Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Good old Ken, ye ken

Ken Russell's The Devils is a gleefully blasphemous film about the strange happenings in the Loudun nunnery of the 17th century based on the book by Aldous Huxley. When perfidious Cardinal Richelieu decides to destroy the fortified town of Loudon a rebel priest Grandier, played with gusto by Ollie Reed, stands in his path. After tupping some local lass he provokes the ire of the loony, hunchback boss-nun played by Vanessa Redgrave, she calls in the Inquisitors and the holy shit really hits the fan. Russell doesn't pull his punches with lavish sets, giddy costumery, mass nudity and bonkers dream/vision sequences and he even manages to procure decent performances from everyone despite the madness. All in all I quite enjoyed rewatching it, it's a finely made, committed film that's more tragic than I remembered and it's a terrible shame it's been overshadowed by the inevitable the sex/blasphemy controversy.

The Lair of the White Worm
was clearly made on a much lower budget than The Devils and even Ken's inventiveness couldn't patch up the cracks that scupper this foray into English folklore. An archaeologist uncovers a peculiar skull on a small farm dig near the fabled lair of the Lambton Worm and when the reclusive, predatory Lady Marsh arrives back the town begins to lose a few more residents. Starring Hugh Grant, Peter Capaldi and a delicious Amanda Donohue this could have been something decent but the ropey script and rubbishy acting constantly deflate any mystery or tension and it limps along to a ridiculous bagpipe based finale.

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