Movie Name: The Exorcist
Studio: Warner Brothers
Release Date(s): December 26, 1973
MPAA Rating: R
In the Middle East, a holy man Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) sees a vision of a battle of Good and Evil and doesn’t realize that the battle will be fought over a twelve year old girl in Georgetown. Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) notices something is happening with her daughter Regan (Linda Blair). It starts small…strange noises from her room, odd behavior, and a new imaginary friend Captain Howdy. It spirals into horror as Chris realizes that the creature is no longer her daughter Regan. When the director of Chris’s movie is killed in a fall, Lieutenant Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb) question if someone in Chris’s home could be responsible and what a young priest Father Karras (Jason Miller) has to do with it all.
William Friedkin’s The Exorcist adapted the highly popular novel by William Peter Blatty. The movie often is cited (along with Jaws) as being the pre-blockbuster movie that really exploded with Star Wars. Critics loved or hated it, and its content was very polarizing. The movie was a smash hit and became one of the highest grossing pictures. It ended up also being nominated for ten Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress—Ellen Burstyn, Best Supporting Actor—Jason Miller, Best Supporting Actress—Linda Blair, Best Director—William Friedkin, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, and won for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay (for Blatty) and Best Sound. It also won a number of Golden Globes including Best Picture—Drama and an award for Linda Blair.
An interesting thing about The Exorcist is that the story works in conjunction with the novel. It left aspects of the novel out, but didn’t really change the source material. The events left out of the film still could have happened off camera. A lot of what was left out was put back in for The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen which was released in theaters in 2000. Included were the spider-walk scene and more medical testing scenes. The testing scenes I felt added to the plot of the film, but the spider-walk just felt a bit jarring since it was very supernatural and very early in the story.
Casting was all over the place. The Chris MacNeil character had a lot of women attached before Burstyn including Jane Fonda who allegedly had some very unflattering things to say about the script. Another interesting choice was Audrey Hepburn but she refused to come to the United States to film it. A couple of choices for Regan were Denise Nickerson (from Dark Shadows and Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonda and the Chocolate Factory) and Anissa Jones (Buffy from Family Affair). Marlon Brando was considered for Father Merrin and Jack Nicholson for Father Karras. Stacy Keach was actually cast as Karras but replaced by Jason Miller who was primarily known for stage.
The movie was considered extremely controversial and has a lot a shocking images, but the ironic thing about The Exorcist is how pro-religion the movie is. It is about an Athiest family, let down by science, being saved by religion, and restoring the faith of a man who is questioning leaving the church. People just honed in on the graphic scenes (such as the crucifix masturbation scene) instead of the message. The funny thing is that a lot of the medical scenes make me more squeemish than the horror scenes.
The Exorcist is still considered one of the great horror films of all time. I sometimes have problems even considering it a horror film since it has a lot of other aspects of mystery, suspense, and also is a rather solid drama. It spawned two sequels Exorcist II: The Heretic (which had Linda Blair) and The Exorcist III (which was Blatty’s actual sequel and had the return of Kinderman and Karras). Both didn’t live up to the original. In an unusual event in 2004, two prequels to The Exorcist were released. Exorcist: The Beginning came first and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist both told the story of Father Merrin’s first encounter with the demon (studio disagreements led to the two versions under different directors). Don’t let these movies sour your view of a great movie and one of the scariest movies ever brought the screen…see The Exorcist.
[easyazon-block align=”center” asin=”B001992NW4″ locale=”us”]