Max Von Sydow
THE EXORCIST opens in the Middle East at an archaeological dig site. Here's where the patience is required. You need to have an attention span to pick up on everything going on, because nothing is ever spelled out to you through speech. The opening is pretty much dialogue free, and follows Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) and some troubles he's having with his heart and a mysterious ancient relic. On the other end of the world, Father Karras (Jason Miller) is dealing with his near-death mother and a serious crisis of faith. As we meet Father Karras, we also meet Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), a famous actress, and her daughter Regan (Linda Blair), who appears to be a nice and wholesome young lady.
There are a few things that go bump in the night but if it wasn't for the title of the movie showing its hand, there's no indication you're in for a movie about a possessed girl until about forty minutes in. But once the possession kicks in, the movie flies by. The earliest scenes of the possession, while everybody is still trying to figure out what the hell is going on are terrifying. The brain scans they put Regan through are f*cking intense. They're scarier than anything that goes on during the possession scenes. Director William Friedkin doesn't pull his punches during these scenes, you see all the needles and blood spurts you'll ever need to witness in your lifetime.
I don't want to spoil much about the actual exorcism if you've also never seen the movie but it's a breathtaking sequence with a fantastic ending. All the prior character development with the two priests, now with an all-the-way dead mother and worse heart condition, give the scenes a much greater weight than you normally see in this type of movie. William Friedkin (THE FRENCH CONNECTION) knows how to shoot a film and the rest of the crew is on the top of their game with a great set, score and excellent make-up.
As a movie watcher in 2010, who doesn't partake in organized religion, none of the language or themes were too shocking to me but I can see how somebody might be offended by a few things in THE EXORCIST. Regan uses some pretty nasty language while she's possessed, even dropping a c-bomb (my personal favorite "naughty" word) and makes her mother lick her bloody snatch after diddling herself with a crucifix. While I wasn't shocked, I was legitimately uncomfortable watching the movie all alone in the dark at 2:00am with headphones on. It's definitely scary.
Director Commentary (on Director's Cut) by William Friedkin - Very informative track. Friedkin explains the purpose of every new scene and goes further in-depth on the film's themes and details.
New, 3-part behind-the-scenes documentary - The first part Raising Hell: Filming the Exorcist (30 min) shows the filming of actual scenes while the cast and crew talk over everything. The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown then and now (9 min) shows how Georgetown University has changed or not changed since 1971. Lastly, Faces of Evil: Different versions of The Exorcist (10 min) explains why the "director's cut" was made in 2000 and shows some behind-the-scenes footage from the infamous "spider-walk" scene.
Two Commentaries (on theatrical cut) - The first, from director William Friedkin is pretty robotic ans repetitive if you've already listened to the track on disc 1. The second commentary is from screenwriter/author Bill Blatty. I enjoy his speaking style much more than Friedkin's as he's more laid back, and frankly, interesting. The downside is the track seems to be pieced together from interviews, so he's not interacting with the movie.
Interviews With William Friedkin and Bill Blatty (10 min) - They discuss changes between the original and director's cuts of the film and audience reactions.
The Fear of God (77 min) - An entertaining feature-length doc on the making of the movie and its lasting legacy made for TV in 1998.
There are also a bunch of trailers, TV spots, and sketches from the production.