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If you haven’t seen any version of THE EXORCIST III, get out of here! This will be spoiler filled. Only take this in once you’ve seen the flick, theatrical or D.Cut. You have been warned Tonto!
I have been JONESING to take on the Director’s Cut of William Peter Blatty’s THE EXORCIST III (GET THE PACKED COLLECTOR'S EDITION 2 DISK SET HERE) since reading about all the changes Morgan Creek imposed on Mr. Blatty in the 90's. I was already a huge fan of the theatrical cut (a film close to my heart, there's something about it I that draws me to it) and I was certain that the pure and un-corrupted Director’s Cut would be a superior film to what we got. So after over 20 years of foaming at the mouth like Cujo on acid, was it worth the wait? Which version did I dig the most? Theatrical or D. Cut? Read on!
First off kudos to SCREAM FACTORY for making this happen for us EXORCIST III fans. Being that MORGAN CREEK lost the original footage in terms of Blatty's cut, I had given up hope to ever see his initial vision. Thankfully, they got a hold of dailies from the shoot on VHS and were able to pull this magic off. Lots of affection and hard work went into this 2 Disk Collector's set. To say the EXTRAS were insightful (all about the new audio Blatty interview) would be an understatement. Now I gotta be honest; this STILL FROM AN OLD FANGORIA MAG has haunted me for eons: the Priest holding his severed head. The scene wasn’t in the theatrical cut and I couldn’t wait to see it in this Director’s Cut. So when the sequence in question kicked in and that bit was AGAIN MIA, I wasn’t a happy camper. And alas it wasn’t part of the Deleted Scenes either. I guess the scene is lost forever. Bummer. Another sequence that I always wanted to see after reading about it, was a moment that was born out of the “exorcism” theatrical cut re-shoot. Yes I speak of the morphing head of the Gemini Killer (which Blatty nixed out cause he hated the FX, here’s a glimpse of it). Again no sign of the scene on this double disk. So with those two 20 year plus expectations not coming through, how did actual film go down? Smooth baby, smooth!
Much like theatrical version, LEGION (the title Blatty always wanted to go with, same as his book which the film is based on, the Studio wanted the word Exorcist in there even though Part 2 tanked, than Part 3 tanked as well, proving Blatty right) was a mucho atmospheric, get under skin creepy, directed in a restrained yet uber efficient manner (we get some genuine scares here). The whole was draped in impact-ful religious imagery, sported an unsettling sound design (the wind, them growls), a chilling score by Barry De Vorzon (loved his take on Tubular Bells) and what it said or hinted at was simply freaky as f*ck. That polar opposite approach in relation to the original (which was very graphic and in your face) was the ideal way to go about it IMO as lets face it, you can’t compete with what the O.G. pulled off, so might as well tap it from another angle. Once again, the dialogue was sublime and at time beautifully existential. The banter between Kinderman and Father Dyer (an excellent Ed Flanders) and the Gemini Killer's (Brad Dourif giving an Oscar worthy showcase) verbal sparring match with Kinderman (George C. Scott at his best... again) were the highlights in the bla bla department that's for sure! I was wowed and transfixed to the screen watching them acting Titans go at it.
Story wise, little additions here and there and less "gore" aside; this director’s cut pimped out two MAJOR differences in relation to the theatrical cut. 1- It had no Jason Miller (Father Karras in The Exorcist). And 2- It had a completely different ending. Personally, I was half/half about the omission of Jason Miller. On one end, it was a treat to take in Brad Dourif’s complete "tour de force" performance. My jaw was on the ground as I witnessed the actor own that scenery like the pro that he is. There's an interview on the disk with Mr. Dourif and it was obvious to me that he was proud of his showcase but also bummed that it got shaved down via the re-shoots. What I got out of it anyways! On the flip-side though, I kinda missed Miller’s appearance. In the theatrical cut the shift between Miller and Dourif made the convo more visually dynamic and Miller's presence augmented the connection between this film and THE EXORCIST.
And then we had the ending. Where the theatrical cut brought in some Rambo Priest out of left field to perform a "eye popping" exorcism on the Gemini Killer, here, well, lets just say it ended WAY more abruptly. Like forget about it abrupt! Now I didn’t know what the original cap-off was before seeing this cut, so I was not prepared for it. Although more intimate, it somewhat left me on my appetite. In my perfect world, the flick would have had a finale that hit the middle between the low key director’s cut approach and the over the top theatrical. My 3 cents!
Overall I LOVED digging into LEGION, specially after all of these years of waiting for it. On that, I "think" I preferred the Theatrical Cut over the D. Cut, but I'll have to see the latter again to know for sure. Watching this Director's Cut though, I couldn’t help but think “the freaking balls on Blatty”. Such a mature, and at times off kilter film (all about that heaven/purgatory scene); so bold, especially for a Studio picture. Good on ya man! Good on ya! It's a "wonderfull life" indeed!