Paul Elliott’s review published on Letterboxd:
Writer and director Ken Russell took some calculated risks with this epic which sought to undertake to adapt Aldous Huxley’s non-fiction book The Devils of Loudun. Its a mostly successful attempt, and serves as a brutal and bitterly critical parable regarding the destructive strategies that people in influential religious positions can exploit to solidify their power-base by curtailing to state interests and wishes.
Set in 17th-century France, it gives a dramatised historical summary of Father Urbain Grandier, who is assigned an extraordinary portrayal by Oliver Reed, who becomes accused of witchcraft by a sexually repressed nun who's being manipulated by heinous Cardinal Richelieu (Christopher Logue) after he previously safeguarded the city of Loudun From being demolished by the Cardinal who's acting under the orders of Louis XIII. Unethical preachers and physicians fascinatingly populate it along with immoral individuals occupying elective office; in fact, every figure in a position of authority is sinful in one way or another.
It's a carefully executed production which displays intelligence in its presentation with some highly controversial imagery, and it caused controversy and heated discussions when it was initially released as it excavates widespread political immorality within the church. There's a remarkable abundance of religious iconography concurrent with some graphic sexual imagery which occasionally, and seemingly deliberately, takes many of its sequences in absurdist directions; however, it mostly manages to blend and illustrate its themes into a unifying whole which rallies against religious doctrines.