Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Exorcist (1973)

ExorcistFor those of you that like The Exorcist and wondered if you should have seen the movie in the theaters *just* becuase it has some new scenes I can tell you it's definataly worth it.

The added scenes improve the continuity for the most part and provide a few new shocks (as if this movie needed more).

The soundtrack is radically reworked as well, employing newly scored music that adds to the mood of the movie.

There are new sound effects that have more "oomph" for the modern six channel digital sound.

Have the 25'th Anniversary tape? Saw the Spider walk scene in the Documentary? Well, in the new release, it's a different version and 10 times more creepy (it took a minute for the audience I was with to calm down).

It was great to see this in a theater and see people jaded by cookie cutter slasher flicks respond to this movie so well. This movie is not fast paced and that allows it to build up a foundation of dread and fear about the developing possession of the girl. Until it finally unleashes in the more horrifying scenes you've all heard about.

The overall color scheme of the movie is grayish and colorless, further drawing you into that fear and dread. The background music (the new and the limited amount utilized in the original version)has very little melody with a lot of sustained low chords. It doesn't call attention to itself but does unnerve you.

The possessed girl is probabaly one of the scariest faces in movie history. It's incredible that all that was really done to Linda Blair's face was to add a few asymetrical cuts, cover over her eyebrows and darken her sockets (giving her eyes a skull like look). But of course, it was the makeup master Dick Smith that was doing it so it's not too much of a surprise. The crowning feature of the scariest face was the unhuman look of the eyes, done with contact lenses.

The upcoming DVD of the "version you never saw" deserves a place in my colection and yours.

Besides a faithful transfer of the new version to DVD and the trailer, I can suggest that Warner Bros. include the tour of Washington sequence. This is another sequence that was not used in the final cut. It still exists but with no soundtrack. Putting it on the extras section of the DVD with an explanation of the missing soundtrack and subtitles would make this DVD an even better purchase for fans of the movie (like myself).

I grew up in the 1970's and was a complete monster movie fan (I lived for Double Chiller Theatre on late-night TV every Friday!)--but I knew to wait until I got older to see THE EXORCIST. Listening to how the adults reacted to it, that creepy music, the ominous poster--I just knew to keep clear.

When I eventually saw it, I realized that this was the best horror film ever made.

That THE EXORCIST was left off the American Film Institute's "100 Greatest Films of All-Time" is an omission that casts doubt on the entire list.

This is one of those classic films where EVERYTHING works: the writing, the directing, the acting, etc. The extras on the DVD are extensive and fascinating (you can tell both William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty cared about every second of this film).

Most great horror films will have you turning on lights and peeking around corners, but THE EXORCIST will make you afraid to close your eyes.

Buy Exorcist (1973) Now

The Exorcist has scared the living-bajeepers out of my entire family for as long as I have known. After first seeing it when I was much younger, I remember that I didn't get a good night's rest for atleast two weeks. When I told my father that I was going to see the re-release of it in the theater on Halloween night, my dad warned me and said, "Don't forget. People have fainted, thrown up and gone crazy when seeing it on big screen."

And it's true. When The Exorcist was released in the early 70's, the audience had been scared out of their wits. So what is it about The Exorcist that not just gives us the chills, but literally tears into our bodies and minds and threatens the well-being of our souls?

The Exorcist can be classified as "horror" because of the sentiments we receive when we realize that all medical and scientific reasons have been explored and have failed to explain 12-year old Regan's behavior. When all rational, logical explanations have failed, the mother Chris (who is an atheist) desperately turns to a Catholic priest for help. As the plot builds up to this, the audience is forced to question, "Does diabolical possession really exist?"

Just the idea of demons from Hell preying upon vulnerable and inviting souls is terrifying. Not only is it terrifying, but some people might take it as an insult to their lifestyles or intelligence for it asks them to turn to a source they may have denied long ago for personal reasons: The Church. Living in the scientific/information age, many of us have ruled out phenomena that are explained by mystical powers. We outrightly and confidently declare that such things asking us to go beyond our founded knowledge, for example, the blind faith in God, miracles, the existence of spirits and demons, cannot be since our scientific progress has supported time and time again that there are other and MORE FOUNDED possibilities. Due to our scientific revolution, our skepticism has risen tremendously regarding the once-declared-"mystical" explanations.....because they've been mistaken, and they've probably been wrong all this time.

