Few films have had the impact of the original Exorcist. William Peter Blatty’s original book was a phenomenal hit. The film’s intense imagery and in your face brutality was all the more disturbing coming from a young teenage Linda Blair. What makes this film effective, however, is the subtle touches: The quick flash demonic faces, the eeriest backward language of the demon, and the haunting moans that culminate in one of the truly scariest films ever made. This release restores footage, long legendary, but not seen by a movie audience. I remember seeing pictures of Linda Blair’s “spider crawl” in Famous Monsters of Filmland in the 70’s. To call this film a classic would be stating the obvious.
Young Regan (Blair) is beginning to show signs of bizarre behavior. She wets herself in front of her actress mother’s (Burstyn) cast party, she spits out an endless litany of profanities, and seems to have personal knowledge of other people’s lives. When a man is found dead under her bedroom door, an exorcist (Von Sydow) is called in to remove the evil presence, but not without incredible personal sacrifice.
If ever a film was poised to make use of more modern Dolby Digital 5.1 sound it has to be The Exorcist. This re-mastered sound makes startling use of the newer format. You’ll find the film is just loaded with atmospheric sounds that while haunting in 1973 are downright chilling in this release. There is no evidenced distortion and dialogue is always upfront and clear.
There is an audio commentary by Director William Friedkin which is the same used on previous releases of the film. It is informative but not particularly entertaining.
The Exorcist is presented in the original theatrical presentation of 1.85:1. This print is vastly superior to the previous DVD release. Both the print itself and the transfer technique show marked improvement. Gone are the distracting grain and film artifacts and in their place is a finely reproduced digital masterpiece that seems to deny the 25 years since the film’s release. Colors are brilliant and near reference in quality. Flesh tones are a bit dark but add to the overall atmosphere of the piece. Blacks are the true perfection in this print. Shadows are quite distinctive and dark shades are solid in their distinctiveness.
The most significant extra on this disc is the addition of about 10 minutes of previously cut material: the noted “spider crawl” and a conversation between Father Karras and the police detective which changes the film’s ending considerably.
There are TV spots, trailers and the usual text features to round out the release.
Twenty-five years after the fact, The Exorcist is still a frightening film. Currently Hollywood is preparing a prequel. If ever a film should be left to stand on its own the Exorcist certainly fits the bill. This is one of those older classics that greatly benefits from the use of newer technology. This battle between pure evil and good absolutely “compels you”.