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The Exorcist BD
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb
Director: William Friedkin
Warner Brothers | 1973 | 132m and 122m | Rated R |

VC-1 | 1080p | 1.78:1

English DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono

English SDH, Arabic, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German SDH, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian SDH, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish

Two 50GB Blu-ray Discs

The Exorcist's iconic cover claims that it's the scariest film of all time, but the makers of the movie prefer to label it as a theological thriller. I tend to agree and have always considered The Silence of the Lambs, The Shining and Psycho as psychological thrillers rather than horror. I mention those three because they represent the best that 'horror' has to offer, whether you label them as such or not.

If you have read my other reviews, you'll know by now that I'm a movie snob. When I think of horror films, the first thing that comes to mind is excessive gore and cheesy lines. I'm simply not a fan of seeing bodies hacked to pieces and I don't find any value in cheesy horror stories. So bear that in mind if you are a fan of such movies as the Evil Dead (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Instead, I look at how films are made, what they make me feel, the quality of the acting and the methods used by the director. In those terms, The Exorcist deserves to be rated among the best 'horror' films ever made.

The film plays like a book with the three main sets of characters being shown individually before the threads are drawn together for the body of the story. The story begins with Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) heading an archeological expedition in Iraq. Father Karras (Jason Miller) is shown caring for his dying mother and we are shown how he lives. Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is shown being a mother to Regan (Linda Blair).

Regan is a pretty, playful 12-year-old girl without a care in the world. We see her demeanor gradually change as she's possessed by a demon. She seeks out her mother's bed because her own is shaking, but her mother thinks she's lying. There are noises in the attic which are thought to be rats as Chris tries to label them as something familiar. Regan's sweet nature gradually erodes and we see her lose her temper more and more frequently. She's eventually referred to doctors and shouts obscenities at them. Some of the tests she has to undergo would be frightening to a child, but everything comes back negative. A psychiatrist gets a turn and also fails to solve the problem. Denial is a powerful thing in this story as doctors continually try to rationalize the things they are seeing and hearing.

Chris is an atheist, but can see that the doctors are wrong. She eventually seeks out help from Father Karras, showing just how desperate she is to help her daughter. If you allow yourself to be drawn in to the story and consider how you would react if your own child underwent such changes, you'll feel the power of this film.

The climax of the film sees Father Karras and Father Merrin performing an exorcism after convincing the church that it was needed. Regan's transformation is impressive. When possessed, she talks in many different voices, some of which are known to the priests and the people around her. The demon is a master liar and seeks to confuse the priests and prevent the exorcism. Regan becomes a monster, reeling off obscenities and spewing foul green bile. Her face and body become covered in scars and it's hard to see anything of the original person.

In 1973, it was a real challenge to produce some of the effects seen in the film. Instead of CGI, everything had to be done by other means. Wires were used in two or three of the scenes were Regan levitates or runs down the stairs upside down. A model was made to enable the illusion that her head turns 360 degrees. The bile had to be made and then delivered using tubes. Although it's obvious that the spinning head is a model, it's still unsettling to see it happen.

Will you be scared by this movie? Visually, it's nothing compared to effects achieved by modern techniques. You might be scared if the story captures you sufficiently to make you feel that you're a part of it. Imagine yourself as Regan's parent for example. We can overlook the dated effects and take them seriously because everything else about this film is deadly serious. The acting is strong throughout, with the whole cast performing well. Friedkin tells the story simply, but effectively. The final solution is extreme, but convincing.

Like Psycho, this film was original and startling in its day. It has an important place in film history. It might not have a strong impact on people who are used to modern horror movies, but it's worth seeing for anyone who has avoided it thus far.

Video Quality 4/5:

This package includes two discs. One shows the original theatrical version (122m) and the other shows the extended version (132m). My comments refer to the extended version, although I would expect the quality to be identical in both versions.

The scenes in Iraq are bright and full of detail and the film would earn a 4.5 for picture quality if it were that good throughout. Unfortunately, much of the film is shot in dimly lit rooms and grain is dense in such scenes. All things considered, it's hard to imagine the image looking any better than it does though.

Audio Quality 4.5/5:

Friedkin mentions that the lossless audio enables him to hear effects that he had forgotten were in the film. It's certainly a strong presentation and the film benefits most of all from the audio upgrade. We can clearly hear Regan wheezing and the voices in outdoor scenes come across well in the rear speakers. Dialogue is always easy to understand and some of the louder scenes, such as furniture moving or glass breaking, carry added weight. The 6.1 version is included in the extended cut, while the original version has 5.1 audio.

