Missing

Two or three days ago Ken Russell‘s controversial, long-submerged, curiously-delayed The Devils (1971) turned up on iTunes for sale or rental. This got a little attention in the online press, and then last night….phffft! Yanked, one assumes, by some bigwig at Warner Home Video who hadn’t realized that the digital distribution guys had made it available, or something like that.


Oliver Reed, Vanessa Redgrave in dream sequence from Ken Russell’s The Devils.

This morning I asked a WHV spokesperson to explain this strange turnaround.

“Please help me regarding the issue of The Devils being put on iTunes for a day or two or three and then hastily withdrawn,” I wrote. “This is the second time that The Devils has been put before the public and then withdrawn — the first time in early ’08 when a Devils DVD release was announced and then un-announced, and now with the movie having been recently made available for download and then suddenly withdrawn.

“What in the name of Christ is going on with Warner Bros. and this title?

“I can guess but with this second incident I really do think Warner Bros. owes the intelligent viewing public a frank explanation. This is a highly respected film and arguably Ken Russell‘s greatest, and after going to the trouble of digitally remastering it for distribution (it looked beautiful on my iPhone when I watched it the night before last) Warner Home Video is once again treating it like some kind of ugly hot potato.

“And it’s not right. You know it isn’t. It’s disrespectful and, forgive me, cowardly if, as some suspect, WB is in convulsions about the film because it has the potential to offend the religious right. I have to report about this now because it just happened, but it really is time to explain what is behind all this Warner Bros. weirdness about The Devils.


Do a search for Devils on iTunes movies and this is what comes up. A day or two ago Ken Russell’s The Devils was one of the offerings. I made the mistake of renting it instead of buying. Now I’m out of luck.

“I’ve been told that certain studio guidelines have to be observed, etc. And that’s fine, but what about the studio guideline that says when you issue a press release saying a DVD is coming out, you issue the DVD commercially — no ifs, ands or buts. Or the studio guideline that says when you make a Warner Bros. film available for purchase or rental on iTunes, you make it available for a year or three years or indefinitely but you sure as hell don’t remove it from iTunes after three days?”

Here’s a 3.29.10 article I wrote about the perplexing Warner Home Video Devils DVD situation. And here’s a 5.26.10 article on the same subject by Adam Balz on Not Coming To A Theatre Near You.

  • MickTravisMcGee

    Hmmm, a movie called “The Devils” appears and disappears at whim. Who could be responsible? Could it be … SATAN?

    Yeah, I know. Dated reference. But completely impossible to resist.

  • ElstonGunnAICN

    Damn, I was going to get that tonight.

    Has anyone here seen Russell’s Mahler? It’s wild. Would love to see Criterion get a hold of some of his work.

  • ElstonGunnAICN

    Damn, I was going to get that tonight.

    Has anyone here seen Russell’s Mahler? It’s wild. Would love to see Criterion get a hold of some of his work.

  • MickTravisMcGee

    Also, I think there’s a case to be made that Altered States is Russell’s best. Although I do have a soft spot for Lair of the White Worm.

  • MickTravisMcGee

    Also, I think there’s a case to be made that Altered States is Russell’s best. Although I do have a soft spot for Lair of the White Worm.

  • http://kingdomofdoom.wordpress.com/ TulseLuper

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

    THE PEOPLE WHO WOULD FIND THIS MOVIE OFFENSIVE WOULDN’T WATCH IT.

    They don’t care. If you can get ahold of The Last Temptation of Christ without having to resort to bootlegs, then there is no excuse for this.

  • http://kingdomofdoom.wordpress.com/ TulseLuper

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

    THE PEOPLE WHO WOULD FIND THIS MOVIE OFFENSIVE WOULDN’T WATCH IT.

    They don’t care. If you can get ahold of The Last Temptation of Christ without having to resort to bootlegs, then there is no excuse for this.

  • Markj74
  • Markj74
  • Wrecktem

    “it looked beautiful on my iPhone”

    Wha-wha-wha-what??

  • Wrecktem

    “it looked beautiful on my iPhone”

    Wha-wha-wha-what??

  • Deathtongue_Groupie

    @TulseLuper – first time in the States, I see.

    People who will find this offensive will go out of the their way to be offended by it. They will use it as a fundraising and recruitment tool.

  • Deathtongue_Groupie

    @TulseLuper – first time in the States, I see.

    People who will find this offensive will go out of the their way to be offended by it. They will use it as a fundraising and recruitment tool.

