Film Review – Charlie Louvin ‘Still Rattlin’ The Devil’s Cage’

November 27, 2011 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  9 Comments

From directors Blake Judd and Keith Neltner comes the timely, well-crafted, and visually-stunning account of Country Music Hall of Famer and Grand Ole Opry member Charlie Louvin’s life and final days called Still Rattlin’ The Devil’s Cage. This 45-minute film features interviews with many country greats, including Charlie Louvin himself, his son Sonny Louvin, Emmylou Harris, George Jones, Alison Krauss, Marty Stuart, and John McCrea from the group Cake. Aside from exhuming Gram Parsons for a sit down, no expense or resource was spared on a film that includes some of the best cinematography and artistic vision you will see in a film project of any size or budget.

The film’s roots go back to a visit Blake Judd and Keith Neltner made to Charlie’s home in 2008 as part of another project. They stayed in touch with the country legend over the years, and in July of 2010 it was announced that Louvin had been diagnosed with pancreatic Cancer. When a concert was planned for December of 2010 to mark the 50th Anniversary of The Louvin Brother’s legendary album Satan Is Real, Judd and Neltner knew it was something that must be captured.

The spark was the Anniversary show in Nashville, which ended up being Charlie’s last public performance, but the film grew to encompass a capstone of Charlie’s entire life, from his very poor childhood in rural Alabama, to the formation of The Louvin Brothers, his military service, his brother Ira’s bouts with the bottle and eventual death, and the resurgence of Charlie Louvin’s career late in life. Charlie passed away January 26th, 2011, while Still Rattlin’ The Devil’s Cage was in production.

Read About The Undeniable Influence of Charlie Louvin

Blake Judd’s vision is combined with Keith Neltner’s artistic prowess to make a film that is breathtaking to the senses, and does justice to the historical significance of the subject matter. It is one of those films that regardless of your allegiance or knowledge of the subject, it sucks you right in from the opening cut to the credit roll. No creative storytelling was needed; Louvin’s legacy supplies that. The filmmakers had the wisdom to sit back and let the story unfold for them.

The greatest element of this film is that it captures with great wisdom that Charlie Louvin’s life was a victory. The epitaph that it conveys with a bold starkness is simply “He won.” And this isn’t just tribute or flattery. Charlie was born in the poorest of conditions in the Deep South, and rose up to become a legend. He faced the deepest of personal tragedies in the death of his brother and music partner Ira, and became a better, even more devout person from it. He suffered the death of relevancy by the cold and unforgiving country music business, yet found a home late in life in the independent music world, and enjoyed an inspiring resurgence in his career.

The moral of the story is that victory is within anyone’s reach. That is the everlasting message to go with Charlie Louvin’s everlasting influence on American music.

And this film itself is a victory for the legacy of country music, the importance of the independent country music community, and filmmakers Blake Judd, Keith Neltner, and the entire “Devil’s Cage” production team that includes Brian Steege as Director of Photography, Editor Todd Tue, and Writer Jeff Chambers. This film is so uncompromising, it serves as their magnum opus up to this point. Charlie Louvin slipped through the country music cracks later in life. Like so many others, he was too old, forgotten by the wayside. But the independent country music community acted like a safety net, rising up to support Charlie in his late-life resurgence.

Read How Charlie Louvin Found Support in the Grass Roots

The whole Devil’s Cage team came on the scene just in time to chronicle Charlie’s final days with the help of the people of country music through Kickstarter who gave of their time and money to make this film happen. And they didn’t just tell the story, they did so in a way that did a legendary career, legendary music, and an inspiring life, due justice.

Two guns up!

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Still Rattlin’ The Devil’s Cage will be officially released on DVD December 3rd, with the proceeds of the 1,000 limited-edition copies going to the Louvin family to help pay Charlie’s medical expenses.

Purchase Still Rattlin’ The Devil’s Cage

The film has also been entered into numerous film festivals. Stay tuned to Saving Country Music for more developments on Still Rattlin’ The Devil’s Cage.

9 Comments to “Film Review – Charlie Louvin ‘Still Rattlin’ The Devil’s Cage’”

  • I only became a fan of the Louvin Bros a few years ago, but I’m really thankful that this film was made. I can’t wait to see it. Great review, Triggerman!


  • Sounds stunning. Can’t wait to see it.


  • I was thinking of grabbing that double disc re-issue of Satan Is Real but that might have to wait until after the holidays…


  • I couldn’t agree more. It’s so beautifully made and such a great tribute to the man and legend Charlie Louvin. The opening credits alone convinced me that the 45 following minutes will be special (I assumed the film would be longer, but when it was over I was more than satisfied, so no complaints there). “The filmmakers had the wisdom to sit back and let the story unfold for them.” Yes! The images they provide connect the threads with style, and I especially enjoyed Emmylou’s and Marty Stuart’s contributions (a little bit disappointed that Sweetheart of The Rodeo wasn’t mentioned).

    I’m glad I contributed to this Kickstarter project and got the rough cut DVD, because the DVD proper can’t be pre-ordered from outside the US/Canada…which is a bit frustrating.


    • –> Just got a reply on their facebook page that they’re working on international pre-orders!


    • You kind of expect a film you buy on DVD to be an hour long, but they have big plans for this film, and coming in at 45 minutes means it could be shown on TV at some point, and I could totally see this on PBS, or GAC or something. I also think if it was much longer, it would have lost it’s flow, and I didn’t think it felt rushed either, until maybe the very end.


    • I just found out that international pre-orders are possible now. No update on facebook or anything, I just kept trying and now you can scroll down and choose your country. Bad news for Europeans though: “International Flat Rate (Outside U.S.): $24.00″ For a single DVD…I’m sorry, but I gotta pass then.

      I import stuff from the US a lot, and it always amazes me how much shipping costs vary. Those Poor Bastards for example used to just charge a couple of Dollars more, whereas stuff from Hank III’s 3bay was just insane (probably still is, I don’t know).


  • This is the kind of information that keeps me coming back to SCM. Nice job T-man.
    The back story about the timing of Charlie’s death in relation to the completion of the film reminds me of the passing of Bob Wills in relation to the completion of the “For the Last Time” album. For the Last Time is the masterwork headed up by Merle Haggard which brought many of the surviving Texas Playboys together just prior to Bob Wills passing into a coma. FTLT is one of the very best albums of any genre ever recorded.

    Also nice to read your review of “4 Strings” by Willy Tea Taylor. A gem for sure.


  • […] Triggerman of Saving Country Music reviewed the Charlie Louvin film Still Rattlin’ the Devil’s Cage.  (Psst: here’s an interview with Louvin from The 9513 […]


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