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What a pact with the Devil (supposedly) looks like
03:56 pm


The Devils
Urbain Grandier

Catholic priest Urbain Grandier was burned at the stake in 1634 for allegedly bewitching a convent full of nuns in the French town of Loudun. The accusation came about not because of what Grandier did, but rather because of what he didn’t do.

Grandier was a bit of a lad, a controversial churchman, who was known for having sexual relations with his female parishioners. He also questioned the validity of clerical celibacy and was often critical of the church and King Louis XIII. He was a bit of a “hip priest,” you might say with leanings towards the Left. However, all this was unimportant compared to the ire he inspired after ignoring the advances made to him by the horny Mother Superior, Sister Jeanne of the Angels, at the local Ursuline convent.

Sister Jeanne wanted Grandier for her own sexual gratification and hoped to snare the priest by offering him the position of spiritual director at the convent. When Grandier rejected Sister Jeanne’s advances, she planned his downfall. Sister Jeanne offered the position to Grandier’s rival and bitter enemy, Canon Mignon. Once appointed, Sister Jeanne and several other nuns accused Grandier of using Satan to send demons to seduce the convent.

After the nuns where brutally interrogated (described as being like “a rape in a public toilet”), Grandier was arrested, tortured and put on trial. However, he was acquitted.

On his release, Grandier made the mistake of attacking Cardinal Richelieu, who was King Louis XIII’s powerful First Minister. Richelieu ordered Grandier to be tried again, and although the nuns retracted or refused to give statements, new evidenced was “uncovered” and Grandier was again charged with witchcraft, tortured, and this time convicted and sentenced to death. It was a political decision, instigated by Richelieu to dispose of a troublesome and possibly dangerous priest.

During this second trial, the state prosecutor presented a document which was said to be proof of a pact between Grandier and the Devil.

The document was written sdrawkcab (backwards), sealed in blood, covered with various occult symbols, and signed by Grandier, a selection of demons, and Lucifer, himself:

We, the influential Lucifer, the young Satan, Beelzebub, Leviathan, Elimi, and Astaroth, together with others, have today accepted the covenant pact of Urbain Grandier, who is ours.

And him do we promise the love of women, the flower of virgins, the respect of monarchs, honors, lusts and powers.

He will go whoring three days long; the carousal will be dear to him.

He offers us once in the year a seal of blood, under the feet he will trample the holy things of the church and he will ask us many questions; with this pact he will live twenty years happy on the earth of men, and will later join us to sin against God.

Bound in hell, in the council of demons.


The seals placed the Devil, the master, and the demons, princes of the lord.

Baalberith, writer.

You’d think if you were selling your soul to the Devil, you might ask for a “Get Out of Jail” card. But alas, poor old Grandier didn’t have that option, and died at the stake. But at least now we know what the Catholic Church believe a pact with the Devil looks like
You may know this story if you’ve seen Ken Russell’s film The Devils, with Oliver Reed as Grandier, and Vanessa Redgrave as Sister Jeanne; or read the book, upon which the film is based, The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley. If not, here’s the film’s trailer to tempt your very soul.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday Oliver Reed

Oliver Reed would have been 75-years-young today. Probably still making movies, entertaining audiences and no doubt fulfilling the needs of unimaginative TV commissioners by appearing, or pretending to be drunk on their tacky chat shows.

I think boredom inspired much of Reed’s bad behavior—it usually took less than 10 minutes of dumb questioning before Reed was playing-up as the resident drunk. It is still refreshing to find an olde interview with the great Hell Raiser, when he was having a night-off and talking (mainly) sense to his interrogator—here Michael Parkinson.

In interviews, Reed could still play the idiot savant (here making daft and knowingly offensive comments about intelligent women—who probably terrified him—Reed was dsylexic, and his own education had been piecemeal), if he had lost interest in the subject matter. Then reveal himself as someone who thought about what he was doing—notably here he discussed making The Devils with Ken Russell, which he tied directly into the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland, where Religion had once again divided a country and set its people murderously against each other.

‘I’m still getting paid for that film. Neither Ken Russell or I got any money for that film [The Devils]. We got our expenses—but we made that film because we thought it was the proper time, and in light, maybe, of the Troubles in Ulster now, it was the proper time for that film to be made. We weren’t trying to afford anybody proper niceties, any proper little entertainments, little asides before tea, we were showing them the bigotry that goes on, or that humanity is capable of, and that was all we were doing….

....How many times have armies fought under the banner of Christianity, and how many lives have been destroyed? Let’s not have it again, please.’

The interview is from the Parkinson chat show in 1973, and amongst the guests are novelist Mickey Spillane and TV personality (famed for being on What’s My Line? in the 1950s, who sadly committed suicide after a shop-lifting charge in the 1980s). Throughout, Reed’s self-deprecating humor is evident and he did couple of funny impressions of Michael Winner and James Stewart. However, it’s still sad to think that such a naturally talented actor is no longer with us.

Happy Birthday Oliver Reed!