  • Fortunesfool

    Curses. Stupid Warner Bros. And bloody Christian zealots in America.

  • Fortunesfool

    Curses. Stupid Warner Bros. And bloody Christian zealots in America.

  • DeeZee

    Funny that those Warner producers who tried to stiff Fox out of its Watchmen money and then tried to play defense by claiming it was about the “art” don’t want to stand by this company screwing over one of its library titles. But it’s probably less about the fundy thing, and more about the squeaky clean studio bullshit about it being an X-rated film which kept the U.S. from seeing the unrated Eyes Wide Shut for a decade.

  • DeeZee

    Funny that those Warner producers who tried to stiff Fox out of its Watchmen money and then tried to play defense by claiming it was about the “art” don’t want to stand by this company screwing over one of its library titles. But it’s probably less about the fundy thing, and more about the squeaky clean studio bullshit about it being an X-rated film which kept the U.S. from seeing the unrated Eyes Wide Shut for a decade.

  • Hip Hop Homey

    @JW: How can anyone who posts about correct aspect ratios then go and watch ANY film on a crappy Iphone? Seriously, I gotta know. The smallest thing I wil watch movies on is my MBP. Doesn’t the smallness drive you insane, JW?

  • Hip Hop Homey

    @JW: How can anyone who posts about correct aspect ratios then go and watch ANY film on a crappy Iphone? Seriously, I gotta know. The smallest thing I wil watch movies on is my MBP. Doesn’t the smallness drive you insane, JW?

  • Anthony Thorne

    The release listed by MarkJ is a bootleg featuring the uncut UK TV broadcast of the movie, but in less than stellar quality and with a cropped aspect ratio. It also features the Mark Kermode HELL ON EARTH documentary that shows Russell playing the rediscovered Rape of Christ footage to some remaining cast members.

    I can’t remember where I read it – maybe a Russell interview somewhere? – but the story behind Warner’s DEVILS timidity was reportedly some Warner exec high up in the chain – or the head of Warners – being a religious type offended at the idea of the movie, hence internal studio politics keeping the film out of release. I can’t remember any further details or the name of the exec or whether the story is just a frothy misrepresentation of more complex events. Warner have been absolute assholes in respect to this movie though so I wish there was a way to point the finger more directly. THE DEVILS has been a requested title in Home Theater Forum’s annual Warner chats (with guys like George Feltenstein) since the late 90’s – literally, every fucking year, Warner notes that they’re ‘considering’ or ‘looking into’ a release – and at the most recent HTF chat a DEVILS question was given the response from Warner “Ha, how did we know someone would ask about THE DEVILS! :)”. Cue anticipation that Warner were finally going to release the fucking thing. Then, the Warner response continued – “THE DEVILS is still being looked at, nothing new to announce at this time” etc. Numerous pissed off posts in the forum after the chat – reportedly read by Warner execs, according to HTF head Ron Epstein – led to Epstein posting that Warner had told him privately the “reasons” that the film was still in Warner limbo, and that said information put those hard working Warner folk in a good light, nothing they can really do etc, but it’s clear that something stinks. When the uncut NATURAL BORN KILLERS – a film that John Grisham tried to peg the Darrus / Edmondson killings on – gets an uncut Blu with all the bells and whistles, but THE DEVILS (for which Russell says he’s already recorded a commentary) gets sat on continuously, Warner needs to fess up, release Russell’s movie, or acknowledge that they look like weasels for crapping on and suppressing a great director’s finest work. Maybe Warner wants Ken Russell to die before they bother releasing THE DEVILS.

  • Anthony Thorne

    The release listed by MarkJ is a bootleg featuring the uncut UK TV broadcast of the movie, but in less than stellar quality and with a cropped aspect ratio. It also features the Mark Kermode HELL ON EARTH documentary that shows Russell playing the rediscovered Rape of Christ footage to some remaining cast members.

