EXORCIST: THE COMPETE ANTHOLOGY
Reviewed by: JimmyO
George C. Scott
What's it about
The complete anthology of The Exorcist is explored in this box set; from a young Linda Blair to the same movie with two different directors. “The power of Christ compels you” to check this out… unless you own the previous volumes already.
Is it good movie?
The Exorcist remains one of the most astounding achievements in horror to this date. There is something visceral and shocking seeing a young girl turn into a demonic monster, spouting off obscene language and masturbating with a crucifix, not to mention the whole pea soup issue. It is so far above your average horror film with wonderfully compelling performances from all those involved, including Linda Blair as the girl possessed, Ellen Burstyn as her horrified mother, and Jason Miller alongside Max Von Sydow as priests who battle the demon. But the biggest question here is… what happened after this?
After the original film we were offered (or offended by) The Exorcist II: The Heretic which may be one of the worst sequels of all time. But it was interesting re-watching after all these years; I began to see the influences behind it. The film returns Linda Blair to the role the made her famous and spins some mumbo jumbo about the demon that possessed her before. Throughout the film there are several attempts at the “Italian Giallo” style of filmmaking. From the odd locusts POV’s to the over-the-top visuals, the only real reaction you may have to this film is laughter.
Years later, William Peter Blatty the author of the novel and the screenwriter of the original film takes a stab at directing The Exorcist III based on his novel, Legion. Thankfully he returns the series to a somber and dark tone without the catastrophe that was The Heretic. This time around, George C. Scott takes over the role of Lt. Kinderman, the detective played by Lee J. Cobb in the original. This time he is investigating a series of murders that somehow seem connected to Catholicism. Although this film falls short of the original, it still has a couple of really powerful moments and some terrific performances from Mr. Scott and a menacing Brad Dourif. There is also a welcome return of Jason Miller.
Finally, on a double disc set, we have both Exorcist: The Beginning directed by Renny Harlin and Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist directed by Paul Schrader. When Mr. Schrader completed his film, it seems the good folks at Morgan Creek felt that it wasn’t scary enough so they asked Renny to see what he could do with an almost entirely new cast aside from Stellan Skarsgård who play a young Father Merrin. And somewhere between the two we could have had a really brilliant sequel but we end up with Schrader’s layered, yet flawed character driven piece and Harlin’s ridiculously campy and dense horror show. Both make an interesting companion piece to each other with Schrader’s standing above with some interesting ideas yet neither of which can compare to the original.
This is a great set to own, if you do not already have all of them. Or if you happen to be a fan of one or two of them and you have your DVD copy, don’t bother with this. There is nothing new here unless you are like me and you enjoy your collection to be complete with the worst of the bunch… and yes, that means you Exorcist II. Oh, no… here comes that grating Ennio Morricone score… What the f*ck is that?
Video / Audio
Video: All films get the Widescreen Anamorphic and it looks very clear. Especially, The Version You’ve Never Seen and The Beginning (which is the only one of the films to be presented in 2.40:1) and is also the best of the bunch visually.
Audio: The audio is 5.1 Dolby Stereo (although not on Exorcist II) and sounds very good. Yet I found some issues with the original film, I found the dialogue and the sound effects seemed to have “mixing” issues, but maybe that’s just me.
Now as I mentioned before, you are not getting anything new with this collection. If you already own your favorites than you have this disc but if you are looking to collect them all, this is a great route to go.
Included in the Things in the Attic section of the original Exorcist are:
Two Commentaries; one from director William Friedkin (who also gives an introduction to the film). He gives us some insight into the making of the original. This is a good listen and especially interesting to hear the challenges faced when making this film.
The next commentary starts off with William Peter Blatty who is also a pretty good listen. His inspiration for the original novel and what became of the movie is a worthwhile listen. But after about an hour, his commentary ends and we are treated to some Special Effects Tests which starts out interesting as we hear lines of dialogue from Linda Blair and then it is repeated by Mercedes McCambridge, the woman they used for the demon Pazuzu in the film. Scary stuff but it gets a little tedious after awhile.
Next is The Fear of God: The Making of the Exorcist (1:17:09) which is easily one of the most entertaining movie documentaries that I’ve seen. Everything from The Exorcist “curse” to the hell Mr. Friedkin put his cast and crew through. They don’t get much better than this.
