15 Jul 1971

"The Devils" was filmed over a period of 4 months in 1970, at Pinewood Studios, England. The subsequent battles with the censors and the film's financiers are well-documented in this British Film Institute article, Raising Hell

Michael Gothard was cast as an exorcist, Father Barré, brought in for political reasons to help discredit a renegade priest, and local leader, Grandier (Oliver Reed), by extracting a confession from Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave) - a nun obsessed with Grandier - that he has behaved improperly with her.

It is widely thought that Oliver Reed, Vanessa Redgrave and Michael Gothard gave some of the best performances of their career in this film.

This was the first of a number of occasions on which Michael was cast as a religious fanatic: roles as Felton (a Puritan) in "The Four Musketeers", Volthan (A Druid priest) in "Warrior Queen", and the Inquisitor's spy in "Columbus" were to follow.

Watch scenes on Youtube:
Interrogation
King’s jape
Final scene

IMDB entry
GI (4) SJ (9)

This is the grand entrance of Professional Witch-hunter Father Barré (Michael Gothard). He arrives at the convent
in Loudun, accompanied by Father Mignon (Murray Melvin), and takes a seat between local dignitaries, the Baron
de Laubardemont (Dudley Sutton) and Trincant (John Woodvine).

SJ (7) SJ (6)

He asks about the health of Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave), then lays hands on her, and demands that the
demon possessing her declare itself. Getting no reply, he asks Sister Jeanne whether she remembers when her
thoughts turned to evil; she tells him about her romantic fantasy.

SJ (16) SJ (30)

The Baron de Laubardemont warns Father Barré that they could become a laughing stock; Father Barré in turn
warns Sister Jeanne of the danger to her immortal soul, should she persist in her corrupt ways.
Read more... )
Here are a very few glimpses of Michael Gothard between takes.

These first few are Ken Russell doing a bit of filming, and working something out by measuring how far the actor are from the camera. Meanwhile, Michael seems to be annoyed by his glove, and using his teeth to sort it out.

Directing the Devils 1 Directing the Devils 2
Read more... )

The video can be found on Youtube towards the end of this clip.
Harry Fielder, an actor, extra, stuntman, and stand-in known as “Aitch”, had long career in film and TV, and remembered working with Michael.

"I worked with Michael a couple of times in the past ["When the Spirit Moves You" and "The Last Valley"] and the best one was Ken Russell's "The Devils" ... where we worked for a few months down at Pinewood Studios.

... I loved the way he worked ... "The Devils" was hard work for all the actors and Michael at his best ... Michael was playing a really nasty guy, but off set he was a quiet man and we had many laughs with all the cast and crew.

Michael was always word perfect.

He's still in my memory, good guy to work with."

Aitch on IMDB
From: “Phallic Frenzy: Ken Russell and His Films” (Cappella Books) by Joseph Lanza

Russell apparently adopted, with tongue in cheek, John Lennon’s public image circa 1968, of long hair and wire-rimmed glasses for the role of The Devils’ most rancorous religious fanatic: Father Barré (Michael Gothard). In contrast to Lennon, who preached peace like and earthly messiah but eventually sang in “Imagine” about a happy world with “no religion”, Barré was a true and terrorizing believer.

Huxley describes Father Barré as a zealot too caught up in his madness to be consciously deceitful, but Russell once again leaves open a window of doubt. Barré also appears to have more on his mind than saving souls, licking his lips while anticipating Sister Jeanne’s recollection of the night Grandier and “six of his creatures” forced her and her sisters “to form an obscene altar.” … Huxley refers to Jeanne’s exorcism as if “Barré had treated her to an experience that was the equivalent, more or less, of a rape in a public lavatory.”

~~

From: “Evil Spirits – the Life of Oliver Reed” by Cliff Godwin

They send for Father Barré (Michael Gothard), a professional exorcist.
And so begins a series of exorcisms, the like of which has never been seen before in France. The methods that Father Barré and his helpers employ to extract the devils are the most base and erotic ever used.

~~

Online reviews:

Ian Jane


Michael Gothard’s performance as Father Barré is equally fascinating, portraying his rock star exorcist as part Vincent Price from Witchfinder General and part Tim Curry from Rocky Horror Picture Show. He’s flashy, he’s a showman, and his motives are completely questionable but damn does he ever put on a show as he’s going about his business.

Full review on Rock! Shock! Pop!

~~

Simon Moore

Naturally, Richelieu’s problems with Grandier dovetail beautifully with Sister Jeanne’s mad obsession with the moustachioed priest. Devil possession it is. Call in the Witch Hunter, if you’d be so kind. And what a Witch Hunter.

Michael Gothard clocks in a grandstand of a performance, channelling the black comedy of exorcism with an inspired combination of wild-eyed lunacy and sober malice. We know him better as Locque, the silent villain with octagonal glasses from For Your Eyes Only (1981), but he really deserves to be remembered more for his Father Barré, balancing out Oliver Reed’s solemn, individualistic man of God marvellously.

Michael Gothard isn’t the only one deserving of heaps of praise in The Devils … Oliver Reed mesmerises the viewer in one of the true highlights of his acting career …

Full review on Flickering Myth

~~

Craig Skinner

Oliver Reed is joined by a fantastic supporting cast which includes Vanessa Redgrave, Dudley Sutton, Gemma Jones, Michael Gothard and a wonderful performance by Murray Melvin as Mignon.

Full review on FanTasia

~~

Terek Puckett: Supporting Actors: The Overlooked and Underrated

Gothard turns in his best feature film performance by far in director Russell’s classic, controversial historical drama. Curiously restrained in everything else I’ve ever seen him in, Gothard cuts loose in this film with a frenzied, committed performance as a witch hunter employed by the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, Gothard never came close to equalling this perfectly cast role in his acting career.

Full review on Sound on Sight

~~

Adam Groves

All the performers, from seasoned vets like Vanessa Redgrave (as the seemingly lobotomized Sister Jeanne) and Oliver Reed (as Father Grandier) to lesser known talents like Michael Gothard (also seen in SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN, who here plays Father Barré) and Georgina Hale (unforgettable as a white faced nun) seem to have understood and absorbed Russell’s intent, delivering performances that are wildly uninhibited, crazed and outlandish--much like the film itself.

Full review on Fright.com

~~

SergioLeone

The dogs of Richelieu’s religious forces are unleashed—first in the person of a sneering, silver-tongued Baron De Laubardemont (Dudley Sutton), an officer in the royal army, and eventually that of the fairly rabid Father Barre (Michael Gothard), an exorcist whose hysteria for the Host of Hosts frequently crosses the line into wanton, animalistic fury. (As does Gothard’s performance; a friend who saw the movie with me suggested that Gothard, with his slender build, long hair and granny glasses, was Russell’s tip of the cap to the younger generation that was, at the time the movie was released, fueling a resurgence in movie attendance, especially for risky ventures like this one. And it’s true—Gothard comes across like the necessarily unholy offspring of Ray Manzarek and Warren Zevon.)

Full review

.

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