Happy Halloween! Top 10 reasons why The Exorcist is one odd franchise!

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

Much like many of you out there, I am watching THE EXORCIST TV Show and I am loving every second of it. Tag to that the release of THE EXORCIST III Director’s Cut on Blu-Ray via the fine folks at SCREAM FACTORY and it’s a good time to be an Exorcist fan. So yeah, being that it is Halloween and all, I have been on an EXORCIST kick now of late and I’ve re-watched all of the films back to back (even the dreadful Part 2)! One thing that popped in my noggin through this “re-visit” of the franchise as I went back and explored the production history of each film, is just how oddness seemed to follow it. Here’s what stood out for me!

1- They shot The Exorcist Part 4 twice!

Yeah this is my number 1. It still blows the mind! So much time and money wasted! So John Frankenheimer was set to direct the EXORCIST prequel. Dude pulled out (and passed on soon after) and was replaced by PAUL SCHRADER (a man known for more character driven films). They shot the film but the Producers weren’t happy. They thought it was too talky and didn’t have enough gore (Again, don’t people read scripts before approving a shoot?). So they canned Schrader, scrapped the bulk of the film and hired action director RENNY HARLIN (and screenwriter Alexi Hawley) to re-write the film. A whole new version was shot with some casting changes (the great Stellan Skasguard stuck around and played Merrin a second time) and a more “action” chain of events. It was called Exorcist: The Beginning. After Harlin’s version tanked critically and financially in 2004, Morgan Creek tossed $35,000 Paul Schrader’s way to finish his cut. Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist was released (in a limited release and then on disk) in 2005. It tanked too. William Peter Blatty (author/screenwriter of The Exorcist) called Renny’s version: “my most humiliating professional experience.” But called Dominion: “A handsome, classy, elegant piece of work” Which one do you like better? I keep flip-flopping, but both are flawed in my book.

2- The Heretic: The Exorcist 2. The end result.

This was the most expensive Warner Bros film at the time (so much for that low budget idea hey guys) and what did all that coin get us? Ridiculous mind melding devices, the demon’s silly identity (he’s a giant, flying grasshopper) atrocious dialogue, (“She has evolved to resist the brushing of the wings!”) and so many questions like: Why does Regan feel pain when Father Lemont does? Why do pigeons always surround Reagan? Why is that tap dancing sequence even in the film? Why is Dr Gene the only doctor in the house? Why does Burton stretch the word evillll? Why is there two Regan’s in the end? And why does the police wait until everybody leaves the house to swarm all over it? (Hilarious)? The sequel provoked riots and Director John Boorman actually re-edited the film twice, WHILE it was in theaters. Yes, the film tanked. What a cluster of f*cks!

4- The Exorcist curse!

Nine deaths have been connected to THE EXORCIST, including actor Jack MacGowran (who played that drunk a-hole who gets killed in movie), Max Von Sydow’s brother and a cameraman’s wife giving birth to a stillborn child. The MacNeil house set also burned down one weekend. They never found out what caused the fire and it delayed the production for 6 weeks. The only part of the set that survived the flames was oddly enough Regan’s room. And when the film premiered in Rome, the theater was located between two churches. There was a storm that night, lightning hit one of the crosses and it fell in the streets. Tum, tum, tum!

3- Hiring a director that hated the original to do a sequel!

John Boorman was once asked to direct the original THE EXORCIST. He said no dice because he thought the story was too “cruel towards children” and when he saw the finished product, he hated it saying that it was “repulsive.” So what did the Studio do? Hire the guy to streamline Part 2! Ya know, the one that didn’t understand or enjoy the Box Office winner that was the first film (ninth highest-grossing film of all time)? Is it me man? Makes no sense. It’s like they wanted it to fail!

8- The sequel was going to be a recycle job!

The initial plan for THE EXORCIST II was to basically remake the first film using unused footage from the first movie. Talk about a cheap-jack idea! That’s how you follow up one of the biggest horror moneymakers in history? Sheesh! Still would have probably been better than the sequel we wound up getting though.

9- The TV show which was sold as reboot became a sequel!

At first they wanted to remake the first film. Then they came to their senses and decided to reboot it for TV instead. As a viewer, I was watching a mirror image of the original film; same set-up, similar characters (off-shoots of Regan, Karras and Merrin) and for a while there I was content with that as it was different enough to keep me watching. Recently though, the show pulled a fast one to become an actual sequel to the first film. WELL PLAYED! It just made me love the show even more.

5- The cultural phenomenon that was The Exorcist!

When THE EXORCIST was released, it became an unabashed phenomenon! The line-ups to see the film were ridiculous, people fainted at the theaters, many ran out of there mid screening scared shitless, they had to have paramedics and barf bags on hand. It was madness. Protestant evangelist Billy Graham dubbed the film “Satanic” while the Catholic church was more in favor of it. In fact director William Friedkin, was recently invited to witness a real life exorcism at the Vatican and had this to say: “ I don’t think I will ever be the same having seen this astonishing thing,” I am not talking about some cult, I am talking about an exorcism by the Catholic Church in Rome.” He also said that it was “was remarkably similar” to what he had done in the film.

6- The Exorcist III re-shoots!

William Peter Blatty shot his film. Once done, producer James Robinson (same dude who butchered Nightbreed) decided that they needed an exorcist in the film, had Brad Dourif re-shoot his scenes to accommodate the left-field inclusion of THE EXORCIST alumni Jason Miller and then they re-did the entire ending. Don’t people read and approve scripts in Hollywood before going into productions in Hollywood? Damn…

7- William Friedkin’s extreme directing methods!

Director William Friedkin didn’t hold back on his cast to get the reactions that he wanted on camera. He would fire a gun before takes to startle them; he’d slap others in the face before rolling as well. The worse was what he did to Ellen Burstyn in the scene that sees her character shoved to the ground by Regan. Burstyn was rigged with wires that a crew-member pulled on off camera to make her fall hard. After a take Burstyn told Friedkin that if they went harder, she would get hurt. Of course Friedkin had the crew-member pull her harder on the following take and Burstyn severely injured her spine – that is the take they used in the final cut (that scream and that fall were real). And during Post production, under Friedkin’s orders actress Mercedes McCambridge (voice of the demon) was gagged and bound to a chair for real to record the sounds of the demon “struggling”. McCambridge was mucho pissed off afterwards.

10- Priests, Priests, Priests!

Lots of Priest activity gravitated towards THE EXORCIST. For starters, two real Priests were hired to act in the film (William O’Malley as Father Dyer and Reverend Thomas Bermingham as Tom). In fact Friedkin even asked Reverend Thomas Bermingham to exorcise the set during the shoot. The latter refused, instead he blessed the set and talked to the cast and crew if need be.
Actress Mercedes McCambridge who did the voice of the demon had an alcohol problem. Being that she wanted to drink Whiskey to alter her voice in Post, she insisted on having her Priest there during the recording sessions, in case she needed counsel.
And this one is my favorite; while they were shooting, actor Jason Miller (Father Karras) was approached by a real life Priest out of nowhere in the streets. The man of the cloth gave Miller a Holy Medallion for protection and warned him that “revealing the Devil” could be a dangerous thing as the entity may seek revenge.

HONORABLE MENTION: This f*cking guy.

Kokumo (James Earl Jones) in his best grasshopper suit from John Boorman’s turkey HERETIC THE EXORCIST 2. What were they smoking?!!! Nough said!

Tags: Hollywood

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