Special Features 4.5/5:

There's plenty of background information included in the special features for anyone who is interested.

Director's commentary
Raising Hell: Filming the Exorcist (30m, HD)
The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now (9m, HD)
Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of the Exorcist (10m, HD)
Trailers, TV Spots and Radio Spots
Director's Introduction (2m, SD)
The Fear of God (77m, SD)
Filmmaker Interviews (9m, SD)
Sketches and Storyboards (3m, SD)
Original Ending (2m, SD)
40-page booklet with pictures, cast details and background information

The Exorcist is an important part of cinematic history. Nominated for 10 Oscars, it won two, and that's unusual for this genre. It's a beautifully presented package complete with a high quality booklet and separate discs for each version of the film. The audio upgrade is huge, making the experience a lot more intense. The visual upgrade is probably the best that could have been managed considering the dark setting and the director's original intentions. I would strongly recommend this definitive version for any fan of the film or of cinema in general.
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on February 9, 2014
It was December 26, 1973 and I was 10 years old and an avid reader of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine. I had heard that a very horrific movie was coming to my neighbourhood theatre and knowing that I would not be allowed into a restricted film I decided to sneak in. In the darkness of the theatre, I heard scraping sounds from an attic, watched as wide open windows rushed in cold air, saw the lights in a corridor flicker off and on and heard the convulsing and growling of a demon as it took over the body of a little girl about the same age as myself. This film was The Exorcist. It is now 40 years later and the scariest film ever made still gives me the same shivers it gave me years ago. Branded as satanic by the evangelist Billy Graham and banned for years in the United Kingdom, it was and is to this day the most shocking and obscene film ever made. So shocking that audiences walked out before the film ended, vomited in the aisles and fainted on the spot from fear and terror. The Exorcist is not only the scariest film ever made because it scares you but it will also make you question your own faith and spiritual beliefs and make you think more about the battle between good and evil. Somehow, I would like to think that the real premise of the film is that good does triumph over evil in the end but the film is so visceral, so powerful in its scope that the real premise should be left to the individual film viewer to interpret for themselves. Whatever your interpretation, there is no doubt that The Exorcist will make you confront your fears: its the kind of film that not only sends shivers down your spine but the kind of film that really gets under your skin. Like the possessed Regan played brillantly by Linda Blair, your head might spin around 360 degrees and you might say to yourself in an evil nightmarish voice: Little children shouldnt be sneaking into darkened movie theatres to watch these type of movies! As a kid growing up around horrible things, I am glad I did sneak into the movie theatre that day for it is not just about confronting the horrors around us like terrorism, war, disease and hunger but also confronting the real horror that is possible like the evil that can take possession of us at any time. That is the real horror we should be scared of. And even though we should be scared of the evil that lurks inside us and the possibility of eternal damnation: real, imagined or otherwise, like Faust we still have the freedom to choose between good and evil and exorcise our own demons by striving for the truth. Even if we have to sneak into darkened movie theatres to do so.
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on April 1, 2004
Society's need for devils, demons, and the grand pooh-bah of them all - Lucifer - enables individuals to explain many terrible things in society. It might be a perverted sense of security. In The Exorcist a demonically possessed 12 year old child (...) is still spooking audiences twenty-five years after the film's release. Universally, it is regarded as one of the scariest cult classics.
It's an intriguing film, but unlike most viewers, it made me giggle at times. Flashes of a pasty-faced, red-lipped, sharp-teethed "demon" looked like a frustrated French mime bitten by a rabid racoon during an unsuccessful truffle hunt. The film challenged me to reflect on a more central question - suppose there is no Satan? Experiments on children at Auschwitz become less explainable without a Luciferian figure. Stalin's artificial famine in Ukraine where parents killed and ate their children becomes more horrific without the "comfort" of blaming supernatural evil.
Of course an absence of the devil runs contrary to my denomination's simplistic understanding of the black and white world. Yet take away Satan and life becomes more cold, complicated, and may seem pointless at times. In a real, tangible way life actually becomes "scary" without the crutch of Satan. It is less understandable. Shades of gray take over.
The cinematographic technique using darkness is brilliant. The music is haunting and there are several unsettling scenes in the film that are chilling - the child's bed levitates, she develops grotesque sores suggesting physical decay, speaks in a husky male voice challenging the exorcist-priests (Jason Miller and Max von Sydow) to sexually violate her, and the spewing of a green, soupy like substance from her mouth onto the holy knights come to battle the devil.
The film fittingly takes place in an enclave of Washington D.C. I couldn't resist asking myself whether the child was actually possessed by the negative energy of a long deceased Congressman who couldn't get back into the House Chamber to vote. I do believe that each individual life is a form of energy that can't be destroyed.
I'm not in disagreement that the child's body could house a misplaced negative energy. And I accept the widely held belief that ghosts, apparitions, and other energy sources live among us. In that sense, I didn't have to suspend my reality since I believe it. But are they evil?
Nor did I find the ability of the demon in The Exorcist to see into any soul unsettling. So what? I might be painfully embarrassed if it happened to me, but such disclosure would hardly merit condemnation for being a monster. This speaks more to our vanity grounded in human insecurity than our fear of the unknown.
Although I'm dismissive of this cult classic, it is understandable why the film continues to make so many viewers uneasy. I've personally met people who suffered nightmares because of it (maybe from eating a bad batch of pea soup the night before). Director William Friedkin masterfully balances the surreal with the real and plausible. Is the child actually possessed, or, as several doctors diagnosed, suffering from a severe chemical imbalance in the brain?
In exploring demonic possession Friedkin never goes over the top with the unbelievable. He walks a fine line between science and the many things in life that are unexplainable and seem at times supernatural. Although he does not want to offer a black and white answer, he does so by clearly leading in the direction that there are Satanic forces at work.
The film offers a plausible depiction of a parallel universe. It may have been stronger had Friedkin made the child possessed by a "demon" rather than Satan. Why would Satan try to take over the world by possessing an innocent child of an insignificant actress-mother? Using a generic energy source with a bad attitude makes more sense. Lucifer would better achieve his agenda of world control if he or a minion took possession of a Bible-thumping American president who appears deceptively presidential instead of a little girl with a sailor's trashy mouth.
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on November 7, 2006
Having seen the original release in 1973 (I was 15 years old at that time) in a huge movie theatre, nothing has scared me more. There were police vehicles parked outside the theatre which was indicative of the grip the movie had on some of the theatre goers.

