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The Exorcist

A 1973 American horror film

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Trivia, facts and blunders from The Exorcist - Part 2

  • Sep 30, 2010

Ellen Burstyn, who played the role of Chris MacNeil, Regan’s mother, was injured on the set during filming. In the scene where she is checking on her daughter and later thrown away from the bed, she received a permanent injury to her spine: the harness that was used to shoot the scene pulled her away quickly and when she landed, Burstyn landed on her coccyx.  The scream seen immediately following the moment when Regan’s mother is tossed away from the bed is a very real scream, produced by the agonizing pain the actress experienced.

An interesting point of trivia related to The Exorcist film is the fact that the cold bedroom scenes were produced through the use of several air conditioners: temperatures on the set were incredibly cold, as cold as -30 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. At one point, it actually began to snow on the set as a result of the amount of moisture in the air in conjunction with the cold temperatures.  It was so cold that perspiration actually froze on crew and actor's faces.

In the disturbing scene where The Devil/Regan is masturbating with the crucifix Linda Blair said she had no idea what it was supposed to mean, she was just bringing down the crucifix into a box.

The scream of the demon being thrown out of Linda Blair was actually created by recording squealing pigs being driven into slaughter.

There are reports of a carpenter being seriously injured while building the sets for the movie and some reports claim that a carpenter lost some of his fingers while working on the set.

The viewing public had different reactions to the film: some people would faint during the film, some would become physically ill, and others enjoyed the movie immensely. The Exorcist ended up being a huge success grossing 160 million dollars in 1973 and falling second in terms of sales to The Godfather. Ironically enough, after filming, the director Friedkin took the production to 666 Fifth Avenue in New York for editing and post production.  When the film was first shown in Rome, Italy, it was played at the Metropolitan Theatre, just a short distance from two churches that were built in the sixteenth century; both churches had crosses on the top of them.   According to Joe Hyams, as people were entering the theatre to watch the film, it was raining and lightening was flashing. Soon following, a sudden loud noise erupted; one of the crosses on the nearby church had been struck by lightning; the cross was estimated to be approximately eight feet long and 400 years old – it fell to the ground landing in the center of the piazza after being struck.  What are the chances?

Very brief cutaways appear in the film in order to make the audience uneasy. The most famous is the demon face – the face was that of Eileen Dietz who also starred in Happy Days and General Hospital. 

For the vomiting sequences, Eileen Dietz doubled (uncredited) for Linda Blair, and later sued unsuccessfully for puking credit. Makeup veteran Dick Smith rigged Dietz’s facial contours with sheets of heat-formed plexiglass that were secured at the corners of her mouth and behind her head. A camouflaged nozzle anchored in Dietz’s oral cavity provided the apparatus through which the “vomit” could be forcefully discharged, fed by supply tubes discreetly embedded in the plexiglass on both sides of her face. Such was the complexity of the set-up that Dietz could barely swallow or close her mouth. 

A filmgoer who saw the movie in 1974 during its original release fainted and broke his jaw on the seat in front of him. He then sued Warner Brothers and the filmmakers, claiming that the use of subliminal imagery in the film had caused him to pass out. The studio settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. The film affected many audiences so strongly that at many theaters, paramedics were called to treat people who fainted and others who went into hysterics.

The substance that the possessed Regan hurls at Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) is thick pea soup. Specifically, it’s Andersen’s brand pea soup. The crew tried Campbell’s but didn’t like the “effect.”

Gonzalo Gavira was called on to create many of the special sound effects after William Friedkin recalled his work from El topo (1970). One of the more memorable sounds, the 360-degree turning of Regan’s head, was actually made by twisting a sound crew member’s old leather wallet in front of a mike.

Linda Blair injured her back when a piece of the rig broke as she was thrown about on the bed.

Mercedes McCambridge played the voice of the demon; not Blair.  Mercedes McCambridge regurgitated on a mixture of chewed, mushy apple and raw egg to produce the sound effect of Regan’s projectile vomiting.  Since Mercedes did not receive the credit for the demon voice, she sued.

Linda Blair received her Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination before it was widely known that previous Supporting Actress winner Mercedes McCambridge had actually provided the voice of the demon. By Academy rules once Blair was given the nomination it could not be withdrawn, but the controversy about Blair being given credit for another actress’ work ruined her chances of winning the award.

The “Exorcist steps”, 75 (or 74 – one is very small) stone steps at the end of M Street in Georgetown, were padded with 1/2″-thick rubber to film the death of Father Karras. The stuntman tumbled down the stairs twice. Georgetown University students charged people around $5 each to watch the stunt from the rooftops.

There are tales about ominous events surrounding the year-long shoot, including the deaths of nine people associated with the production and stories about a mysterious fire that destroyed the set one weekend. Actors Jack MacGowran (who played Burke Dennings) and Vasiliki Maliaros (Father Karras’ Mother) died before the film was released.

One of the most famous scenes in the movie and the shot used for the posters and the cover of the DVD/VHS releases was inspired by the 1954 painting “Empire of Light” (“L’Empire des lumières”) by René Magritte. It is the scene where Fr. Merrin steps out of a cab and stands in front of the MacNeil residence bathed in an eerie glow.

