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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Sunday July 12, 2020 

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At an archaeological dig in Iraq, aging preacher Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) senses that a dark force has been unwittingly unleashed. Back in Washington DC, an innocent eleven year-old girl (Linda Blair) starts showing signs of a condition untreatable by normal medicine. After exhausting all conventional treatments, her movie star mother (Ellen Burstyn) is at her wits end, and at the doctors’ suggestion, she consults a priest, Father Karras (Jason Miller). Karras is having doubts about his own faith, but believes this could be a case of demonic possession. The Church brings in Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) to perform an exorcism, while Father Karas assists.

"Twenty eight years on The Exorcist remains a certified horror classic and is essential viewing on the big screen whether you've seen it before or not. The last time it was released theatrically in Australia was around 1980 when it was sent out on a double bill (remember them!!) with Friday The 13th - as if to show how far the genre had sunk in less than a decade. The Exorcist is arguably the last great real horror film made by a major studio and although some of the peripheral details haven't worn so well over the years it still delivers with the same intensity that had audiences queueing around the block the first time around. It is chilling now for the same reasons that urban myths propagate and fairy tales remain timeless - we are ready and willing to believe everything that is happening on screen. A masterpiece of manipulation, The Exorcist preys on just about every basic human fear (especially those surrounding guilt and faith) and wraps it all up in the appalling transformation of a cute 12 year-old girl into a snarling, spewing grotesque monster from hell. Ironically the rudimentary special effects (by today's standards) make Regan's possession even more believable now than then. No ho-hum digital compositing or morphing tricks here; just old-fashioned make-up, wind machines and stage hands bouncing poor Regan and her bed from floor to ceiling. The extra 11 minutes of footage included in this re-release are a mixed blessing. An early medical examination of Regan seems like an unnecessary portent of what's to come while some of the shock material is so spectacular you wonder why it was ever left out. I could still do without Jack MacGowran's shameless overplaying as the sodden director and some of Ellen Burstyn's outbursts almost go over the acceptable limit but elsewhere this is powerful and impressive stuff. As a standard bearer in the horror hall of fame The Exorcist has still got it."
Richard Kuipers

"William Peter Blatty wrote and produced The Exorcist from his 1971 novel after being inspired by the reported exorcism of a 14-year-old boy in Maryland in 1949. However, his story was ultimately based on an earlier exorcism in 1928 and other cases dating back to the Bible. His book became a worldwide best seller, and in 1973, his film became the second highest box-office hit behind The Godfather. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning Best Sound and Best Screenplay, and despite all the advances in digital technology, it’s still regarded the scariest film of all time. Sitting all but alone in a darkened theatre, with eleven minutes of extra spooks and a new six-track digital surround sound throwing spine-tingling noises from all angles, it’s easy to see why. I wanted to see exactly what makes The Exorcist so iconic in the horror genre. I think it’s because Blatty and Freidkin spend the first half establishing simple opposites: good versus evil, science versus spirituality, innocence versus guilt, nice versus nasty, darkness versus light, and sound versus silence. It works splendidly, with Regan’s medical treatment as harrowing as the demonic possession to come. In the second half, they give up the ghost, turning the girl into a gargoyle with horrific displays of makeup and language. Foreboding is replaced with shock in an all out attack on our senses. Many scenes – especially those containing blasphemy and bodily mutilation - are more graphic than what we see today. The C-word comes out more than once, and the girl even stabs her genitals with a crucifix then shoves her mother’s face in there. Considering today’s censorship controversies, The Exorcist makes a case for how sanitised the movies have actually become. The extra eleven minutes include Regan's notorious spider-walk – which is genuinely creepy – and visual imagery that recalls the archaeological dig. Linda Blair – her career over before it began – does a bang-up job as a girl terrified one second, terrifying the next. Through her, The Exorcist convinces you there’s a Devil and a God at work in the universe. Few films carry that level of authenticity."
Shannon J. Harvey

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CAST: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Linda Blair, Jason Miller, Jack MacGowran

PRODUCERS: William Peter Blatty

DIRECTOR: William Friedkin

SCRIPT: William Peter Blatty

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Owen Roizman, Billy Williams (Iraq sequence)

EDITOR: Norman Gay, Evan A. Lottman, Bud S. Smith (Iraq sequences)

MUSIC: Jack Nitzsche


RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes



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