Friedkin once affirmed that the reason why he made the film wasn't to scare people, unless it was to scare them back into their faith. His main intention was for people to question and return to their faith, to find room for the mystical explanations in this age where science and information reign.

This re-release is actually more fitting for today than the old version because the extra minutes added include a longer focus on the psychiatric and medical tests that were performed on Regan, in the end failing to determine what was wrong with her. The doctors are literally dumbfounded, and it is when they are speechless that they realize they're limited. It is a humbling experience for both the characters and the audience.

Some other visually-shocking scenes are added too obscenities are enhanced, and the infamous "spider-walk" (they hired a contortionist) is added to satisfy the moviegoers whose motivation is to enjoy the sheer horror. (The obscenities are meant to shock viewers -but I was disappointed to hear the younger people behind me fill up with laughter.) However, for those of us who are curious about the mysterious power behind the priests and their rite of exorcism, in this film is enclosed a deeper and more serious story about good vs. evil. Viewing this may result in a strengthening of faith.

As a theological researcher, I have done extensive research on diabolical possession, and although most exorcists would say that the realism of what happens during an exorcism could never be captured on film, I'd have to say that "The Exorcist" does, in the least, capture a glimpse of it. It is good to know that it is not jacked-up to fulfill the standards of Hollywood horror, and that the stages of possession all the way to the expelling of the demon were accurate in description. (i.e., the inviting of the demon through the Ouija board, signs of infestation such as rapping on the walls and floors, poltergeist-like characteristics such as inanimate objects moving by thmselves, shaking of the bed, levitation of the possessed, the possessed speaking in an inhuman voice, exaggerated contortions of the body, throwing up pints of spit, responding belligerently to the prayers said, cuts suddenly appearing on the body seemingly from the inside out and sometimes spelling out words, the possessed having the ability to speak and understand foreign languages not priorly known, etc., etc.).

Overall, a very well done revision of the original film, (writer William Peter Blatty said that he had been waiting for this version to be released for over 25 years) and a fantastic and beautiful story about faith, while exploring serious and important concepts of this age.

Read Best Reviews of Exorcist (1973) Here

I'm not kidding. I am a grown woman, have seen hundreds of horror movies, and even watching this in the middle of the day when it was sunny outside it gave me chills. In fact, a couple of scenes (like the head spinning) scared me so bad I almost started to CRY. I saw this movie on TV when I was in high school and for some reason it scared me WAY more now. The documentary was excellent, and I finally got to see the notorious "spider-walk" scene that was cut out. I wanted to see this part for a long time, ever since I heard about it, but I didn't think I'd get to because I don't have a DVD player. I was thrilled that it was included, but YEEEESH it gave me the creeps. I think it was a great idea to re-master the sound, as the sound is one of the most frightening aspects of the movie. It rightly deserved the 1973 Academy Award for best sound. Her voice is creepy enough, but these horrible animal-like sounds come out of this little girl that make every hair on your body stand on end. I also didn't think upon a second viewing that I would find any scenes shocking as it takes a lot to shock me, and I am not exaggerating. Well, the scene with the crucifix made my jaw drop and I had to cover up my eyes, I couldn't watch! ( if you are easily shocked I would seriously recommend either fast-forwarding or NOT looking during this scene). What's also interesting in the documentary is hearing about how rough a shoot it was. Evidently Friedkin is not very well-liked by most of the actors who have worked with him, and you will find out they have good cause for this. But I have to admit, he got results, and this is one HELL of a great movie.

Want Exorcist (1973) Discount?

