Monday, June 21, 2010

THE DEVILS DIGITAL PREMIERE... ON iTUNES?


UPDATED!


The word from Sergio at Shadow and Act is that, despite the fact that it is only available on a DVD of unconfirmed quality and not at all available on any kind of official DVD release from Warner Bros. Home Video, the 108-minute version of Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971) is now available in 2.35:1 for download from, of all places, iTunes. There is some tech spec going on here as to the viability of burning that download onto a DVD—obviously seeing Russell’s wide-screen imagery and Derek Jarman’s masterful set design on a 3.5-inch iPod screen isn’t the best way to see the movie (I’ll blow it up to 17 inches or so on my laptop), but in a time when corporate feet are colder than ever in regards to whether or not the climate around Warner Bros. can withstand the predicted shit-storm over the release of the film through conventional home video channels, I guess this relatively under-the-radar release will have to do. I have not yet given up hope for that official DVD release with the infamous ”Rape of Christ” sequence intact, but for now this masterpiece, reduced to a mere pixel’s shadow of its glorious big-screen self, should be grabbed at a $9.99 bargain while the grabbing is good.

(Thanks to Brian Saur for the tip!)

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UPDATED 6/22/10 Not so fast! Be sure to follow the thread in the comments column for all the latest on this very tantalizing, frustrating non-development in the ongoing history of Russell's film and the forces that would keep a well-designed, official DVD out of the American home video market.

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18 comments:

Marilyn said...

I'm not really sure what's wrong with getting the Eurocult DVD. Is it the aspect ratio?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Good question, Marilyn. The info on the Eurocult DVD suggests that everything is up to snuff, technically speaking. But have you actually seen the DVD? Does it measure up in terms of picture quality? I'm just hesitant to order items like this because when I have in the past, they have often been found wanting in terms of the clarity of the actual picture. With iTunes it's a pretty good guess, and there has been some testimony already, that the quality is good. If you have seen the DVD, would you mind speaking to some of that? Even without the "Rape of Christ" sequence, it'd be good to have the option.

Marilyn said...

I own the DVD. It doesn't have the kind of clarity we fans of the film would like, but it does have the expurgated footage and a very good "making of" the restoration feature extra. I honestly doubt this download will look any better than the Eurocult film, as I've heard nothing about a restoration of the film.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

I'm very interested in that "making of," to be sure. But just to be clear, by "expurgated footage" are you saying the 108-minute version on that Eurocult DVD contains the "Rape of Christ" sequence? If that's true, with that 50-minute documentary perhaps that existing DVD is worth the $$.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Because wasn't the original X-rated cut seen here in the U.S. originally 108 minutes long, with about four minutes or so of cuts made to it after the fact? And that 108-minute version did not, as far as I know, include that notorious lost sequence. So the versions on the DVD and the download would be the full cut the U.S. audiences saw, minus the "Rape of Christ" which did not make the trip overseas after the original U.K. release, correct?

Jonathan Pacheco said...

The Uncut Eurocult DVD does claim to have the Rape of Christ sequence (or so it claims here), but what confuses me is that this version is 108 minutes...and so is the iTunes version which supposedly DOESN'T have the sequence. I've been reading about a 111 minute version, a censored 103 minute version, and this current version, but several sites aren't matching up on running times of the different cuts (109, 105...). Is the iTunes version a different cut that ended up at the same running time, despite taking out that entire sequence?

I'd love to hear definitive answers to these questions so I know which version to buy (my paranoid side is fearful that the iTunes version won't last long, so if that's my easiest and best shot all things considered, I want to jump on it quickly. With my AppleTV, watching it on a big screen isn't an issue at all).

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Right, Jonathan, the confusion continues..

The link to the Eurocult DVD I provided says the version on that DVD runs 108 minutes, whereas the one you provided says it runs 111 minutes and includes the infamous sequence.

This disparity of information doesn't make me feel confident about what I'm going to get from Eurocult, and unfortunately you have to jump through a bunch of hoops I'm unwilling to jump through on that HKFlix site in order to read the 22 customer comments about the DVD.

Marilyn, you've heard nothing about a restoration, nor has anyone, and I don't think there's been anything said beyond the announcement in 2008 (which was retracted) that the movie was being prepped for DVD release by WB. But a restoration is precisely what Eurocult is advertising in the link Jonathan provided. Whaaaa?

le0pard13 said...

