It is with great regret that I learned today that the British filmmaker Ken Russell has passed away at the age of 84. He was one of the most controversial English filmmakers of the late 1960s and 1970s and his films such as "Women In Love" and "The Devils" were ground breaking works that broke many taboos and are still being debated to this day.
"The Devils" from 1971 caused enormous controversy in its time and is about to be re-released in a new version. Based on true events, it depicts extreme behaviour surrounding nuns gripped by mass hysteria in 17th Century France where their behaviour was interpreted as being mass possessions by evil spirits, similar to the Salem witch trials in North America. The film was deemed to be blasphemous and its imagery of sexual violence led to the film being banned in many countries and heavily edited in others such as the UK. The release of the film in its full version has become a fascination with UK film critics such as Mark Kermode. There are many clips on the web featuring Mark talking about the film. Here's one where he discusses the film with well known British film producer Steve Wooley.
Though not as well known as his other films and probably made after he peaked as a director, I am quite fond of his 1986 film "Gothic". With considerable dramatic license, it interprets the events of the night in Switzerland when Mary Shelley dreamt up the story for her gothic novel "Frankenstein". Here's the trailer.