Friday, September 24, 2010

THE DEVILS: Spanish DVD Report

Vanessa Redgrave as Sister Jeanne in Ken Russell's THE DEVILS.

I finally received my copy of LOS DEMONIOS, Warner Home Video's Spanish DVD of Ken Russell's THE DEVILS (1971), from Starscafe last week and was able to screen it last night.

First the good news: it preserves the film in what appears to be its accurate 2.35:1 ratio for the first time in any video format, and it's the crispest, clearest copy of the film on video to date; I couldn't stop watching it though I intended only to do a quality check. The precise black lines around every white brick in the city of Loudun are as visible as they should be. Now the bad news: it's non-anamorphic -- so the slim Panavision image remained but a frustrating sliver set in the center of my large widescreen monitor -- and it's the recropped, censored US cut. The image quality could be slightly brighter, but it is impressive in its recovery of the minutiae of Derek Jarman's brilliant set design and Shirley Russell's ornate costume designs at the very least.
The disc includes audio tracks in Spanish and English with removable Spanish subtitles. There are no extras. The running time is 103:37 in 25 frames-per-second PAL Region 2, which works out to 108m 2s in 24 fps NTSC. However, running time is no indicator of completeness as the US cut made use of substituted footage to cover offending sights while keeping the soundtrack intact. This is particularly noticeable during the convent orgy sequence and the burning of Father Grandier (Oliver Reed) in the film's closing minutes. The fact that this official DVD release, though Spanish, contains the US cut of the film very likely foreshadows a problem consumers will contend with in the event of a US release: the British cut is definitive.

Warner's OOP British VHS release, though zoomboxed at 1.78:1, remains the one to see for content, if you can find it, but this one has its own value as the most vivid memento of David Watkin's tremendous cinematography. Some unedited screen grabs follow. Click to enlarge.

The onlooker with the long blonde hair to the left of actor Michael Gothard is actually the famous fashion model Twiggy, a guest on the set.


  1. Anonymous5:51 PM

    GOOD GOD!!
    A beautiful copy of an awesome film.
    Your VW article was always the best thing I've EVER
    read concerning it.
    Carl D.

  2. Thanks a bunch for this piece of Watchdog recon Tim, Los Demonios may not be the Definitive Devils but we might be getting close... Love the still with Twiggy, I've never heard mention of her appearance in the film anywhere else, so well spotted. For what its worth, I think The Boyfriend is one of Ken's most enjoyable films...

  3. Anonymous2:52 AM

    Ah, but how does this compare to the version released briefly on iTunes?

    Also, I wouldn't take the length of this version to be indicative of anything regarding what cut will be released in the US and other areas. Given the censorship in Spain at the time, it's highly likely that the only version originally released in Spain was this cut/censored one. If that's so, than the Castilian Spanish dub tracks would only match this shortened cut, and if they tried to use a longer version, the track would be filled with holes. We find this all the time when making Spanish language masters using the original dub tracks at the studio I work for.

  4. Michael Brooke6:27 PM

    The British theatrical version should run 111 mins (circa 106-7 after PAL speedup), and I imagine the restored "rape of Christ" version unveiled at the National Film Theatre in 2004 (which I was lucky enough to see) was a couple of minutes longer than that.

  5. Tim,

    Non-anamorphic DVDs can be displayed correctly on a 16:9 TV by zooming/cropping in the image to fill the screen.

    You will get the correct 2.35:1 ratio, but it will be a lower resolution image than the anamorphic version.

    Check your TV ratio options. There is no reason to put up with a small image.


  6. Hi, Tim!

    I received my copy a couple of weeks back and agree in regard to the quality of this version. It looks splendid.

    Its censorship may go well beyond the MPAA mandated slice and dice of 39 years ago, however.

    One of the cuts I noticed, occuring JUST prior to the main title card, omits the line that SHOULD follow "...the birth of a new France, where Church and State are one." And that telling bit of dialogue is all of "And may the Protestant be driven from the land."

    Does this indicate that most (if not all) of the censored material in this release has its orgins in Franco's Spain?

  7. Thanks to pvcward for these additional details. Good detective work!

  8. Anonymous, I'm afraid I wasn't quick enough to grab the iTunes version of THE DEVILS, so I am not in a position to compare. I have heard that version was anamorphically enhanced, however, and I assume the dialogue described as cut by pvcward would be intact. If anyone out there has the iTunes version and is able to burn me a DVD-R, I'd be grateful.

  9. Rich Wilsbn6:16 AM

    Just to let you know that The Devils is back on iTunes in the UK at least. I got it at the weekend. It's the 108 minute version and seems to be the same as the version that appear in 2010 on iTunes.


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