The Exorcist (1973)

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Something beyond comprehension is happening to a little girl on this street, in this house. A man has been called for as a last resort to try and save her. That man is The Exorcist.

1973’s The Exorcist may be the greatest horror movie of the modern era. In many ways it reinvigorated – and in many ways invented –the supernatural horror thriller. Controversial even at the time of its original release, an additional ten minutes was added for it’s theatrical rerelease in 2000. Rerelease? Well, it was rereleased for one day, but in my mind that still counts. That same version, called for the most part “The Version You’ve Never Seen” has become the definitive version. It is this extended cut which has just been released (again) on standard DVD in addition to the classic’s first blu-ray release.

If you haven’t seen this “version you’ve never seen” I suggest you do. It truly is more than the usual extended director’s cut which oftentimes simply muddies the water and causes viewer confusion and consternation. Although the “extended” cut adds only about ten minutes to the run time, these few minutes add quite a bit to the exposition of the story and provide even more depth to the characterization of the key players.

I really try not to divulge overly much of the plot during my reviews. I really hope to pique your interest enough where you’ll check out one of these fine films we look at. Suffice to say here we see the slow possession of a young girl (Regan, played by Linda Blair) by an unknown force. Her extremely concerned mother (played by Ellen Burstyn, who for some reason is estranged from the Father) after exploring almost every medical explanation for her daughter’s increasingly erratic behavior, consults two priests (played by Max von Sydow and Jason Miller) to attempt to perform an exorcism. You can almost feel the futility in the exercise, but of course, things happen to change that feeling of futility.

It is perhaps one of the scariest films ever, but don’t be like many and fail to view it because of it’s reputation. It is a classic and if needed find a companion so you’re not alone if this makes it work for you.

Many claim the movie is boring – and I suppose it is if you are looking for something along the lines of a slasher movie, which this is not. It is a quite believable story of a fairly normal family being torn asunder by the forces of evil. It slowly and quite effectively builds up the expectations of the viewer to the climax they know must take place. However this anticipation makes the climax that much more powerful, rather than lessening its impact.

The acting is exemplary. Linda Blair of course, became the personification of evil in her depiction of Regan – and at the age of twelve. Max von Sydow and newcomer Jason Miller are superb. Ellen Burstyn too is quite good. And the effects are dazzling for the time – remember this was the early 1970s! Without CGI they levitate a bed and turn a few heads around for fun.

But, the question is…ultimately, at the end of the day should you buy this new release? Well, that depends on a variety of factors and which ones you feel are really important. If you haven’t ever seen the film, see it first, of course. No film, no matter its reputation, is worth your money should you not like it. Even if it is Gone with the Wind….(gasp!) If you don’t like it, never buy it.

As much as I despise studios for repeated releases of the same title, this release does not fit into that category. For starters, it is a new transfer, with the standard DVD release being from the same transfer as the new blu-ray release (released concurrently).

The video quality on the new standard DVD release which I viewed is an improvement, but perhaps not as much as you’d hope. There is a good amount of grain in the transfer, which I actually think is a plus. On some scenes the color seems a bit ‘washed out’ and blacks can be murky- still a strong improvement over the previous release.

The supplemental material is for the most part the same; however, this release has a new commentary track with director William Friedkin. I am not sure why they did not port over the previous commentary with Friedkin from the earlier DVD release, as it was much stronger- giving much more behind the scenes detail, which is what I look for in commentaries. This track is almost an audiobook accompaniment to the film, just telling me what is one the screen. Not good.

That said, the feature itself is the reason to get this, and this release is a significant upgrade. However, unless you are blu-ray challenged I would get the blu-ray release as it is in the nice book format that WB likes and also includes both a standard DVD version and the blu-ray version.  Of course (darn I sound repetitive) available at your usual brick and mortar retail friends or at The WB Shop and also available (WITH EXTRAS) on download from iTunes at The Exorcist on iTunes

Review copy provided by Warner Bros. Thanks!

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