so much these days.

  99. Ken Hanke

    I’m not sure whether or not Marc keeps that grey market copy of The Devils, but I’m pretty certain arrangements could be made for you to see it — and some of the other titles we’ve discussed. I’m assuming you’re local.

    I’ve never quite understood why Russell doesn’t get the credit he’s due in terms of books and articles, though they certainly exist. I tend to suspect that it has something to do with his films being too much fun — that they’re British probably doesn’t help.

    I’d really tend to peg the boundary-pushing era as more of a 1960s thing than a 70s thing, since it runs pretty much from the mid-60s through 1975. Much like the early 60s are largely a continuation of the 50s, the same is true of the 70s and the 60s. For me, it all starts with Lester (another almost forgotten figure, but check out Scorsese’s liner notes for the new DVD of Help! for a pro’s appreciation) and A Hard Day’s Night in 1964 and culminates in 1975 with Lisztomania and, to a lesser extent, Lester’s Royal Flash (oddly enough released on the same day). A lot of it is very much tied to the British Invasion — at least the first wave of it is. The second wave — of which Russell is more a part — comes with the advent of the MPAA ratings and the freedom that gave filmmakers. By now so much of it has simply been absorbed into the mainstream that you don’t even notice the influence. In many cases, I doubt the people using some the stylistic devices that were pioneered then know where they came from.

  100. irelephant

    I am local. It would be great to see his films. I checked out some clips on youtube and they were fairly tantalizing. The visuals from Mahler, a composer I’m sadly ignorant of, were gorgeous. The scenes I caught from Valentino were dynamic.

    Ever read the book Flicker? Darren Aronovsky was trying to get it adapted at one point. It is about a mysterious filmmaker named Max Castle–if my memory serves me. The character seems to me to be a composite of Orson Welles and Fritz Lang, with a very heavy helping of Ken Russell. It is woth reading, especially for a major film fan.

  101. Ken Hanke

    I warn you — though this may have much to do with something in my nature — that getting involved in Russell’s films can be an expensive undertaking. If, for instance, Mahler sits well with you, you may find yourself buying 10 symphonies. I knew Mahler slightly before the film, being familiar with his first and 10th (the performance version; Mahler didn’t quite finish it before dying) symphonies. The film got me to buy the other eight. The same thing happened after seeing his TV film Rime of the Ancient Mariner (which he told me a couple weeks ago he thought was one of his best works) with its largely Ralph Vaughan Williams soundtrack. I’d never heard any RVW before. The impact was tremendous, so, of course, I had to buy his entire output of orchestral works.

    I’m completely unfamiliar with Flicker, but it sounds like I need to rectify that.

  102. irelephant

    Found that the library carries Ken Russell’s BBC work, just have to wait for it to be checked back in–a happy surprise.

    On another note, when I was a teenager and dropped acid for the first time I watched Help! while I was coming down, it was one of the greatest home viewing experiences I’ve ever had. Better than 3-D for sure.

    Luckily, at the moment I don’t have a fortune to spend and I have to get my kicks at the library, which has a pretty fair collection of music and movies. I dread the day when money is aching to exit my wallet, again.

    I love Michael Caine so I am interested to hear your thoughts on Billion Dollar Brain.

  103. Ken Hanke

    Billion Dollar Brain isn’t at all a bad spy movie, but it’s not a great film. It’s certainly livelier than the second Harry Palmer film, Funeral in Berlin. I’d say it’s at least as good as the first one, The Ipcress File, and probably a bit more fun. The current DVD release is minus a few seconds because there was a bit of “A Hard Day’s Night” on the soundtrack (UA owned the rights at that point). Rather than pay to use it on the DVD they merely trimmed around it.

    Michael Caine, by the way, was responsible for hiring Russell for the film. He’d seen the TV films and wanted him to do it. And though the film was not a success at the box office, UA liked it and felt that Russell got a bad deal, and that, in turn, is part of why they wanted him to direct Women in Love.

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