Exorcist, The: Scariest Film Ever Made?

A recent poll found that The Exorcist, made four decades ago, is the scariest movie ever made.
In September, William Friedkin is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Venice Film Fest.

Forty years ago, Friedkin’s horror film delivered a cultural and cinematic impact that is still felt today, shocking and enthralling audiences, who had never seen anything like it. Written by William Peter Blatty (from his best-selling novel), The Exorcist won the Oscar Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The film tells the now-famous story of a girls demonic possession, and a gripping fight between good and evil. Linda Blair plays the young girl, Regan, who starts to exhibit strange, arcane behavior. Her mother (Ellen Burstyn, Oscar-winner for Best Actress in Alice Doesnt Live Here Anymore) calls upon a priest, Father Karras (Jason Miller) to investigate.

But Karras, who has self-doubts about faith, is suddenly confronted with unimaginable evil of Regans possession. When Father Lankester Merrin (Max Von Sydow), a priest with a mysterious past, is called to help, a horrific battle for her soul begins.

Blatty adapted the script from his own novel, which he sold to Warner even before it was published. It was based on newspaper stories of an alleged exorcism of a teenage boy from Maryland.

Before the success of The Exorcist, Blatty was best known as a screenwriter of comedies, such as the Peter Sellers’ vehicle, “A Shot in the Dark” (1964) and “Darling Lili.”

By standards of 1973, the visual effects are still impressive. Audiences were scared upon seeing Linda Blair’s head spin 360 degrees, or spew green pea soup (which became a joke). Much of the creepy scares came from the sound system, which won an Oscar.

Not to be underestimated is the voice of the demon, which was provided by the great actress Mercedes McCambridge (Oscar-winner for the 1949 “All the King’s Men”), which was then remixed and enhanced with various animal sounds.

With “The Exorcist,” which came right after his Oscar-wining picture “The French Connection,” William Friedkin became the hottest, most commercial director in Hollywood, though it didn’t last long.

None of the sequels, or prequel for that matter, matched the quality and the success of the original picture, which single-handedly revitalized the horror genre.

Running Time: 122 minutes

Oscar Context

Over the years very few horror films were nominated for Best Picture, and even fewer won, such as “The Silence of the Lamb,” in 1991. No doubt the Academy voters were impressed by the blockbuster status of “The Exorcist,” which in 1973 competed for the top Oscar with George Lucas’ “American Graffiti,” the comedy “Touch of Class,” with Glenda Jackson, Ingmar Bergman’s brilliant “Cries and Whispers,” and George Roy Hill’s “The Sting,” starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman, which won.

Oscar Nominations: 10

Best Picture, produced by William Peter Blatty
Director: William Friedkin
Screenplay (Adapted): William Peter Blatty
Actress: Ellen Burstyn
Supporting Actress: Linda Blair
Supporting Actor: Jason Miller
Cinematography: Owen Roizman
Art Direction-Set Decoration: Bill Malley; Jerry Wunderlich
Editing: Jordan Leondopoulos, Bud Smith, Evan Lothman, Norman Gray
Sound: Robert Knudson, Chris Newman

Oscar Awards: 2

Screenplay
Sound

The 2-Disc Blu-ray DVD

“The Exorcist,” Oscar-winning director William Friedkin’s horror-suspenser that haunted, intrigued, and thrilled millions of viewers, was released on Blu-ray in a two-disc high-definition set in 2010 from Warner Home Video.