Trivia, facts and blunders from The Exorcist - Part 2 Trivia, facts and blunders from The Exorcist - Part 2 Trivia, facts and blunders from The Exorcist - Part 2 Trivia, facts and blunders from The Exorcist - Part 2 Trivia, facts and blunders from The Exorcist - Part 2

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June 21, 2011
Gavira was an aural superhero, the kind of man who comes along once or twice and a half in a generation. Never mind his so-called date of "death;" the concept meant as little to him as it did to DalĂ­ or Andy Kaufman. Somewhere, perhaps in another galaxy, he's yanking a suctioned plastic cup from his navel before a massive megaphone to the delight of a frenzied, keening, eldritch populace who worship him as an arch-deity.
November 27, 2010
whoa. you've outdone yourself in your coverage of this, Brenda. Nice work!

P.S. I am possessed....possessed of awesomeness. LOL!
November 28, 2010
Thanks Woo -- and yes, you are awesomeness possessed for sure!! How about the toe sies? They possessed too? LOL
October 31, 2010
There was so much silliness around this flick that it was just unbelieveable. Every nutcase in the country came out of the theater claiming to be possessed.
November 05, 2010
I can believe that!! The mind is a powerful thing and I suppose the movie was intense enough to bring all that silliness out of some people!!
November 07, 2010
True, true.
October 21, 2010
I like the way you did this
November 05, 2010
Thanks Alex - it was lots of fun to do!!
More The Exorcist reviews
review by . October 31, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     When the end credits suite from "The Exorcist" begin to play, all questions that we might have had regarding the movie have been answered; and we finally understand its power. Even after the credits run their course, some might sit down and think for a while about what they have witnessed; and they will either go back mentally or literally to certain scenes to determine which ones have the most profound effect on them. A favorite of many and often cited as …
review by . September 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Trivia, facts and blunders from The Exorcist - Part 1
With Halloween just around the corner, I thought I would do some research and investigations about my favorite movie of all time:  The Exorcist.  While many thought the movie was not scary at all, others were terrified (especially me); partially based on the fact that the movie, which started out as a book, was based on a true story, and also because at the time of it's release, NO movie had ever been made like this one -- it was truly the first of it's kind.  Today we see …
Quick Tip by . June 07, 2010
My absolute favorite horror flick of all time. The only movie to truly scare the crap out of me!!
review by . November 11, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
It's difficult to look back on a film "classic" and try to review it through today's eyes...35 years later. It's always tempting to say, "Those effects were great...for 1973" or "imagine how that affected an audience...three decades ago." You almost feel like you have to make excuses for the film.    But I am happy to report that in a very recent, pre-Halloween viewing, THE EXORCIST has withstood the test of time nearly unscathed. Yes, some of the effects (there are actually …
Quick Tip by . February 07, 2010
review by . May 13, 2009
The Exorcist (1973) was one of the greatest horror films ever made. It scared the nation and the people wanted more! The movie made a lot of money and it launched William Friedkin's career beyond the stratosphere (he was already a big name thanks to the French Connection). William Peter Blatty's novel was already a big seller when it was optioned for a silver screen adaptation. The conflicts between the two over how it would be presented as a film could make a movie by it's own right. There was …
review by . November 03, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
After thirty-four years, 'The Exorcist' remains nearly as shocking and horrifying as it was upon its release in 1973. Back then, it was a movie event, and news pieces showed that 'The Exorcist' did to post-modern times what 'Dracula' did back during its debut. Near hysteria came to some, but the masses were at least electrified by what is unabashedly called "the scariest movie of all time".     The key element of this hallmark is that 'The Exorcist' is so convincingly real. Reinventing …
review by . August 27, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
Since I was a kid, I have heard people all over say time and time again that THE EXORCIST is "one of the scariest movies of all time." Well, I've never been a huge fan of horror, but in order to improve my cinematic horizons, I have been watching a lot of schlock and horror lately and finally viewed THE EXORCIST. My impression: what in the world is the big deal? Outside of superb acting and some neat special effects, THE EXORCIST isn't that great. The writing is terrible and contains loads of dialogue …
review by . August 11, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
In terms of a MOVIE this is clearly one of the best ever made. Only the Godfather I & II compares to it, in terms of performances, (not a single bad one) Special effects and plot it is incredible. This movie doesn't rush itself. It slowly builds up until you just can't take it anymore. This is high art. All the people involved in this movie should be rightly proud. It will outlast anything else in the Genre. I know Linda Blair's career has paid a price for this but very few great actors have ever …
About the reviewer
Brenda ()
Ranked #56
I love to read mysteries and thrillers; I am addicted to scary psychological thrillers and horror movies; "The Exorcist" and "Silence of the Lambs" being 2 of my favorites. I love … more
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About this movie


The Exorcist is a horror novel by William Peter Blatty, published by Harper & Row in 1971. It is based on a 1949 exorcism of Robbie Mannheim that Blatty heard about while he was a student in the class of 1950 at Georgetown University, a Jesuit and Catholic school. On October 31, 2010, Cemetery Dance will publish a special omnibus edition of The Exorcist and its sequel Legion, signed by Blatty.


An elderly Jesuit priest named Father Lankester Merrin is leading an archaeological dig in northern Iraq and studying ancient relics. Following the discovery of a small statue of the demon Pazuzu (an actual ancient Sumerian demigod) and a modern-day St. Joseph medal curiously juxtaposed together at the site, a series of omens alerts him to a pending confrontation with a powerful evil, which unknown to the reader at this point, he has battled before in an exorcism in Africa. Meanwhile, in Georgetown, a young girl named Regan MacNeil living with her famous actress mother, Chris, becomes inexplicably ill. After a gradual series of poltergeist-like disturbances, she undergoes disturbing psychological and physical changes, appearing to become "possessed" by a demonic spirit.

After several unsuccessful psychiatric and medical treatments, Regan's mother turns to a local Jesuit priest. ...

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