If you cannot get the 25th anniversary version, then buy this one which has the best video/audio quality and contains a few new nasty surpises.
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on March 18, 2001
I am a movie connoisseur and I love THE EXORCIST. However, many do not. A good friend of mine hated it and I know of others who do too. I first saw this movie a few years ago because I have always heard of it but never saw it and wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I must have been only sixteen and decided to rent it and watch it alone (so as to not be persuaded of my judgement by a prejudice either way). Anyway, I turned off all the lights when no one was home and started the movie. Well, the music freaked me out from the start but I must admit that the first hour or so is BOR-ING if you aren't into "informational" type horror flicks. I am now (there aren't many of us out there), but wasn't then. So, I liked it. But there is, contrary to belief before actually seeing it for yourself, not much action in the whole movie except for the main exorcism. The main reason the movie scared me is because I am a deeply religious person and I know that that is possible. That sort of thing has happened and does still happen. Reguardless of what people say, it's possible and it touched a sore spot in my psyche. The main reason most people are not fans of THE EXORCIST is, in fact, because most of it is "boring". Is is an old movie and that's another reason why most people don't favor it. Nowadays it's all about blood and guts and don't get me wrong, I love a good blood-bath, but to me, the "ghost" and "demon" type movies are scarier because they are realistic. It depends on your taste if you'll like it. But don't take my word for it, rent it and see for yourself. Happy haunting!
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on June 11, 1999
"The Exorcist" which was nominated for 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture, and Best Actress, came home with 2 Academy Awards for Best Screenplay and Best Sound. This is the ALL time king of horror movies, with a great script, structure and directing. Despite the jokes this movie has gotten over the years for Split Pea soup, and Linda Blair, "The Exorcist" sits by itself as a Horror Classic and the only movie of its genre to be nominated for Best Picture or receive as many as 11 nominations. The DVD 25th anniversary brings the movie a little bit closer to over the edge, with cut scenes of Linda Blair (Regan) walking backwards like a spider down the staircase...The scene is chilling to say the least, and why they cut it out of the movie I will never know. The special effects were outstanding for its time and still holds up today as the greatest Horror movie of all time with outstanding performances by Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller and Max Von Sydow....but remember leave the lights on and do not watch this one alone.
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on February 5, 2015
Arguably the scariest movie of all time, and in my opinion, one of the best. Demonic possession is a hard topic to tackle without becoming silly or going for the cheap thrill. This film does not do that. It's genuinely horrific and very well done. Fabulous script, acting, cast, effects, sound and so on. Probably why it was nominated for so many Oscars, winning 2, and rightfully so. Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Jason Miller, Max von Sydow, Kitty Winn and Lee J. Cobb are pitch perfect in their roles, as is the voice of Mercedes McCambridge.
I've heard the stories of people fainting in the theatres when this was released, I was very young so I missed it but believe it probably caused quite a stir. This is not a film for children or anyone sensitive.
This bluray book release is great. The packaging is neat with with all of the photos and additional information. The directors' cut, which is my preference, is fantastic! The theatrical release is a gem. You can't go wrong here. The sound and picture has never been better. Fully recommend this!
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on September 27, 2000
