“The Exorcist” first arrived in theaters back in 1973, was a huge hit then and has remained a horror landmark.
“The Exorcist” first arrived in theaters back in 1973, was a huge hit then and has remained a horror landmark. And, just in time for Halloween, Warner Bros. has re-released the movie on DVD and Blu-ray in a set that includes two versions of the film, commentary tracks, trailers and tons of behind-the-scenes material. Here’s what that jam-packed set taught me.
1. It still holds up. “The Exorcist” may be pushing 40, lack ironic humor and sport no computer-generated effects (at least originally), but it still packs a wallop.
2. It’s not the scariest movie of all time, though — at least not to this critic. Maybe you have to believe in the devil to get the film’s full effect, but I’d place “The Shining” above this one on the scare scale. Then again, I don’t believe in ghosts either, so there goes that theory.
3. I’m not the only one who wasn’t scared by the devil. In interviews, “Exorcist” star Linda Blair said though she’s a Christian, she doesn’t believe in Satan so, even as poor lil’ possessed Regan, she was never scared. And Max Von Sydow, who played the exorcist himself, says as a child in Sweden he was taught the devil is a foolish creature from fairy tales, so he remained unfazed.
4. Others on the set, however, disagreed. There were a number of deaths during filming (the actual number varies depending on who’s telling the story), and a few crew members attribute this to some sort of curse. Von Sydow says simply that it was a long shoot, and these things happen.
5. The Exorcist house doesn’t look like the house in “The Exorcist.” To make it possible for Jason Williams’ character to jump out the window and fall down that long flight of stars, a false front was built on the actual Georgetown residence. The building itself is still standing, though the front is gone.
6. That fall down the stairs was real. The stunt man covered them with a thin coating of rubber then flung himself down them. No CGI tricks back in 1973 — just guts and the willingness to injure yourself for the sake of the movie.
7. Director William Friedkin did what it took to make the movie he wanted. After star Ellen Burstyn told him not to have her pulled so hard during a scene because she was worried she’d injure her back, Friedkin assured her he’d have the stunt coordinator take it easy. Then, when Burstyn wasn’t looking, he told the coordinator to pull it just as hard. That painful take is the one in the movie.
8. There’s almost nothing as scary in the movie itself as the behind-the-scenes footage of Linda Blair sitting next to her dummy duplicate that could rotate its head. Spooky!
9. The disgusting green goo that Blair pukes all over the priests? Pea soup and oatmeal.
10. Less is more. If you’re trying to decide between watching the original 1973 version or the re-edited 2000 version of “The Exorcist,” go with the original. It’s tighter, scarier and the additional footage doesn’t improve the movie at all.
Contact Will Pfeifer at email@example.com or 815-987-1244. Read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/movie man/.
From the Vault: Three other movies co-starring Satan
“Rosemary’s Baby” (1968) Roman Polanski directed this unsettling movie that, for my money, tops “The Exorcist.” Mia Farrow discovers she’s carrying Satan’s baby, and everyone (except her) is thrilled about Junior’s arrival.
“The Devil and Daniel Webster” (1941) Walter Huston plays “Mr. Scratch” in this historical fable about a struggling farmer who makes a deal with you-know-who. Funny, clever and occasionally spooky, it’s worth checking out.
“Devil’s Advocate” (1997) Normally I’m not a fan of Al Pacino’s overacting, but he’s perfect here in a silly — but still entertaining — modern tale of a lawyer (Keanu Reeves) who makes a deal with “John Milton” (Pacino, of course).
— Will Pfeifer
Some DVDs out Tuesday:
“Predators”: Robert Rodriguez’s late-to-the-game sequel starring Adrien Brody and others as tough guys from Earth brought to the Predator planet for a little hunting expedition.
“Apocalypse Now”: Includes not only the original version, but also the “Apocalypse Now: Redux” version (with extra footage) and the excellent “Hearts of Darkness” documentary that’s almost as good as the original movie.
“Psycho”: Hitchcock’s classic makes its Blu-ray debut with a print so pristine you can actually see the makeup some of the actors are wearing.
“The Bionic Woman: Season One”: Not the high-tech version of a few years ago. This is the original, low-tech 1970s version starring Lindsay Wagner in the title role.
“Disneynature: Oceans”: Don’t be put off by the annoying “Disneynature” branding or the fact that Oprah narrates the movie — there’s some amazing undersea footage on this disc.
“Pee Wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Collection”: I used to actually get up early in college and watch this crazy show. And now, two decades later, I can watch it with my daughter. Isn’t home video amazing?
“Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl”: I’m sure it’s a terrible movie, but I have to admit, that’s one heck of a title.
“Bikini Bloodbath Christmas”: If you were planning to have an old-fashioned, traditional Christmas, you’ll want to stay far, far away from this movie.
Kings of Leon, “Come Around Sundown”: Hopefully the band has gotten past that time the pigeons pooped on them during a concert.
Rod Stewart, “Fly Me to the Moon: The Great American Songbook, Vol. V”: Hard to believe back in the 1980s, when Rod was singing “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” that he’d have a second career covering
Sinatra, isn’t it?
Various Artists, “Hannah Montana Forever”: Let’s all pretend this album doesn’t exist, OK? OK!
Liz Phair, “Funstyle”: On this double-disc set, Phair includes some of her earliest recordings, dating back before her debut CD, “Exile in Guyville.”
Bo Burnham, “Words Words Words”: Hopefully arranged in the form of “Lyrics Lyrics Lyrics.”
The Beatles, “1962 to 1966 Remastered” and “1967 to 1970 Remastered”: A couple of classic “greatest hits” collections from a British band you just might have heard of.
— Will Pfeifer
Sources: dvdtalk.com, tophitsonline.com