    I can’t remember where I read it – maybe a Russell interview somewhere? – but the story behind Warner’s DEVILS timidity was reportedly some Warner exec high up in the chain – or the head of Warners – being a religious type offended at the idea of the movie, hence internal studio politics keeping the film out of release. I can’t remember any further details or the name of the exec or whether the story is just a frothy misrepresentation of more complex events. Warner have been absolute assholes in respect to this movie though so I wish there was a way to point the finger more directly. THE DEVILS has been a requested title in Home Theater Forum’s annual Warner chats (with guys like George Feltenstein) since the late 90’s – literally, every fucking year, Warner notes that they’re ‘considering’ or ‘looking into’ a release – and at the most recent HTF chat a DEVILS question was given the response from Warner “Ha, how did we know someone would ask about THE DEVILS! :)”. Cue anticipation that Warner were finally going to release the fucking thing. Then, the Warner response continued – “THE DEVILS is still being looked at, nothing new to announce at this time” etc. Numerous pissed off posts in the forum after the chat – reportedly read by Warner execs, according to HTF head Ron Epstein – led to Epstein posting that Warner had told him privately the “reasons” that the film was still in Warner limbo, and that said information put those hard working Warner folk in a good light, nothing they can really do etc, but it’s clear that something stinks. When the uncut NATURAL BORN KILLERS – a film that John Grisham tried to peg the Darrus / Edmondson killings on – gets an uncut Blu with all the bells and whistles, but THE DEVILS (for which Russell says he’s already recorded a commentary) gets sat on continuously, Warner needs to fess up, release Russell’s movie, or acknowledge that they look like weasels for crapping on and suppressing a great director’s finest work. Maybe Warner wants Ken Russell to die before they bother releasing THE DEVILS.

  • Markj74

    @Anthony Thorne: Thanks for clearing that up.

  • Markj74

    @Anthony Thorne: Thanks for clearing that up.

  • http://kingdomofdoom.wordpress.com/ TulseLuper

    Deathtongue_Groupie: I’ve lived in the States all my life actually. Was that comment really necessary? Let’s think about this for a moment: Firstly, the film caused much more of a stir in the UK than over here. Secondly, films that the religious right would despise are released on DVD all the time. They reissue Life of Brian constantly. Does anyone go out and protest that fact? A Clockwork Orange was released by Warner Bros. the same year as The Devils, and freaked people out even more. Is Clockwork Orange impossible to get ahold of? I don’t care if it’s a Kubrick film and therefore “more important.” They certainly wouldn’t take that into consideration.

    The religious right only care about what’s offensive to them now, not what was offensive to them 40 years ago. If they just grew a pair and put the film out finally, I guarantee you that nobody besides fans of the film would notice.

  • http://kingdomofdoom.wordpress.com/ TulseLuper

    Deathtongue_Groupie: I’ve lived in the States all my life actually. Was that comment really necessary? Let’s think about this for a moment: Firstly, the film caused much more of a stir in the UK than over here. Secondly, films that the religious right would despise are released on DVD all the time. They reissue Life of Brian constantly. Does anyone go out and protest that fact? A Clockwork Orange was released by Warner Bros. the same year as The Devils, and freaked people out even more. Is Clockwork Orange impossible to get ahold of? I don’t care if it’s a Kubrick film and therefore “more important.” They certainly wouldn’t take that into consideration.

    The religious right only care about what’s offensive to them now, not what was offensive to them 40 years ago. If they just grew a pair and put the film out finally, I guarantee you that nobody besides fans of the film would notice.

  • anonymous2

    Seriously Jeff, how can you watch a movie on your iphone? Please explain.

  • anonymous2

    Seriously Jeff, how can you watch a movie on your iphone? Please explain.

  • Terry McCarty

    Anyone watch this on an iPad during Apple’s short distribution?

    Also noted some link on AOL (didn’t bother to click it) about how Steve Jobs is a current religious right hero for being “antipornography” in terms of what apps/content are sold on Apple.

    Perhaps Jobs could have pulled the plug on THE DEVILS before WHV did.

  • Terry McCarty

    Anyone watch this on an iPad during Apple’s short distribution?

    Also noted some link on AOL (didn’t bother to click it) about how Steve Jobs is a current religious right hero for being “antipornography” in terms of what apps/content are sold on Apple.

    Perhaps Jobs could have pulled the plug on THE DEVILS before WHV did.

  • matt cousens

    watching a movie on a phone is lame.

  • matt cousens

    watching a movie on a phone is lame.

  • Josh Massey

    Yeah, seriously, does anybody really think this would cause a peep of controversy if released on DVD? It wouldn’t exactly get a loud, media-driven rollout.

  • Josh Massey

    Yeah, seriously, does anybody really think this would cause a peep of controversy if released on DVD? It wouldn’t exactly get a loud, media-driven rollout.

  • Bob Hightower

    Ken Russell’s best movies are his TV movies

    THE BIGGEST DANCER IN THE WORLD

    and SONG OF SUMMER.