Thanks for the info, Dennis. There are ways to get iTunes movies to play from your computer to a TV. In lieu of a production DVD, their film prints (for the most part) aren't bad and display well on the newer flat panel TV monitors.

One of my all-time neo noir favorites, Hickey & Boggs made it to iTunes over a year ago. It's the best version I have of the film (widescreen and a fine, clean print). For years, only the 4:3 VHS was worth looking at -- the DVD of it was pure crap (if you look at it, you can see it's just a bad recording of the VHS on somebody's TV). I play the digital movie on my 46" LCD monitor and the print holds up well (decent sound, too).

I'll definitely get THE DEVILS from iTunes and hope WB will eventually release it with the extras the film deserves. Great find, Dennis.

Marc Edward Heuck said...

Apparently, our discussion is moot; iTunes has now yanked THE DEVILS from sale.

Here is what I've been able to piece together. The "Rape of Christ" sequence was removed from the film before it was even submitted to the BBFC; the final cut there was 111 minutes. When the film was released in the U.S., 3 more minutes were cut for what is the 108 minute version that was rated X. WB cut another 5 minutes out for a 103 minute version rated R that was paired up with THE EXORCIST on the revival/drive-in/four-wall circuit. ("Prepare yourself for THE EXORCIST with THE DEVILS" the ads read) In the early '80's, WB quietly resubmitted the original 108-minute cut and it received an R rating. That is what is available in repertory (provided you can get the print; WB is loath to let it out to anyone), and what was available on iTunes.

Mark Kermode in the UK worked with Russell to find the lost footage, including the "Rape of Christ," and a new assembly was put together which was screened twice, once at the NFT, and once at the Stonebridge University where Russell was teaching. WB resisted Kermode's efforts, but allowed the "Rape" footage to be shown once on TV, within the confines of the retropsective special on the history of the film. There was the tease in 2008 of a U.S. DVD release, with that 111 minute running time and new cover art, but of course that got yanked.

The DVD that everyone is alluding to is a bootleg. It uses a 1.85 transfer of the 108 minute version (sourced from either an old VHS tape or UK TV broadcast) with the 2.35 "Rape" footage digitally inserted into it.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Thanks, Marc, for answering Marilyn's question about the DVD, and the rest of the puzzlers floating around here, with such clarity.

But, still, goddamn it! What is the deal with dribbling the movie out on iTunes for 24 hours or less, with little or no fanfare, and then pulling it? I don't remember another case where a movie long-anticipated for its home video release was so dangled and yanked around and rescheduled and otherwise so fearfully avoided as this one. I'd really like to find out from Warner Brothers what the purpose of this little exercise was, other than to frustrate an admittedly specialized fan base yet again.

Marc Edward Heuck said...

A friend of a friend of a friend told me that on some occasions, the digital distribution department at WB takes a master and releases it to iTunes without informing any other studio departments. Betcha this is what happened and the high brass saw all the press and demanded it removed. WB really has a hate-on for this movie. According to Jeff Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere, supposedly Time Warner chairman Alan Horn is a notorious conservative who even had problems with THE HANGOVER, and as such does not want such an anti-religious movie, complete with scenes that will inflame the fundamentalists, coming out on his watch.

Jonathan Pacheco said...

Dangit, I knew I should have bought it when I had the chance. How frustrating.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Late to this dance - but one thing to keep in mind on running times is with conversion from PAL, some films run a tiny bit faster, 25fps versus 24fps. Case in point is the British DVD I have of Eyes Wide Shut which has a slightly shorter running time, but is actually the complete film. I did the math.

Anonymous said...

I just checked iTunes -- it's not there.

Marilyn said...

Sorry not to get back to you sooner, but I got busy.

The rape of Christ sequence is in the Eurocult DVD, as are several other excised scenes, such as when Vanessa Redgrave uses a burnt bone from Father Grandier as a dildo.

It is not correct that the British and American censors did not see the scene. In fact, the "making of" interviews an American Catholic priest who saw the scene and did not find it blasphemous. But it was cut anyway.

I don't think we can expect Warners to release the film or allow anyone else access to it. I'm quite sure in this political/religious climate, they don't want any trouble. I suggest you get the Eurocult DVD. I'm very glad I did.

Shade Rupe said...

Heuck is close.