Bonus: the full interview with Oliver Reed, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Legendary Film Director Ken Russell has died

The film director Ken Russell died peacefully in his sleep yesterday, he was 84. Russell was one of England’s greatest, most important and influential film directors, whose work revolutionized television and cinema. Russell will be remembered for his original TV docu-dramas, Elgar, The Debussy Film, Delius: The Song of Summer, and Dance of the Seven Veils, and for his cinematic work, Women in Love, The Devils, The Boyfriend, The Music Lovers, Savage Messiah, Mahler, the rock opera Tommy, Altered States, Gothic, Crimes of Passion, Lair of the White Worm, Salome’s Last Dance and The Rainbow.

The term genius is over-used these days to describe third-rate karaoke singers, but in its proper use, as a person of extraordinary intellect and talent, Ken Russell was a genius, and his films are without question some of the greatest cinematic works ever produced. As film writer Tim Lucas noted this morning:

I am reading that Ken Russell has died, and there is nothing else to do but damn the mediocrity that’s outlived him and be immensely grateful for all he gave us—in my case, many films that changed my way of seeing things, and a few that literally changed my life. There was no other film director like him, and we will not see his like again.

Born Henry Kenneth Alfred Russell in Southampton, England, on July 3 1927, to Ethel and Henry Russell. His father owned a shop and was distant and bad tempered, which led to the young Ken spending much of his childhood with his mother watching films in the local picture house. It was here that he saw Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen, which inspired Russell towards film-making.

Ken Russell’s full obituary, after the jump…

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Rare screening of Ken Russell’s masterpiece ‘The Devils’ at London’s East End Festival

Legendary film-director and British national treasure, Ken Russell will introduce one of his greatest and most controversial films The Devils on 1st May during the East End Film Festival at the Barbican in London.

The complete version of Russell’s infamous masterpiece arrives for its second ever UK screening. Breathtaking sets by Derek Jarman and Russell’s confrontational use of religious, sexual and violent imagery conjure a vision of damnation in 17th-century France.

Outspoken, promiscuous priest Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed) is accused of witchcraft by a sexually repressed Mother Superior (Vanessa Redgrave). As rumours of demonic possession spreads to the local nuns, Grandier’s resistance to the encroaching power of the state results in him being made the victim of a show trial in a climate of public hysteria.

Based on events documented in Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun, this is a potentially once in a lifetime chance to see a lost, deeply disturbing British classic.

More details here.

Previously on DM

The Book, The Sculptor, His Life and Ken Russell

Bonus clip of Mark Kermode on Russell’s masterpiece, after the jump…

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Derek Jarman films Duggie Fields: Rare Footage

Derek Jarman films artist Duggie Fields at home, in this rare Super-8 footage from 1975.

Jarman was an artist before he started his film career as a production designer on Ken Russell’s masterpiece The Devils. Jarman designed the now legendary, pristine white-tiled city of Loudon for the film. The design was inspired by Aldous Huxley’s description of the interrogation of the possessed nuns, taken from his novel The Devils of Loudon, as like “a rape in a public toilet.”

Working on The Devils proved a turning point for Jarman, as he discovered the medium through which to best express his artistic vision. From 1970 onwards, he experimented with a Super-8 camera, filming his friends in short home-made movies, which later provided him with a visual lexicon for his films.

At Home with artist Duggie Fields (1975) is more in the style of Kenneth Anger, than Russell, for as Jarman once told me:

I learnt how not to make films from Ken Russell; and how to make them from Kenneth Anger




Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Before The Devils: Bad-Boy Director Ken Russell Calls Down the Angels in 1958

As the British New Wave of filmmaking took off in the late-‘50s, filmmaker Ken Russell went a slightly different route than his cinema-verite-obsessed colleagues with his 26-minute Amerlia and the Angel. Armed with a hefty £300 budget (half of it supplied by the British Film Institute), the 30-year-old newly married and converted Catholic director got Mercedes Quadros, the nine-year-old daughter of the Uruguayan ambassador to London to play Amelia for this imagistic religiously allegorical romp through the City.

Though silent like his previous two shorts, Amelia features spoken narration, which adds to its storybook quality. Russell submitted the film to the BBC, which hired him to make documentaries, and gave him the skills he’d need to eventually become the iconoclastic director of The Devils, Tommy, Altered States, Gothic, and Lair of the White Worm.

Michael Brooke at the BFI website notes:

Despite the film’s minuscule budget, there are numerous imaginative touches: the choreography of the angel ballet at the start (drawing on Russell’s own training as a dancer), the butterfly wallpaper mocking the loss of Amelia’s wings, the hand-held camera mimicking a child’s eye view of the crowded streets, the almost Expressionist treatment of Amelia’s ascent of the stairs (including a surreal shot that initially appears as an empty dress descending of its own accord), and the ascent of the artist into the heavens on a ladder (against a backdrop of painted clouds) before descending with the precious wings.


See Part II and more after the jump!

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment