The all-time classic tale of demonic possession, based on William Peter Blatty's bestselling novel. Linda Blair is Regan MacNeil, a twelve-year-old girl who becomes manifested by a truly malevolent spirit. Her mother, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), an agnostic, seeks out help from a young Jesuit psychiatrist, Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller, God rest his Irish soul!)who has demons of his own, and is tormented by the recent death of his mother, and his loss in the faith that he sought refuge in. After confronting the demon within the girl (and himself), Karras, although skeptical of demonic possession, is given permission by the church to assist during the exorcism. The priest selected to perform the ritual is a mysterious, elderly Jesuit, Father Lankaster Merrin (Max Von Sydow) who has seen such devilish work before. As the two clergymen face off against the demon, a police detective, Lt. William F. Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb) finds some links connecting the girl with a puzzling death and desecration in the local Catholic church.
William Friedkin brilliantly directed, and Blatty adapted the screenplay (receiving an Oscar for his efforts) and produced. The cast gives extraordinary, sensitive performances (Burstyn, Miller and Blair were all nominated for Academy Awards) and the special effects are breathtaking and still pack a punch, with veteran actress Mercedes McCambridge providing the voice of the evil entity. (The film also won for Best Achievement In Sound). The underlying theme of much of Blatty's work is evident, his philosophy being, if there's all this evil out there, why is there so much good? Metaphorically, everyone fights there own demons, and even in his last self-sacrificing moment, Karras finds his faith again and heroically gives his life to save this innocent child. How more meaningful can it be? A truly terrifying, engrossing and ultimately touching film dealing with faith and human frailty.