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.
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!
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
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
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
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