For years, an uncut version of Ken Russell’s delirious, provocative 1971 witchcraft drama The Devils has been a movie lover’s Holy Grail (no pun intended) on the level of Orson Welles’ unfinished later works. Well, cinematic miracles do happen, and the day after Netflix announced it was restoring Welles’ unfinished, largely unavailable film The Other Side Of The Wind, The Devils has unexpectedly popped up on horror streaming service Shudder. As the company says in a press release, this is the first time that the 109-minute unrated cut of the film has been available in the U.S. since 1971.
Here’s the abbreviated backstory: The Devils, about a rebellious priest accused of witchcraft in 17th century France, was condemned by the Catholic Church as blasphemous upon its initial release. And Warner Bros., the studio that financed it, has been doing its best to bury the film ever since. The film was heavily censored in both the U.K. and U.S. for subsequent theatrical and home-video releases, and it wasn’t until 2012 that the BFI released a complete-ish 107-minute version of the film (sped up from 111 minutes) on DVD in the U.K. In recent years, a 109-minuted unrated U.S. version of the film has been touring repertory theaters and film festivals around the world, but until this morning, it was entirely unavailable on streaming services.
As of today, though, you can watch the most complete version of the film in existence on Shudder.