A cinema landmark, this theological thriller, which is one of the top ten box office performers of all time, won two Academy Awards and became a multi-million dollar franchise. When the movie was first released in 1973, viewers were shocked; some were blown away. Audiences were frightened out of their wits–and literally out of their seats. Some ran out of the theatre; others got physically ill or couldn’t sleep for weeks.With the maximum visual and sound quality that Warner Home Video’s spectacularly restored new Blu-ray and DVD versions provide, home viewers may experience the same visceral emotions again in seeing the brilliant effects and hearing the awesome sound of this classic and thrilling tale of good vs. evil. Newly remastered in 1080p from the original camera negative, the Blu-ray includes both the remastered Extended Director’s Cut as well as the remastered theatrical version of the film.Said Friedkin: After my final cut of the original The Exorcist, I took out 12 more minutes before we actually released it in theatres. Years later, Bill Blatty asked if I’d consider reviewing some of that rejected footage (which he always felt should have remained) with an eye towards putting it into a new version. Bill gave me the best piece of material I’ve ever received and because of that and because the film had such a major reputation over some 25 years, I agreed to revisit all these scenes. When I saw them, I came to realize that Bill was, in fact, right. With technical advances, scenes that didn’t work then could now be fixed with CGI and there were others that I thought strengthened the spiritual aspect of the film. Warner agreed and released a whole new theatrical print in 2000, which we called The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen. And I now agree with Blatty that this is the best and most complete version.The Extended Director’s Cut contains three new documentaries: Raising Hell: Filming the Exorcist, including new revealing set footage produced and photographed by cinematographer Owen Roizman, as well as camera and makeup tests, interviews with Friedkin, actress Linda Blair, author-screenwriter-producer William Peter Blatty and Roizman himself; The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now featuring a tour of the iconic locations where the film was shot, including a visit to the famous “Exorcist steps”; and Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of The Exorcist — with Friedkin and Blatty discussing the different versions of the film and showing outtakes. The result is a new immersive viewing experience that takes you on the set of the film and offers a unique, up-close perspective of the filmmaking and special effects process that is rarely seen.The Exorcist caused a cultural earthquake that is still felt today, shocking and enthralling audiences, who had never seen anything like it. Directed by Friedkin (Oscar-winner for “he French Connection” and written by William Peter Blatty, the film is based on his best-selling novel which sold nearly 13 million copies domestically and was the #1 book on the New York Times Best Seller List for 57 weeks, 17 of them at #1. The Exorcist won Blatty the Academy Award® for Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as winning for Best Sound. The film was also nominated for an additional eight Oscars® including Best Picture.

The film tells the now-famous story of a girl’s demonic possession, and a gripping fight between good and evil. Linda Blair, in a breakout role, plays Regan, a young girl who starts to exhibit strange, arcane behavior. Her mother (Ellen Burstyn, Oscar-winner for Best Actress Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) calls upon a priest, Father Karras (Jason Miller) to investigate. But Karras, who has self-doubts about faith, is suddenly confronted with the unimaginable evil of Regan’s possession. When Father Lankester Merrin (Max Von Sydow), a priest with a mysterious past, is called to help, a horrific battle for her soul begins.

Disc 1–Exended Director’s Cut (2000) plus Special Features

* Commentary by William Friedkin
NEW Raising Hell: Filming the Exorcist — set footage produced and photographed by Owen Roizman, camera and makeup tests, and interviews with director William Friedkin, actress Linda Blair, author/screenwriter/producer William Peter Blatty and Owen Roizman. BLU-RAY™ EXCLUSIVE
*   NEW The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now — Featuring a tour of the iconic locations where the film was shot. BLU-RAY™ EXCLUSIVE
*   NEW Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of The Exorcist — with director William Friedkin and author/screenwriter/producer William Peter Blatty discussing the different versions of the film and featuring outtakes from the film. BLU-RAY™ EXCLUSIVE
*   Trailers, TV Spots & Radio Spots from the film’s 2000 release
o Trailers
* The Version You’ve Never Seen
*  Our Deepest Fears
o TV Spots
* Most Electrifying
* Scariest Ever
* Returns
o Radio Spots
* The Devil Himself
o Our Deepest Fears
Disc 2 – Theatrical Cut (1973) plus Special Features:
* Introduction by William Friedkin
* Commentary by William Friedkin
* Commentary by William Peter Blatty with Special Sound Effects Tests
The Fear of God: 25 Years of The Exorcist [1998 BBC documentary]
* Additional Interviews with William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty
o The Original Cut
o Stairway to Heaven
o The Final Reckoning
* Original Ending
* Sketches & Storyboards
* Trailers & TV Spots from the 1973 version
o Trailers
* Nobody Expected It
* Beyond Comprehension
* Flash Image
o TV Spots
* Beyond Comprehension
* You Too Can See The Exorcist
* Between Science & Superstition
* The Movie You’ve Been Waiting For