The film was submitted back in the day and several moments were edited out. These bits are now referred to as The Rape of Christ (very unfortunate because this phrase is turning people at Warner off), and Redgrave masturbating with Reed's burnt leg bone, and ten additional seconds which no one felt worthwhile. Ken Russell, his editor Mike Bradsell, and Mark Kermode were allowed full access and worked with two Warner techies in the UK. The additional material was digitzed and Mike edited it into a new digibeta of the film. THERE IS NO PRINT ON THIS EARTH THAT _EVER_ INCLUDED THIS MATERIAL. IT ONLY EXISTS ON DIGIBETA. There are at least two digibetas, one in the UK, and one in the US.

When you see a version that says 103 mins most of us agree that this refers to a PAL running time which equals 108 mins NTSC. The additional material runs three minuts, for a 'total' running time of 111 mins.

The longest print I've seen is four seconds longer than any other cut I've seen. This print belong to a private collector and has been retired. The four seconds occur during a pan across Redgrave as she's being delivered an enema and we see the bellows. All other prints I've seen over the years do not have this four seconds. I've seen this print twice, once in the mid-'90s and again last year. This was the same print screened at IFC in January 2010 even though they list the running time as 111 mins, which was incorrect.

Mark was again close with the screenings. The first premiere screening of the 'director's cut' was Nov. 23, 2004 at the National Film Theater and all parties were present. The digibeta was screened again at the 2006 Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Film, and again in 2007 at the Southampton school.

The Angel bootleg is a high-contrast low-quality dub of the Channel 4 broadcast with the two sequences cut into the film.

For anyone willing to leave North America to see the film, Warner will allow its play in Europe. In fact one of the two rape of Christ sequences they found were from a Japanese print. The sequence was excised so early that there is no music nor sound for it so Mr. Bradsell took pieces of music from other parts of the film.

Even Mr. Russell finds it all a bit over the top and is fine with the current 108-min version. For now the only way to see it is to book the UK digibeta in a venue in Europe. At this time Warner will not allow the director's cut to be screened in North America.

Anonymous said...

The Eurocult DVD of THE DEVILS is no doubt a boot of the Alpha Digital boot which, in turn, is a boot taken from the original boot i created and gave to a friend of mine for him to sell as a 2-Disc DVD-R Special Edition on his cult-film DVD-R website!
I used the UK sell-thru tape (the longest version ever officially available for home viewing anywhere as well as the best quality and best framed), which represented the UK theatrical release. This version was much more compete than the American cinema and video release, which was this UK theatrical print further trimmed by Warner in the States.
So, using this half-OAR, longest version available, i reinserted the 'Rape of Christ' sequence from the documentary (without reframing it, as i was using a VCR and DVD Recorder!) only. Then, i collected various image materials and made the stills gallery/slideshow on my DVD Recorder too, added the trailer from the sell-thru video release, the James Ferman interview from a video recording of EMPIRE OF THE CENSORS recorded from TV years back, the HELL ON EARTH documentary and other bits on a 2nd disc. My friend then created sleeve art for it and made copies of our "2-Disc Special Edition" dvd-r on his website years back. Although, it should be noted that we DID make sure on HIS sleeve art and website that it was clearly stated that the film was a "near-complete, almost uncut" composite and that it represented the longest and most complete (yet still, slightly incomplete) edit ever assembled to be vieweed by fans. Luminous Film and Video Wurks snapped up a copy from him and crammed all the 2 discs worth of stuff onto 1 disc, converted it to NTSC from PAL, made it anamorphic and made it available through their Alpha Digital bootleg/fake DVD "label" soon after. Most people recognise this release and review it as shoddy quality...but i always thought the original 2-Disc PAL format version i put together and gave to my friend to circulate on his website was decent quality really for such a rare composite!

The first time i ever saw the film it was in its butchered American version (same version that was released on video in the 1980s here in the UK). Next, i caught it on German satellite TV with more explicit footage, which turned out to be exactly the same version of the film as later got released on sell-thru video here in the UK in the 1990s (although, the UK tape bettered the German TV broadcast by having a better ratio, as the German TV version was something like 1.66:1 and the UK re-release tape is something around 1.75:1/1.77:1 i seem to recall).
So, the American release was probably the most censored of all, as it took the cut UK theatrical print version and cut it further...

If it ever gets a DVD release with the found footage restored it will still be incomplete though as some of the cut footage was aparently not present amongst what was found. The 'Rape of Christ' sequence and Sister Jeanne's masturbation with leg-bone and some less-important trims were found, but the multiple trims made to the crushing of Grandier's legs were not found, apparently, and neither was the "shit on the altar" footage...
But, a 99% uncut and complete Director's Cut would be amazing anyway!

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