Filmmaker Ken Russell pulls no punches in this blistering film based on real events that took place in the town of Loudun in the 1600s. Oliver Reed is almost a force of nature in his performance as Father Urbain Grandier, a flawed man of the cloth who is both filled with a worldly lust for power and the pleasures of the flesh, and finally able to see the error of his ways and truly repent. The performance is electric, almost jumping off the screen. You really see the evolution of the man from arrogant womanizer to penitent victim of a conspiracy between the church and the state and finally to martyr. Grandier's popularity and the power that the now deceased Govenor of Loudun bestowed on him makes him a target of those who are conspiring to tear down Loudun's fortifications, and to rid themselves of this willful thorn in their sides. When Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave), the Mother Superior of the Ursuline nuns who is secrectly attracted to Grandier, begins accusing him of bewitching her and her fellow nuns, a claim that was false, Grandier's enemies have the excuse they need to destroy him. With the arrival of the exorcist Father Barre (Michael Gothard), chaos erupts in the city as public exorcisms - actually nothing more than debauched and blasphemus orgies - ensue, much to the delight of the public, who have had their sensibilities dulled by the ravages of the Black Death. Russell does not so much push the envelope with these scenes as rip the envelope to shreds and burn it to ashes. However, it should be noted that his intention here is not to support the behavior of the hysterical nuns and their debauched exorcists, but to show just how fully religion can be corrupted. Contrast is given in Grandier's dawning realization of his own shortcomings. Through this ordeal, he finally finds peace with himself and with his God, something that eludes his accusers. The film has been subjected to much censorship over the years. One scene in particular is still missing, the so-called "Rape of Christ" sequence where the nuns tear down a large statue of Christ and defile it. This scene was intercut with a scene of Grandier conducting a mass, further illustrating the difference between a flawed man who can acknowledge his mistakes, and people who use religion as a means to a selfish end. Grandier's torture has also been heavily censored, so we are only shown bits of his legs being crushed, but you get the idea. Found guilty and sentenced to be burned alive, the now crippled Grandier is dragged through the streets much to the delight of the very people who loved him not so very long ago. His execution is treated like a circus, with people laughing and cheering as the innocent Grandier is slowly immolated, all the while imploring the people of Loudun to stand up to those who would enslave them. This is a very powerful film, one that deserves to be seen in its uncut form. Until then, we have this version, which is the British X version. See this film. It is a mad masterpiece that deserves to be seen.