After The Exorcist, with its genuinely shocking material (back in 1973, at least), there really wasn't anywhere to go. And no sequel was attempted for another four years, until 1977's The Exorcist 2: The Heretic. And while Exorcist 1 was a scorcher, this one's a stinker.
We meet Regan (Linda Blair, now a filled-out young teenager) only semi-aware of the horror who'd taken possession of her innocent body when she was just 12. She is living proof of the old maxim 'what you don't know won't hurt you', because her travelling mum has left her in the clutches of crazy psychiatrist (there's a tautology for you!) Dr Gene Tuskin (Louise Fletcher). And the mad doctor wants her to remember... EVERYTHING!
Sure enough, Dr Gene succeeds in re-awakening the horror. Only the heretical Catholic priest Father Lamont (Richard Burton) can stand between little Linda and the demon.
Now this movie does have some genuinely good actors. Linda Blair does a pretty good job reprising her earlier role, and Richard Burton, James Earl Jones as an African scientist and deep demon-enemy, and Max von Sydow are no slouches in the acting stakes. And all of those actors are able to put in patches of competent work.
But the script is so laughable, with the plot based on an unbelievable science-fiction premise which would not have been out of place in a 'Thrilling Wonder Stories' magazine of the 1920s, and the direction is so risible, with John Boorman showing himself to be totally out of his shallow depth, that the story never takes wing. There are some good special effects, but they're placed in a context which makes them just plain humorous.
Much of the time James Earl Jones seems to be about to burst into laughter while essaying his role. And Richard Burton, while good in patches, does sleep-walk much of the time, reading his lines in a broken fashion as if he was a victim of a Haiitian witch-doctor.
John Boohrman can't take all of the credit for making this movie such a dog. Louise Fletcher as the deranged psychiatrist Dr Tuskin is totally appalling. Now, she has acting credits a metre long, including an acclaimed appearance as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. But if you were to judge her by this performance, you'd swear she'd never acted before, and would never act again. As an actress, she'd make a great picket-fence.
Not even the sight of Paul Henreid as Father Lamont's Cardinal can make up for Louise Fletcher's presence. She, not Regan, should have been exorcised on the spot. But I fear not even that would have saved this movie - though I've got to confess I found it pretty amusing at times, with a few scenes I will always treasure.
There's not been much restoration here.
The good news is that this is a pretty decent anamorphic transfer, with a generally clean appearance. But details in the darker scenes are murky, at times almost lost. There are some occasional signs of film tear and wear, though not frequently enough to be really worrying.
It is probably as good a transfer as this movie could ever deserve - there couldn't be many people out there hanging out for its release, except die-hard fans of some of the actors, or even of 'director' John Boorman.