In the first few years after the 1973 premiere of "The Exorcist," a slew of articles and books were released discussing not only the film but the brouhaha that followed its release. Few movies had resulted in such a heated cultural debate and reaction. Director William Friedkin, and producer William Peter Blatty, writer of the novel on which the film was based, and also its screenwriter, were interviewed extensively, in endless discussion over how the movie was made and how the final version of the screenplay was drafted. For his part, Blatty never uttered a single word of dissatisfaction with the final result that hit theatre screens.

Fast-forward some twenty years. Mr. Blatty began to publicly grumble about some scenes that had been filmed but left out of the final cut. Friedkin, contradicting what had already been made known in all those books and articles back in the Seventies, vehemently denied that any such scenes ever existed, standing firm that his final cut was perfect and complete.

It looked as though a rift developed between the two, and Blatty announced plans to produce a mini-series version for Fox Television, intent upon transferring the whole of his novel to film. That never came to pass, and how could it have, given the profane nature of some major plot-points, and the language? Even Fox Television was not up to it.

Just as press notices about the mini-series died away, plans for the twenty-fifth anniversary edition of the DVD were made known. Suddenly, those scenes Friedkin had denied ever existed, mysteriously had been found.

Some of those scenes made it onto the Anniversary Edition, in the excellent attached documentary made for British television by Mark Kermode.

Warner Brothers bean counters began to pay attention to all this fuss and money was authorized to dust-off the "discovered footage," to see if any more profit could be squeezed from the movie, which had already enjoyed several successful theatrical re-releases around the world.

The result is "The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen." Shoe-horned into the movie are scenes that Friedkin had previously acknowledged existed, but had left out in 1973, because he said they slowed down the pacing. Also included are the scenes Friedkin had denied ever existed. This "unseen version" is not only a misnomer, it is only for the diehard fan. Compared to the original version, it is a curiosity piece. Some of the previously rejected scenes simply do not work. The so-called "spider walk," in which the possessed girl scrambles down the stairs in an inverted bridge position, clearly suspended by piano wires, looks inane, especially when blood inexplicably gushes from her mouth. A first visit to the doctor is well done, but the costuming and art direction are so dated, so hideously 1970s, they are humorously distracting.

Some of the resurrected scenes are effective, notably the ones Friedkin lied about. When the elderly Father Merrin explains why he thinks demons possess people, the movie makes more sense than it ever did before. It is an uplifting and illuminating moment, and it is very interesting that Friedkin lied about the scene's existence, although at one time he was quoted as saying it was like "stopping for a commercial."

The worst aspect of this version is Friedkin's unthinkable tinkering with the music soundtrack and some of the visuals. Superimposed over dark spots on the screen are images of "scary" faces and the statue of the demon "Pazuzu," with corny accompanying music, the sort that is usually saved for TV films about women in jeopardy. Ghastly. Because of some quick cuts of a white demonic face, that some slow-witted critics labeled "subliminal" in 1973, it appears Friedkin consciously tried to repeat the so-called "subliminal" effect for contemporary audiences, attempting to scare with nonsensical images superimposed on kitchen appliances and dark corners. The images do not register as subliminal in the least, they aren't even scary, they just look cheap, like scrapbook collages. Heavy-handed music is tossed into other scenes that had previously been quietly dramatic without it.

This is not the first time Friedkin toyed with the original version of "The Exorcist." In 1980, a 70mm, six-track stereophonic version was produced for re-release. While the visuals were left alone, the soundtrack was vamped-up and altered in places, in ways that did not particularly enhance the action or improve the film. Not all prints were struck in 70mm, and the 35mm prints for that reissue contained only four-track sound. Ads at the time urged audiences to "Hear the Devil for the first time in Stereo!" Since the final product was so similar to the 1973 version, it seemed like a vanity project.

If there is one version for the average collector to own, it is the 25th Anniversary Edition. If there simply is not enough of "The Exorcist" to be had, this version is of special interest to the collector. It is not a vanity project. It is an actual re-cutting of a classic American movie. For the diehard fan, at least watching it once is necessary. One can only hope that this version does not become the definitive one because it is inferior to the original.

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