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Old 10-08-2004, 03:31 AM
 
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Default Exorcist, The: Special Edition




Reviewer: Styx
Review Date: March 12, 2000

Released by: Warner Brothers
Release date: December 1, 1998
MSRP $24.98
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



William Freidken's classic film adaptation of William Peter Blatty's profound horror novel The Exorcist is one of the most talked about film's of the horror genre and often receives high praise. Made in 1973, The Exorcist shocked audiences around the world and was banned in such countries like England until recently. For The Exorcist's 25th Anniversary, Warner Home Video released a Special Edition on DVD to commemorate 25 years worth of scares. Let's take a look.

The Story

inline Image Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) and her daughter Regan (Linda Blair) live a quiet carefree life in Georgetown USA. Chris MacNeil is currently in town shooting a new film in which she is the star. Tranquillity is disturbed and innocence is shattered when a demon possesses the body of Regan and slowly turns her into a violent raving monster. Seeking a medical explanation for her daughter's progressively worse behavior, Chris takes Regan to some of the best doctors money can buy who soon have her convinced that Regan's behavior is a medical problem. After exhaustive tests doctors are unable to find anything physically wrong with Regan and so Chris is forced to seek out alternative treatments for her daughter's illness.

inline Image She asks the help of Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), a local priest who she's seen around the university. Chris inquires about demonic possession and how she could go about getting an exorcism. Father Karras doesn't believe in the ritual and is convinced that Regan may need psychiatric help and nothing more. Chris, who loves her daughter very much, knows that whatever monster is in Regan's bedroom is not her daughter and that she needs an Exorcist. Karras, still unconvinced, meets with Regan and after several instances of unnatural behavior he finally agrees to get permission from the Vatican to perform the ritual. Father Karras is inexperienced however, and someone else is chosen to lead the exorcism, Father Lancaster Merrin (Max Von Sydow), a man who has faced demonic possession before and nearly paid for it with his life.

inline Image Now Regan's only salvation rests with two priests - Damien Karras, who questions his own faith and Father Merrin, who has serious medical problems. They'll not only have to battle the demon that has possessed Regan, but their own inner personal demons as well.

The Exorcist is a profound film that still retains much of the impact that it had upon its release. Though it's aged slightly, The Exorcist still tells a powerful tale of possession and sacrifice and can still thoroughly chill you to the bone. The story is based off a novel by Author William Peter Blatty, which in turn was inspired by real events that took place in Georgetown. Though I have no belief in the supernatural, the thought of a real life version of The Exorcist is pretty frightening. The film is about faith and one mans test of will and self-sacrifice. The film is also about the ultimate battle between good and evil in the most primitive state - man against the devil. Slow by today's standards, The Exorcist is a talky and methodical depiction of a little girl slowly turning into a demon and the grief it causes the people who love her- specifically her mother.

inline Image When I say The Exorcist is a slow film I don't mean that in a bad way, on the contrary The Exorcist's characterizations and development are an important part of the film. It seems nowadays in cinema in light of the MTV generation and increasingly short attention spans such things as story and character development are thrown by the wayside. Anyway, to anyone who criticizes The Exorcist for being "too slow" I suggest you check your brain for loose ends. If you want to watch a shoddy horror film with a quick pace go watch Scream which features a lame teenybopper snot nose getting killed in every 15 minute intervals. If you want to watch a horror film that makes you think and reflect while leaving you with something long after you've seen it, The Exorcist will not disappoint.

Image Quality

inline Image Warner Home Video presents The Exorcist letterboxed at 1.85:1 in a new anamorphic transfer. The Exorcist looks great, Warner paid a good tribute to the film by working on this transfer - The Exorcist has never looked this good. The transfer is very sharp and detailed. Everything appears well defined and focused with nary a soft shot to speak of. William Friedkin designed to The Exorcist to have brilliant bright scenes and then alternate to dark scenes which is symbolic of the battle between good and evil raging on in the film. The opening shots of Iraq an example of the bright scenes looks very good with beautiful golden brown hues and colors. The nighttime scenes also looked great with deep solid blacks and good contrast.

Flesh tones looked very nice and flatering. The print used for this new transfer was in excellent condition with only very minor signs of damage ever making their presence known. There is a mild-moderate bit of grain present in the transfer, this is especially noticeable in the scenes in Regan's bedroom during the exorcism, but not too much to become overly distracted by. Overall this is a fine transfer from Warner.

