The Exorcist DVD
I was sixteen when I first saw “The Exorcist.” I was associate editor of my high school newspaper, and the editor and myself had accompanied our teacher/supervisor to San Diego to spend the weekend with the Navy at Coronado.
We, like a hundred other student journalists from Southern California, were there to do a story on the Navy (it was actually a recruitment piece, but they never told us that). At the time, “The Exorcist” was only playing in Los Angeles, and that was 60 miles from where I lived. It was also playing in San Diego, which was only a short bus trip over the bridge from Coronado. Since we had our evenings free, four of us decided to catch that bus and go see “The Exorcist.” The editor was 17, so we knew he could buy the tickets.
Others in the group decided to go see “Day of the Dolphin.” They were disappointed. We arrived early enough for the six o’clock show, but it was sold out. So was the eight- thirty show. That meant we had to wait until the 11:30 p.m. show. We bought our tickets and went and got some dinner. Then we waited in a long line with the rest of the 11:30 p.m. ticket holders. The anticipation grew. We had a space near the front of the line, so we got to watch the poor usher wheel the mop bucket into the theater on more than one occasion.
That was encouraging. After all, this was the movie that everyone was talking about, and some people were losing their lunch over. Come hell or high water, we were going to see it. And we did. The theater kept the auditorium cold, almost to the point of seeing your breath. They did it to help counterattack nausea. It didn’t work. The minute they jabbed that needle into Linda Blair’s throat, several people headed for the exits. When she started masturbating with the crucifix, more people headed for the exits. Man, I loved this movie.
Enough so that I wasn’t bummed out at all when we learned that the last bus for Coronado had left fifteen minutes before the end of the show. So there we were, four high school students, stuck in the middle of downtown San Diego on a Friday night, scared out of our minds. We had enough money to take a cab about two-thirds of the way back to Coronado. That meant we had to walk a couple of miles in the middle of the night back to the base. Every little breeze didn’t whisper Louise that night. We literally scared ourselves silly, over reacting to every little noise in the dark. “The Exorcist” has stayed with me since then. I think I have seen the film more times than most people I know.
I was lucky enough to work at a drive-in that showed the film. The theater chain had booked the film for three weeks, but this was after the hard top theatrical run, so most people weren’t hip on seeing the film at a drive-in. That meant we basically got paid to sit around and watch the film two times a night, three on the weekend. I’ve seen the film from beginning to end more than 90 times. At first it was an obsession to learn why the film had affected me so.
Then it was just for the fun of it. “The Exorcist” remains a classic or terror and suspense, a film that easily crawls under your skin and makes you uncomfortable. I learned that the reason it affected me so was that it was seamless. Director William Friedkin and his tremendous cast had created a situation that was so utterly believable and seamless that it took on a life all it’s own. That was fascinating to me, and after studying the film, I have come to treasure the brilliance of the writing and the conviction of the performances. There isn’t a false note in this claustrophobic tale of a 12-year old girl who becomes possessed by a demon. From it’s startling special and visual effects to it’s unadulterated sense of good and evil, “The Exorcist” is riveting entertainment.
First and foremost it’s a film, but it goes much further and digs much deeper than that. It’s a test of faith and endurance. It’s not easy to watch, and sometimes it’s downright wrenching. Yet it’s never exploitive or unnecessary. Friedkin skillfully builds the tension as the story unfolds until it’s almost unbearable to take. He puts us in uncomfortable situations and dares us to face them. It’s bold yet calculated film making. “The Exorcist” hasn’t endured 25 years because it is gross and scary. It remains as vital and daring today because it’s a great film.
VISION: [ X ] 20/20 [ ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind
Absolutely stunning 1.85:1 widescreen transfer features some of the sharpest and most vivid blacks, which is an asset for a film that lives or dies on it’s atmosphere. Director of Photography Owen Roizman’s carefully manipulated color schemes get the utmost respect in the digital transfer that only features a small amount of digital compression artifacts. The original negative has been well maintained, allowing for a remarkably clear transfer. The colors are natural and warm with excellent saturation. The flesh tones are especially flattering. The opening scenes in Iraq look stunning, a testament to a superior transfer.
HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf
The ultra creepy, extremely expressive remastered 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround is simply superior. I don’t every remember “The Exorcist” ever sounding this good. I’ve seen it in re-releases and on video, and the soundtrack here is the best of the lot. The stereo separation is awesome, filling the room with ambient noise (those creaky attic noises really send shivers down the spine) and the strains of the eclectic musical score. The dialogue mix is first rate, strong and front and center. The basses are almost subliminal, while the high ends are so clear they sound live. “The Exorcist” soundtrack is complex and multi-layered, and all of that hard work never goes unnoticed on the digital transfer. There’s also a French language track in mono.
ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Poor
Closed captions for the hard of hearing and subtitles in French.
COORDINATION: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak
Once again, another Warner Home Video Special Edition that lives up to the name. There are a few missing elements (I would have loved to have heard some of Lalo Schifrin’s musical score), but overall there’s enough here to make any die hard fan spin their head around in joy.
§ The must-have extra is the 75-minute BBC documentary “The Fear of God: The Making of the Exorcist,” an in-depth and ultimately engaging behind-the-scene look at the making of the film and the after effects. Included are interviews with all of the major players (at least those still alive), with director William Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty arguing over the ambiguous ending of the film, Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn relating how Friedkin’s obsession for realism left them black and blue, and Max Von Sydow discussing his European take on the whole circus. As a fan of the film, I was thrilled with these candid observations. Obviously time has allowed the cast and crew to fondly recall a tough shoot. The documentary also includes some of the “infamous” missing scenes from the film, seen here for the very first time in an official capacity. The scenes include Reagan’s freaky “spider walk” down the stairs, and a more upbeat finale between Father Dyer and Detective Kinderman. The full-length documentary alone is worth the price of the DVD.
§ The “Exorcist” DVD also includes two alternate audio commentary tracks. One features director William Friedkin, the other writer William Peter Blatty. By far the best of the two is Friedkin’s running commentary. Blatty’s commentary sounds like it was recorded elsewhere. Blatty rambles on about the origins of the novel and the struggle it took to get it to the big screen. Friedkin actually lends his thoughts to the on-screen images, providing insight and personal observations that help open up the film. If you want to know how the film was made, check out Friedkin’s track. If you want to know how Blatty came up with the idea, wrote the book, and then adapted it for the screen, check out his track. Blatty’s track also includes sound effects tests.
§ Additional interviews that are basically excerpts from the Friedkin/Blatty interviews in the documentary.
§ Storyboards and sketches from the film.
§ Eight theatrical trailers, including four variations on a theme of “The Exorcist” trailer, plus theatrical trailers for “Beetlejuice,” “Fallen,” “Interview with a Vampire” and “Devil’s Advocate.”
§ Six television spots that are also variations on a theme.
§ Outstanding interactive menus that include scenes from the film and an eerie, wind-swept sound. The scene access menu is attractive yet could use active-motion scenes from each scene.
§ Cast & Crew biographies and filmographies, plus an awards section.
PROGNOSIS: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal
Okay Warner Home Video, it took long enough for the DVD of “The Exorcist” to make it to market, but the final effort is well worth the wait. A DVD that evokes vivid memories from 1973. Turn out the lights and pump the volume, and get prepared to be scared all over again.
VITALS: $24.95/Rated R/122 Minutes/Color/47 Chapter Stops/Snapcase/#16176
ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen
PATIENT: THE EXORCIST: 25TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION
BIRTH DATE: 1973
HMO: Warner Home Video