FILM REVIEW HHH 1/2
The Version You’ve Never Experienced
Directed by William Friedkin
Screenplay and novel by William Peter Blatty
Starring Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran, Jason Miller, and Linda Blair
Re-released after 27 years, the new version of The Exorcist has been received with interest, as it’s been termed The Scariest Movie of All Time. Getting tickets for newer movies such as Almost Famous or Bring it On is much easier than finding a ticket for The Exorcist. However, people who haven’t seen the old version of this movie should definitely go to the nearest theater to catch the new version.
The new Exorcist has eleven minutes of footage not found in the original release. This footage was cut from the original version mainly due to decisions made by William Peter Blatty, the writer of the screenplay and the novel. One of the anticipated new scenes involves a crabwalk done by Linda Blair, who plays Regan, the possessed child. The scene was taken out of the original version because it was considered to be vulgar and would not flow well with the chain of events. The crabwalk was shocking, as Regan spewed forth blood while rapidly crawling after two of the characters. The crabwalk was a difficult scene because the director had to employ a contortionist to teach Linda Blair how to crabwalk down a staircase.
Another interesting scene that was added is a final conversation between the detective investigating the death of Damien Karras, the priest who carried out the exorcism, and one of Damien’s friends. This conversation gives a different feel to the film’s resolution. Although Blatty believed this scene would juxtapose well with the end of the movie, the director originally cut the scene because he felt it was not the right resolution.
Another cut scene was a prelude to all of the scientific examinations done on Regan. Doctors felt that Regan had nervous problems and Ritalin was the answer to her disorder. The director did not add this scene to the original because he felt it was quite confusing, which is something I agree with. The worst part is that when the doctor quotes what Regan said, Regan’s mother smirks.
The picture won an Academy Award for Best Sound. In the recent release, many sounds were edited; even new ones were added. The original theme, “Tubular Bells,” is played throughout various new scenes, heightening the suspense. Various sounds were amplified in order to shock viewers. In one scene, in which the lights flicker suspiciously, the phone suddenly rings loudly, not only frightening Regan’s mother (played by Ellen Burstyn) but also the viewers. Special sounds such as the grinding noise of the demon turning its head was created by crushing pieces of credit cards. Many natural sounds were added in order to create a more mysterious mood.
In spite of the new scenes and special effects, most people (except for avid fans) would find the new version to be rather dry. But viewers who still have not seen The Exorcist should definitely watch the new version in theaters in order to decide for themselves whether or not this film deserves the title of Scariest Movie of All Time.