Sound

Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, The Exorcist sounds great. The film is 25 years old and doesn't have a robust musical score so it's not quite up to the kinds of DD 5.1 mixes done for newer films. There are several instances where the sound really picks up like during the tense confrontations between Regan and the priests/doctors. Overall the great DD 5.1 mix will enhance the mood and tension that already exists visually.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Warner Home Video released one of the best horror Special Editions when they released The Exorcist 25th Anniversary Edition a year ago. Sporting two commentaries, a fantastic documentary as well as the usual trailers The Exorcist got quite a welcoming on the 5-inch format. First the documentary titled "The Fear of God: 25 Years of the Exorcist" is one of my all time favorite documentaries to grace a DVD. Originally airing on the BBC the documentary is extremely informative and highlights some of the major stories and details behind the making of the film. Also featured are scenes deleted from the final cut such as the infamous spiderwalk scene as well as the more "upbeat" ending.

inline Image The documentary features interviews with Ellen Burstyn (Actress), Father William O' Malley (Actor), William Friedkin (Director), Max Von Sydow (Actor), Linda Blair (Actress), William Peter Blatty (Author & Producer), Fr. Thomas Bermingham (Technical Advisor), Jason Miller (Actor), Terence Donnelly (Assistant Director), Bill Malley (Production Designer), Joe Hyams (Publicist), Marcel Vercoutere (Special Effects), Owen Roizman (Director of Photographgy), Dick Smith (Make-up Effects), Chris Newman (Sound Recordist), Bud Smith (Editor), Buzz Knudson (Dubbing Mixer) and Ron Nagle (Special Sound Effects).

inline Image Next we have two audio commentaries. One is a full length commentary by Director William Friedkin and the other is a partial commentary by the novel's author William Peter Blatty. The commentary by William Friedkin is fantastic and ranks as one of the best solo commentaries I've heard thus far. It's obvious Friedkin was enthusiastic about the Special Edition and the commentary because he seemed well prepared. William Friedkin discusses the scenes shot in Iraq and the difficulty shooting in the severe heat. He also explains his involvement with the film and he talks about the actors and actresses and how they were cast. We also hear him talk about his inspirations and the filming techniques he employed in directing the film.

At the end of the commentary William Friedkin talks about the DVD and how it's important to make this the most definitive version because this is the one that will last when all the prints have been faded and destroyed. It's a very cool thing to hear and it's a shame more directors don't feel the same way. The commentary with William Peter Blatty is a bit different than standard commentaries. Blatty's commentary runs only halfway through the movie and isn't much about the film. Instead Blatty talks about the novel and his inspirations for writing it. He also talks about the true story he based the book on and his own beliefs as well as his take on good and evil in the universe. Blatty also mentions the scenes that were taken out of the original cut of the film and how he feels their absence brings the film down.

After Blatty's commentary ends the audio track then goes on to sound tests of Linda Blair and Mercedes McCambridge doing the demon voice. I must say some of it is pretty freaky and I wouldn't recommend keeping the volume up too high since potential eavesdroppers may call the police thinking you are torturing someone. LOL one has to wonder exactly what Bill Friedkin put poor Mercedes McCambridge through.

inline Image Also featured on this DVD are 3 interview galleries - "The Original Cut", "Stairway to Heaven" and "The Final Reckoning". The galleries are just basically small interviews on various topics like the ending etc. Some of the footage in these interviews is in the documentary too. We also get the original ending which features the last exchange between Kinderman and Father Dire, Sketches and Storyboards, 6 TV Spots, and 4 Theatrical Trailers one of those trailers if for John Boorman's ]Exorcist II: The Heretic.

Final Thoughts

Do I even have to recommend this DVD? Certainly The Exorcist was probably very high on most horror fan's "to buy" list. If you even have a slight interest in The Exorcist and haven't bought this DVD yet don't delay. Warner put together a fantastic disc that is enough to spin heads. Also if you really love The Exorcist a "Deluxe Gift Set" was recently released. In addition to identical supplements contained in the Special Edition, the Gift Set comes packaged in a luxury fitted slipcase and includes a soundtrack CD, 8 original limited edition lobby card prints, exclusive limited edition senitype image from the movie with 35 mm film frame, and a commemorative 47-page "Exorcist" tribute book.

Rating

Image Quality - B+
Sound - B+
Supplements - A+

Technical Info.
  • Running time - 2 hours 2 minutes
  • Color
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • 47 Chapter stops (film) 23 Chapter stops (documentary)
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1

Supplements
  • All New Documentary produced by the BBC-The Fear of God: The Making of The Exorcist
  • Audio Commentary by Director William Friedkin
  • Additional Audio Commentary by William Peter Blatty and special sound effects tests
  • Additional Interviews
  • StoryBoards and Production Sketches
  • Theatrical Trailers-TV Spots

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