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The Exorcist

A 1973 American horror film

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Great Restored Feature (The Version You've Never Seen DVD review)

  • Jun 23, 2011
  • by
Rating:
+4
I have few fonder memories of viewing a feature film in a theater than those recorded when I attended a screening of this widely promoted, extended version of The Exorcist during an unseasonably cold September evening nine years ago. Not all of my enjoyment was derived from the film itself. Now, it was a thrill to watch a film that I'd grown up with (which predated me by six years) on the big screen and to finally see numerous exciting and poignant scenes (that I'd read at least twice before in William Peter Blatty's brilliant novel) realized by the comfortably familiar cast. However, my attention was frequently split between the film and an audience around me that grew increasingly, uncomfortably tense as it progressed. In particular, a teenage boy and his mother were seated before me. It's possible that these two were Good Catholics, present to see a famous, Vatican-approved motion picture of faith and redemption; also, that the son might have pestered his mom to take him to see a bit of horror history; most likely, that the mother had seen it ages ago, had long forgotten the most explicit portions and perhaps subscribed to the idiotic popular fallacy that mainstream movies nowadays are harsher than they were thirty-odd years ago. Shoulders rose and tightened as that notion was quickly dispelled, but only when adorable Linda Blair messily introduced a crucifix to her hymen did Mother Dearest mutter, "Oh, for Christ's sake!" and slap a hand over her son's virgin eyes. Behind them, I sported an ear-to-ear grin. Veteran character actor Barton Heyman wasn't even back on his feet before three couples exited the theater. A few more followed even before the great Max von Sydow appeared to attend to the movie's ultimate confrontation.

Not for the last time, I was reminded of the increasingly lightweight culture in which I'm living.

Well, never mind - it's been on DVD for a good long while and watching it again evokes these memories, which are very different than those associated with my worn old VHS copy. It's easier on the eyes and ears, too: the digitally remastered picture and sound are first-rate. Of that beautiful Technicolor, hues and contrast are as striking as ever. More demanding than most, the 1979 six-channel Dolby Stereo mix is satisfactorily conveyed in two soundtracks - a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and mono-compatible 2.0. The 5.1 track sounds fantastic on any good sound system and while the 2.0 track is slightly muddled, it's better suited to TV speakers or cheap headphones. Bold, white English and French subtitles are included, and are merely adequate; take note that the English subs were certainly not designed for the deaf or hard of hearing.

Ever since this version was re-released to theaters, its primary selling point has been eleven minutes of footage deleted from the original theatrical cut, very little of which had ever been seen by the general public. Restored to impressive effect, this material was edited in congruity with the artful subtlety of the original feature. Scenes containing or consisting wholly of restored footage are helpfully asterisked in the comprehensive forty-eight-scene selection menu. Less than a dozen scenes were spruced up with CGI effects, but Friedkin was careful not to take the tasteless, revisionist route through which a certain bearded man-child filmmaker stupidly, contemporaneously trudged, so these touches are minor, serving only to enhance the footage in question. My single gripe concerns the excessive use of an otherwise unobjectionable cue composed especially for this release by Steve Boddacker - an ominous, minimalist drone that newly scored a number of scenes. This was such a mistake: the quiet tension during the announcement of Burke Dennings' death and especially the first conversation between Fr. Karras and Lt. Kinderman was what made them so disquieting, while this music only reminds us that it's there. It doesn't ruin these scenes - the performances are too good to permit that - but it is a persistent distraction. Attentive fans might notice that the Casablanca reference voiced by Kinderman and Dyer at the film's very end was omitted, even though the scene is available in its entirety as a special feature in the 25th Anniversary Special Edition. The exhaustive behind-the-scenes documentary, The Fear of God is also exclusive to that edition.

If you're looking for a commentary track that provides a dramatic, insightful and slightly pretentious summary of every scene, William Friedkin's is definitely what you want. However, it really wasn't what I wanted. Friedkin has a great voice for this kind of presentation, but I don't need somebody to tell me about what I can see and hear for myself. He also explains a couple of subtle, symbolic elements that I hadn't noticed and shares a few (too few) amazing bits of trivia, most of which are related to the shoot in Sinjar, Iraq. I certainly don't expect Friedkin's memory of a film that he directed over a quarter-century before to be perfect, but I wanted more of that: details about the production, the actors, the effects and locations. If his memory is limited, why didn't Warner ask screenwriter/producer Blatty to record it with him? Lord knows, he's never at a loss for something to say about any of his projects. During Karras's dream, Friedkin explains that it wasn't in the novel and that he "added" it to the film. While he certainly added significant imagery to it, he's either lying or grossly mistaken - in the novel, that dream is mentioned in brief and significant detail.

In lieu of the The Fear of God documentary or much revealing information in the commentary track, four text commentaries explain Blatty's inspiration for the original story, Friedkin's rejection of Blatty's first screenplay and their disputes over numerous deleted scenes, the infamous "spider walk" sequence and some other bits of trivia. This is hardly as enjoyable or revealing as the documentary, but it's better than nothing.

Four TV spots, two radio spots and two theatrical trailers promoting the re-release are included, most of which are quite good and especially better than the leaden 1973 trailer.

On the whole, this really is superior to the 1973 cut, but the original theatrical release is still worth seeing, and available in the The Complete Anthology box set. If you just want to own one version and haven't seen both, torrent the original and rent this on Netflix; if you prefer the original, that 25th Anniversary edition is always floating around, and quite affordable besides...
Great Restored Feature (The Version You've Never Seen DVD review) Great Restored Feature (The Version You've Never Seen DVD review) Great Restored Feature (The Version You've Never Seen DVD review) Great Restored Feature (The Version You've Never Seen DVD review)

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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 …
review by . September 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Trivia, facts and blunders from The Exorcist - Part 2
   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 …
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
THE RE-RELEASE OF THIS WAS INSANE! I SAW IT IN THE OLD THEATRE IN WASHINGTON, D.C. WHICH IS SUPPOSEDLY HAUNTED. CRAZY.
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
Robert Buchanan ()
Ranked #30
I'm a bibliophile, ailurophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow and anastrophizing syntax addict. My personality type is that of superlative INTJ.
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Wiki

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.

Plot

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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