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Film Director Ken Russell

Writer and Director Ken Russell explains his brush with The Devils.

News 1972 3 mins

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Logo for South West Film and Television Archive


Playwright, writer and director Ken Russell is interviewed about his next project Savage Messiah (1972). He has recently released the horror film The Devils in 1971 based on the story of a seventeenth century Roman Catholic priest Urbain Grandier executed for witchcraft after supposed possessions in Loudun France. Oliver Reed plays the priest opposite Vanessa Redgrave’s hunchbacked and sexually repressed nun.

The Devils received an X rating in the UK and the US due to its explicit violent, sexual and religious content and was banned in many countries. Savage Messiah (1972) is a biopic based on the life of sculptor Henri Gaudier Brzeska and starred Dorothy Tutin and Helen Mirren. Ken Russell started out in television until commercial success came in a film adaptation of DH Lawrence’s Women In Love (1969) which included a nude wrestling scene between Alan Bates and Oliver Reed. By the 1970s his flamboyant style attracted Hollywood. He was accused of being obsessed with sexuality and religion and courted controversy but was a prolific producer of often self-financed films, plays and television adaptations.