The Interview Gallery includes an interview with both William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty. The Original Cut (1:00) quickly references the changes made in the film. Next is Stairway to Heaven (5:41) where the two discuss their difference in opinion regarding a scene between the two priests. I personally love the scene. Then comes The Final Reckoning (2:33). These mini-interviews are worth a look but it seems like it could have been longer.
The Original Ending (1:46) worked quite well yet I can understand why they took it out. It seemed to lighten the movie a bit too much. Still a good scene though.
We then have a few Sketches and Storyboards (2:49), and you don’t have to point and click your remote… almost always a good thing.
We also have a bunch of TV Spots and Theatrical Trailers including “Beyond Comprehension” (:36), “You Too Can See The Exorcist” (:36), “Between Science and Superstition” (1:06), “The Movie You’ve Been Waiting For” (1:06), “Nobody Expected It” (:36) and finishing off the TV Spots is “Life Had Been Good” (:36). As for the Theatrical Trailers, we have “Nobody Expected It” (1:46), “Beyond Comprehension” (:33), “Flash Image” (1:43) and the brilliant trailer for “The Exorcist II: The Heretic” (in case you didn’t get it, that last part is sarcasm).
Finishing off this disc is a few remote point and clicks including Cast and Crew, Exorcist: The True Story and Awards. This particular disc is two sided with the film and commentary on one side, and all the other special features on the other.
Next up is The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen which includes commentary from William Friedkin again. This one lost much of the interest I had because it seems he just describes what is going on during the movie. It’s hard to get excited by that, although we do get the commentary on the added footage so if you need to watch this, skip to those scenes.
This disc also contains several TV Spots and a couple of Theatrical Trailers. The TV Spots include “Most Electrifying” (:18), “Scariest Ever” (:33), “Returns” (:33) and “Never Seen” (:33). The theatrical includes, “The Version You’ve Never Seen” (2:02) and “Our Deepest Fears” (1:37). And to finish off the trailers we get a couple Radio Spots including “The Devil Himself” and “Our Deepest Fears”, you could really f*ck someone up by prank calling someone with this stuff.
And finishing off this disc we have a few remote point and click including Behind the Screams: Story Behind the Novel, Blatty and Friedkin: Vision and Differences and The Most Famous Scene Not in the Movie… go ahead, try and guess which one that is. We also get Fast Facts and Awards. Even though point and click bores the shite out of me, I did find these pretty interesting.
As for Exorcist II: The Heretic and Exorcist III, we have a Theatrical Trailer for both. And The Heretic also has a Teaser Trailer (1:18) and the Alternate Opening (2:12) which includes an introduction by Richard Burton
As for Renny Harlin’s beginning, we have Commentary from the man himself. It’s an interesting listen, but it would have been nice to hear him talk more about the fiasco that came with this flick. But all he really did was complimentary so he really thinks his version was great, or he doesn’t care anymore. I’m betting on the first.
We also get a Theatrical Trailer (1:52) and a Behind the Scenes (8:09) which is pretty basic. Yet a few fun tidbits pop up, like when Mr. Harlin talks about his own battle with The Exorcist curse.
For Paul Schrader’s Dominion we also have Commentary from Paul and although this is a better film, the commentary is not. Yes it’s informative, but he is not the most fascinating person to listen to.
We also have a few Deleted Scenes including “On the March” (:43), “House of St. Michael” (:51), “Cigarette” (1:13), “Classroom Song” (:38), “Finest Painter” (1:03) and “Church in Ruins” (:49). Personally, I think they could have added all of these. They are not all that groundbreaking, but a couple of them including “On the March” and “Church in Ruins”, add a little something to this devil’s brew.
And last but not least we get… a Still Gallery. Yeah, the damn point and click kind.
The Exorcist is one of the most important horror films of all time. It helped bring horror into the mainstream and it also brought the genre critical success. That is why some of the sequels are so heartbreakingly bad. If the original hadn’t been such a well made film, the rest of the franchise might have looked much better than it does. Yet I still must own every single sequel, and that is just the way I am. You could do worse with this box set, for the price. But where is the extra disc with the brand spankin’ new material? It could have been an amazing box set with the right extras, but it ends up just damn cool. And yes, I still highly recommended it if you don’t own any of the earlier copies. So go out and by this little devil before I go and exorcise yer ass.