THE EXORCIST (40TH ANNIVERSARY...
Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
Max von Sydow
What's it about
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the movie that shocked the nation, you can now relive little Regan's harrowing demonic possession and exorcism in this definitive high definition edition.
Is it good movie?
Since THE EXORCIST is now 40-years old, and I am 41-years old, I am not exaggerating when I say I grew up with this film. As a young horror fan this film was the Holy Grail, a movie that never mellowed with age and consistently offends people even to this day. At first I watched it just for that factor. Plus the extremely foul language, blasphemy, and blood and puke spoke to my immature, puerile mindset. But as I got older, the underlying themes and subtext began to speak louder to me than the almost slapstick quality of the head-spinning, pea soup-vomiting, and crucifix-masturbation.
All that excess is necessary, of course, so we can see the depth of depravity in which evil exists; that a demon would inhabit an innocent 12-year old girl and puppet such foulness through her is an abuse down to the core of our humanity. But beneath the invective and body distortions and projecting bodily fluids of Regan is the crisis of faith inhabiting one half of her exorcising team, Father Damien Karras. After the death of his mother, and the increasing evidence of little goodwill in man, Karras is at a crossroads, and seriously questioning his calling to his faith. He initially takes an interest in Regan's case to debunk any supernatural explanation, and in that way essentially debunk the vestiges of his own faith.
But a funny thing happens on the way to the exorcism: Karras starts to believe the evil is real. He also discovers, as one must in tales such as this, that he must rediscover and rekindle his faith, both in his God and in himself. Together with the older and more experienced Father Merrin, played by the inimitable and apparently ageless Max von Sydow, he must find that spark in himself and defeat the evil and restore Regan to her former innocence. Luckily, if the heady themes of faith, personal crisis, the nature of evil, and the early loss of childhood innocence don't intrigue you, then hang out and laugh while Regan jams her sobbing mother's face into her bloody crotch while screaming. "Lick me!" I know I always do.
And now you can see all the blood and vomit and desecration in crystal clarity with this Blu-Ray release. Heh. Release. Every release of possessed Regan's is now in full 1080p for your viewing, um pleasure. Never has such a great image been such a bittersweet occurrence. The image for both the original theatrical version and the extended director's cut are both excellent, but the extended cut has a slight leg up, audio-wise (which I cover below). It also has the extra 12-minutes that you'll probably recall from the 1999 re-release into theaters, and subsequently DVD. The main points of focus would be the spider-walk and the arteriogram scenes. Big shudder, buddy. Big shudder.
While the extra footage does make the extended cut seem a little bloated, I always go with the director's vision, so that'll be the one I'll be playing most. Whichever one you choose to watch, this is the best you're going to see it until some new technology becomes available, so I'd suggest snapping it up. It's the best version available of a great movie.
Video / Audio
Video: 1080p, 1.85:1. There is bound to be some grain when dealing with a 40-year old film, but this transfer looks incredible for its age.
Audio: For the original theatrical version, the audio track is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 for the English track. I'm not sure on the stats for the other language tracks, but they are as follows: French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish (Castilian and Latin). The Extended Director's Cut English track is DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1. There are also two French Tracks (Parisian and Dubbed in Quebec), Two Spanish tracks (Castilian and Latin), German, Italian, Portuguese, Hungarian, Polish, and Russian. There are also 28 optional subtitle tracks. I'm not going to list them: let's just assume if you speak the language, there's a track here for you.
Disc One: Original Theatrical Version:
(These are all features from the 25th Anniversary release)
Introduction by William Friedkin: This is basically Friedkin talking a little about the origins of the film, and how it's awesome and scary. (You don't need to watch it stand alone, because it forces at the beginning of the film anyway).
Commentaries: There are two commentaries on this disc: one with director Friedkin and one with writer William Peter Blatty. Friedkin's track jam-packed with information. He's an intensely smart and confident man, and if you're a film student you need to listen to him. Blatty obviously has some great insights into the film, being the writer of the book, but his track is extremely dry. It doesn't help that there is no audio from the film, so all there is to listen to is his drone.
Sketches and Storyboards: This is 3 silent minutes of conceptual art and storyboards from pre-production of the film. The possessed Regan stuff is supremely creepy.
Interview Gallery with William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty: This is one interview broken into three parts: The Original Cut, which is Blatty on his feelings after seeing the finished film for the first time; Stairway to Heaven, where they talk about their intentions with the film versus what the audience probably took away from it; and The Final Reckoning, which is about the prospect of restoring cut scenes to the film.
Original Ending: This is the quick coda eventually restored in the extended cut, of Father Dyer basically walking off into the sunset with Lieutenant Kinderman. It's unfinished here, so the audio is a bit wacky.
The Fear of God: This is a feature-length documentary, and needless to say it is very comprehensive. Just about every living person involved in the production is interviewed, including even clerical technical advisers. Every single aspect of the movie is discussed and dissected. I doubt you'll walk away from this doc with any question left about the film.
Rounding out this feature-packed disc are three theatrical trailers and four TV spots, if you're into that sort of thing.
Disc Two: Extended Director's Cut:
(These features are from the 2010 director's cut DVD release)
Commentary with director William Friedkin: This is a different commentary track for the long version of the film. It's a pretty similar commentary to the one on the other disc: very informative, but other than when there are restored scenes it's pretty much the same info. For some reason this track has optional Japanese subtitles.
Raising Hell: Filming The Exorcist: This is a 30-minute making-of/retrospective doc. There are the standard interviews with much the same info as other places along the special features landscape, but this one has superior behind the scenes footage, including special effects tests.
The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now: This looks like an 8-minute piece broken off from Raising Hell, obviously specifically about the Georgetown locations. I mean, c'mon: those stairs. Yannow?
Faces of Evil: The different Versions of The Exorcist: Again, another piece from Raising Hell, discussing the reasons why the cuts that were restored for this version were cut in the first place, their significance to the film, and how they came to be restored.
Finally, there are two theatrical trailers, three TV spots, and two radio spots.
Beyond Comprehension: William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist: While the other two discs are pretty Friedkin-heavy, this half hour doc is pretty much all Blatty. This is mostly his recollections on writing the book, including revisiting the house he rented to write it in. He also reads passages from the book over footage from the film.
Talk of the Devil: This is a 20-minute collection of interviews done in early 1974, shortly after the release of the film, with Father Eugene Gallagher. Gallagher was a Jesuit priest and a professor at Georgetown University when Blatty was an undergrad there. He was familiar with the case upon which Blatty based his book, and he delves into it here. In fact, out of all the features in this disc set, this is the only one that does more than pay lip service to the '49 exorcism that serves as the novel's source material.
The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir: Okay, this isn't actually a special feature on the bonus features disc: it's a book. A neat mini hardcover book, with content adapted from Friedkin's autobiography of the same name. It contains a truncated version of some of the famous director's recollections, and a host (ha ha) of wonderful full-color pictures, both scenes from the film and behind the scenes shots. It's a great complement to this new, thorough edition of the film.
Whew. This is a pretty comprehensive collection. It's got HD transfers of both the original and the extended cuts of the film, each disc with a bevvy of special features, a bonus disc with one new and one old, unearthed featurette, and even a hardcover book with reminiscences and recollections of the director. Throw into that the fact that the film is excellent and stands the test of time, and you have a pretty sweet item on your hands. Sure, most of the special features are from previous releases, but now you've got them all housed in one place. I highly recommend this set if you're a fan of the film.