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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX
  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  Subtitles
    English, Italian, Icelandic, Finnish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Commentary - English
  Extras
  • Audio commentary
  • 4 TV spot
  • 2 Radio spot

The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 127 mins . R . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Does The Exorcist live up to its billing as the scariest movie of all time?

I don't think so. Even if we exclude the entire schlock-horror teen flick genre, The Exorcist simply doesn't measure up in the scare stakes, and I don't think it did 30 years ago, either.

Psycho, Don't Look Now and countless other older classic movies stand up as scarier today than The Exorcist. But that's not to denigrate the movie. It's just that it's being sold on a false premise.

Quite simply, The Exorcist is a tale of demonic possession and attempted exorcism which relies as much on acting and directing as on sheer horror. Put the now relatively low-level horror aside (and ignore the outdated 'R' rating) and it still works as an effective piece of cinema storytelling, even if it relies somewhat overly on a belief in hoary old superstitions such as possession and Christianity.

By now, we should all know the basic story, a 12-year-old girl Regan named has become possessed by the Devil. Her mother Chris is really a bit worried by revolving heads, green vomit and her daughter's new penchant for pissing on the floor in front of the dinner guests. Chris goes down one medical trail after another, with no result. Finally she seeks Catholic exorcism - and young Father Damien Karras and the far more experienced Father Merrin join forces to perform the ritual.

The acting is just fine. Linda Blair as Regan is truly excellent, though admittedly she is assisted by some very special effects which stand up well today. Ellen Burstyn as Regan's harassed mother, Jason Miller as Father Karras and Max von Sydow as Father Merrin act with conviction, giving the frankly unbelievable story a big push towards the necessary suspension of disbelief.

It's been so long since I saw the standard version that it's hard to pick every moment of the additional 11 minutes of this 'version you never saw'; the opening and ending are slightly different, but with no significant additions. There is new footage of medical tests endured by Regan, but these don't add anything of great meaning. The only stand-out addition is a very special 'I'm going to come downstairs now' sequence from young Regan - you'll recognise the new scene when you see it. It's not an essential addition, but it's fun.

The Exorcist has stood the test of time quite well. It's not really a horror movie, more a psychological drama with a sub-niche in the horror genre. And today's younger audience would find the 'horror' tag quite bizarre. But it's an enjoyable excursion into the dark side. Even if some of its more way-out moments now seem more comic than horrific, the sheer power of the story and craft of its acting and direction will carry most audience-members through for the ride.

  Video
Contract

This widescreen anamorphic transfer is a trifle soft at times, but is generally high quality, and difficult scenes such as those in the dark attic and bedroom show good levels of contrast.

The muted colours suit the nature of the movie very well, and there are no artefacts present to take away from what is overall a quality transfer. Shadow detail is excellent, and although blacks could have been rendered with a more dense velvety tone, general hues and fleshtones come up well. Some outdoor scenes seem just very slightly washed-out, but not enough to detract from the overall high level of presentation.

  Audio
Contract

The 5.1EX surround serves the films complex audio track very well. Lots of the levels of sound which seem to emanate from the young girl Regan are meant to be incomprehensible. But we do gain maximum audibility from a well-crafted special-effects audio layer - we strive to hear everything, and fail only because we're meant to, not because of poor reproduction.

I listened briefly to the other audio presentations, which all seemed adequate, though for most of us, the 5.1EX will be the audio track of choice.

  Extras
Contract

William Friedkin's audio commentary has some fairly interesting detail towards the start of the movie. Too soon, however, he falls into the trap of just narrating for us what is happening on the screen. It becomes tiresome and boring and totally unecessary.

The four TV spots are from a campaign to relaunch the movie as this 'Version You've Never Seen'. They are too similar to each other to warrant viewing them all. The radio spots are similarly predictable.

There is a cast/production list but it is a text list only, and does not open to cast/crew biographies.

  Overall  
Contract

If you already have the earlier 'Special Edition' DVD with its more comprehensive extras, there is no reason to update to this edition even for the sake of the extra 11 minutes of film. The additions do very little; only Regan's 'stair-walk' of less than a minute presents a new image of sufficient interest to justify its inclusion.

If you have not seen The Exorcist or simply want to renew acquaintance, then I suppose this would now be the preferred version. I'd rent because I can't imagine wanting to view this movie very often - but, as always, that's a very subjective decision.


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      And I quote...
    "The scariest movie of all time? Hardly, but The Exorcist is still a good piece of well-crafted and acted storytelling which lifts it above the pure-schlock class."
    - Anthony Clarke
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Panasonic A330
    • TV:
          Loewe Profil Plus 3272 68cm
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