  • Bob Hightower

    Ken Russell’s best movies are his TV movies

    THE BIGGEST DANCER IN THE WORLD

    and SONG OF SUMMER.

  • bmcintire

    Ugh.

    I bought this on iTunes yesterday morning with the intent on watching (via AppleTV) this weekend. So now when I get home it will probably have disappeared with a $9.99 credit to my account.

    Shit!

  • bmcintire

    Ugh.

    I bought this on iTunes yesterday morning with the intent on watching (via AppleTV) this weekend. So now when I get home it will probably have disappeared with a $9.99 credit to my account.

    Shit!

  • DeeZee

    Thorne: I’m still waiting for the Golden Harvest stuff on R1 myself. But I could swear they screened The Devils at the Egyptian recently, too.

  • DeeZee

    Thorne: I’m still waiting for the Golden Harvest stuff on R1 myself. But I could swear they screened The Devils at the Egyptian recently, too.

  • markj
  • markj

    @Anthony Thorne: Thanks for clearing that up.

  • bmcintire

    Well, it’s still on my hard drive – for now.

  • bmcintire

    Well, it’s still on my hard drive – for now.

  • Wrecktem

    Even the spammers are appalled.

  • Wrecktem

    Even the spammers are appalled.

  • Bob Violence

    when did WB get the rights to distribute the unrated ‘Natural Born Killers’? I thought Stone had gotten them to sell off the unrated rights when the corporate policy was to not release unrated/NC-17 movies.

    The old Trimark disc went out of print in 2007, so probably around then. In all likelihood Trimark’s license expired and the rights reverted to Warner — I doubt WB sold it outright (the Trimark release still carries a WB copyright).

  • Bob Violence

    when did WB get the rights to distribute the unrated ‘Natural Born Killers’? I thought Stone had gotten them to sell off the unrated rights when the corporate policy was to not release unrated/NC-17 movies.

    The old Trimark disc went out of print in 2007, so probably around then. In all likelihood Trimark’s license expired and the rights reverted to Warner — I doubt WB sold it outright (the Trimark release still carries a WB copyright).

  • http://projectorhasbeendrinking.blogspot.com The Hoyk

    Bob V. is essentially correct. Since Arnon Milchan’s Regency was an equity partner in the movie, WB basically allowed them to farm out the unrated cut to the former Trimark, so it was more a favor to Milchan than a request from Stone.

  • http://projectorhasbeendrinking.blogspot.com The Hoyk

    Bob V. is essentially correct. Since Arnon Milchan’s Regency was an equity partner in the movie, WB basically allowed them to farm out the unrated cut to the former Trimark, so it was more a favor to Milchan than a request from Stone.

  • Gordn27

    Stone has always said he had to push for it, whereas Milchan is the guy who produced ‘Brazil’, ‘Once Upon A Time In America’, and ‘Legend’ in the same year; who do you think cared more about getting Oliver Stone’s true directorial vision to the people?

  • Gordn27

    Stone has always said he had to push for it, whereas Milchan is the guy who produced ‘Brazil’, ‘Once Upon A Time In America’, and ‘Legend’ in the same year; who do you think cared more about getting Oliver Stone’s true directorial vision to the people?

  • Tsuyoi

    @bmcintire: They’re not going to take it off your hard drive. I wouldn’t worry about it. If you are really worried about it, back it up to a DVD or something.

  • Tsuyoi

    @bmcintire: They’re not going to take it off your hard drive. I wouldn’t worry about it. If you are really worried about it, back it up to a DVD or something.

  • http://projectorhasbeendrinking.blogspot.com The Hoyk

    The cuts and delays that plaugued BRAZIL, LEGEND, and ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA are the fault of the studios who released them, not Milchan. Milchan is also responsible for producing L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, FIGHT CLUB, Stone’s previous films JFK and HEAVEN AND EARTH, THE KING OF COMEDY, and other quality films. As such, I think he and Stone cared equally about getting Stone’s true vision to the people.

  • http://projectorhasbeendrinking.blogspot.com The Hoyk

    The cuts and delays that plaugued BRAZIL, LEGEND, and ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA are the fault of the studios who released them, not Milchan. Milchan is also responsible for producing L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, FIGHT CLUB, Stone’s previous films JFK and HEAVEN AND EARTH, THE KING OF COMEDY, and other quality films. As such, I think he and Stone cared equally about getting Stone’s true vision to the people.

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