Don't watch this if you have ever felt capable of experiencing a nervous breakdown. The DVD version is especially realistic. For those who are light hearted or don't take the subject matter seriously, it will still make your head spin. "The Exorcist" touches parts of the psyche that challenge religious faith, and make mental stamina a very personal issue. I once knew a young buckaroo in college (6' 8", 270 lbs.) who aspired to be a professional football player. A few weeks after witnessing this movie, he went camping with some friends, including a buddy who had also seen the film. The second lad was a serious weight lifter, built like a mack truck, and considered a real stud muffin in his day. The "Eight Man" tent was filled to capacity (with mostly ladies) so the dynamic duo volunteered to sleep under the stars. But they couldn't sleep a wink thinking about the (then) unknown twelve year old actress whose performance literally elevated her to fame. Every little noise in the woods created a full blown panic that these macho men desperately tried to conceal. As dawn approached, the men finally dozed off only to hear the light pitter patter of foot steps above their heads. Upon opening their eyes, they discovered (to their great relief) a family of moose. One of the men was shaken beyond belief, and has never been able to work for the past 25 years. His beautiful wife eventually filed for divorce. This true life example illustrates the dramatic impact "The Exorcist" can have on certain fragile personalities.
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on November 21, 2003
I read the book right after it came out and I couldn't put it down! When the movie came out I already heard a lot of the advance publicity but I was still deeply engrossed when I watched it for the first time. I have seen it many times since although not in its' recent remastered version. It is a movie that will challenge you in many ways yet it is also a movie that has the potential to reassure you are well. It is a very well-made movie complete with great writing, acting, directing, and, above all, great special effects. Even after all of these years, they still are impressive.
This movie is not for the squeemish as I can illustrate with an experience I had in Ensenada, Mexico. The movie had been out for a year or two and a friend of mine and I were traveling in Baja Mexico. There wasn't a lot to do at night so, when I saw that the movie was playing at the local theatre, I suggested we go see it. When my friend said he hadn't seen it before, I insisted that we go. The theatre was fairly full when we went in. As the movie got progressively more intense, the show would stop and a warning notice would appear on the screen advising the viewers that the movie was going to become even more graphic. This screen appeared three times during the movie. At the end of the show, the lights came on and I was surprized to discover that there were only a handful of people besides my friend and I who had sat through the whole movie.
I don't know that the movie will grip you quite so hard but it may. There is a strong element of hardcore Christian good versus demonic evil and you can get caught up in this. The actual history of exorcism is fairly scant given the number of years the scarement has been around and the hundreds of millions of Christians that were or are in this world. I suspect most people would view this movie more as a test of their nerves rather than their faith. However, after my experience in Mexico, I thought I should at least put my own warning notice on the screen.
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on February 22, 2001
This restored version of The Exorcist was better than the original version, but I was disappointed by a couple of things. When the original movie was released on DVD, it had a documentary called "The Fear of god". In it, they showed some of this cut footage including the spider walk which showed Regan "spidering" down the stairs. When she gets to the bottom of the stairs, she flexes her tongue like a snake and then tries to get Sharon while walking on her hands and knees. I'd like to know why this was not included in this new added footage cut. The spider scene was so quick in this movie it was barely worth the effort to see. Why didn't you show the whole spider walk scene, Mr. Freidkin? There was also no blood in Regan's mouth when she reached the bottom of the stairs in the original footage. Actually I think this was CGIed in to give today's audience some gore. Which is unfortunate because The Exorcist never had any bloody scenes it it. That documentary also showed footage of Ellen and Linda walking around town and sight seeing. Freidkin said he didn't include this in the new version because he lost the dialog tapes. But it could have still been kept in and had music over the footage. They could have at least put that other footage on the DVD in an "other footage" section. Like in the original DVD release, there is a separate audio tract with that actress (forgot her name) doing extra demon voices. This version also has Freidkin doing a narration over the movie. It starts out with reflections of how the movie was made, but then it turns into Freidkin simply describing the scenes as we see them--in a very long and repetitive fashion I might add! This new version was good, but there's still another "version we've never seen" out there. Maybe we'll see it one day.
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