The Exorcist (1973)

USA,
122m (USA), 131m (USA – The Version You Haven't Seen Yet)
35mm, 70mm [1979 re-release], Metrocolor, 1.37:1 [negative ratio], 1.85:1 [theatrical ratio]
stereo, English
Reviewed at The

An American horror film directed by William Friedkin and one of the most influential films in the genre. Until Jaws (1975) was released the following year, it was the most financially successful film of all time and it remains the most successful horror film. A DVD special edition (which included an extended final scene as an extra) was released on the occasion of the film's 25th anniversary and an alternative edition (dubbed “The Version You've Never Seen“) was released in 2000 with a modified version of the infamous “spider-walk” sequence restored.

Plot Summary

The behaviour of a 12-year-old girl, the daughter of an actress, becomes unpredictable, disturbing and violent. Her mother turns to medical science for help, but they are unable to do anything. In desperation, she turns to a priest facing a crisis of faith, believing now that her child has become possessed. He in turn calls in an older, more experienced priest and together they prepare to drive out the evil force inhabiting the girl's body.

Credits

Crew
Directed by: William Friedkin
© MCMLXXIII [1973] by Warner Bros. Inc. and Hoya Productions Inc.
Warner Bros. Pictures. A William Friedkin film. A Hoya production
Executive Producer: Noel Marshall
Produced by: William Peter Blatty
Associate Producer: David Salven
Written for the Screen by: William Peter Blatty, based on his novel
Director of Photography: Owen Roizman
Iraq Sequence Director of Photography: Billy Williams
Supervising Film Editor: Jordan Leondopolous
Film Editors: Evan Lottman, Norman Gay
Iraq Sequence Film Editor: Bud Smith
Additional Music Composed by: Jack Nitzsche
Sound: Chris Newman
Iraq Sequence Sound: Jean-Louis Ducarme
Costume Designer: Joe Fretwell
Makeup Artist: Dick Smith
Hair Stylist: Bill Farley
Special Effects: Marcel Vercoutere
Production Designer: Bill Malley
Locations: Iraq; New York City, USA; Flagstaff, Arizona, USA; Georgetown, Washington, District of Columbia, USA

Cast
Ellen Burstyn (Chris MacNeil)
Max Von Sydow (Father [Lancaster] Merrin)
Lee J. Cobb (Lt [William] Kinderman)
Kitty Wynn (Sharon [Spencer])
Jack MacGowran (Burke Dennings)
Jason Miller (Father [Damien] Karras)
Linda Blair (Reagan [MacNeil])
Reverend William O'Malley S.J. (Father Dyer)
Barton Heyman (Dr Klein)
Pete Masterson (clinic director)
Rudolf Schündler (Karl)
Gina Petrushka (Willie)
Robert Symonds (Dr Tanney)
Arthur Storch (psychiatrist)
Reverend Thomas Bermingham S.J. (president of university)
Vasiliki Maliaros (Karras' mother)
Titos Vandis (Karras' uncle)
Wallace Rooney (Bishop Michael)
Ron Faber (assistant director)
Donna Mitchell (Mary Jo Perrin)

Alternative Titles

Egzorcysta – Poland
Eksorcisten – Denmark
L'esorcista – Italy
L'esorcista – Versione integrale – Italy (director's cut)
The Exorcist 2000 – Australia (television)
The Exorcist: The Version You Haven't Seen Yet – 2000 US advertising version
El exorcista – Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Spain
O Exorcista – Brazil, Portugal
L'Exorciste 2000 – Canada (French)
L'Exorciste – French title
L'Exorciste Рversion int̩grale РFrance (director's cut)
Exorcisten – Sweden
O exorkistis – Greece
Exorsisten – Norway (DVD)
Der Exorzist – die neue Fassung – Germany (video director's cut)
Der Exorzist – Director's Cut – Germany (director's cut)
Der Exorzist – West Germany
Istjerivac djavla – Croatia
Manaaja – Finland
Ördögüzö – Hungary
Seytan – Turkey
Vymýtac dábla – Czech Republic
William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist – USA (re-release)

Sequels
Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
The Exorcist III (1990)
The Exorcist (2016-2018)
The Exorcist: Believer (2023)

Prequels
Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)
Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005)

See also
Abby (1974)
The Amityville Horror (1979)
Angel Above – The Devil Below (1975)
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
Beetlejuice (1988)
Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)
Bless the Child (2000)
Curse of the Queerwolf (1988)
Daffy Duck's Quackbusters (1988)
El día de la bestia (1995)
Doctor Dolittle (1998)
Doctor Who Confidential: The Fright Stuff (2006)
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
The Duxorcist (1987)
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)
La endemoniada (1975)
L'esorciccio (1975)
The Evil Dead (1981)
Evil Dead II (1987)
Exorcist: House of Evil (2015)
French and Saunders (1987)
Ghostbusters (1984)
The Godsend (1980)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)
History's Mysteries: Exorcising the Devil (2001)
I Don't Want to Be Born (1975)
Innerspace (1987)
Little Nicky (2000)
Look Who's Talking (1989)
Martin (1978)
Modern Problems (1981)
New Nightmare (1994)
The Nutty Professor (1996)
Oh, God! (1977)
The Omen (1976)
Onibaba (1964)
Poltergeist III (1988)
Possessed (2000)
Repossessed (1990)
Ruby (1977)
Scary Movie (2000)
Scary Movie 2 (2001)
Scream (1996)
Seytan (1974)
Spawn (1997)
Spectre (1977)
Stay Tuned (1992)
Stir of Echoes (1999)
Strangeland (1998)
Suspiria (1977)
Teenage Exorcist (1991)
There's Nothing Out There (1990)
Toy Story (1995)
Trainspotting (1996)
Un urlo dalle tenebre (1976)
Volcano (1997)
Wacko (1981)
Zapped! (1982)

Extracts included in
100 Years at the Movies (1994)
Big Screen: 25 October 1998
Big Screen: 29 October 1999
The ‘burbs
(1989)
Clive Barker's A-Z of Horror: The Devil You Know
(1997)
Fear in the Dark
(1991)
The Fear of God: The Making of the Exorcist
(1998)
Here's Looking at You, Warner Bros.
(1991)
A History of Horror: Part One Frankenstein Goes to Hollywood
(2010)
Hollywood Halloween
(1997)
The Horror Hall of Fame
(1990)
In the Grip of Evil
(1997)
Precious Images
(1986)
Terror in the Aisles
(1984)

Production Notes

Pre-production
J. Lee Thompson was originally announced as taking the role of a film director, presumably Burke Dennings. 1CinemaTV Today no.9993 (12 August 1972) p.11

Release
Despite protests and controversy (see below), when the film opened in the UK it set new box office records 2CinemaTV Today no.10075 (23 March 1974) pp.1; 2.

Censorship
Such was the controversy in the UK when the film was first released that the chairman of the Chester Environmental Services Committee in Chestershire ordered a special screening ahead of the film's opening in the city on 7 July 1974. 3CinemaTV Today no.10090 (6 July 1974) p.13 At around the same time, their counterparts in Gosport, Hampshire did the same thing. 4CinemaTV Today no.10090 (6 July 1974) p.15 It fared even less well in Oldham where the district council voted to ban the film by 32 votes to 16 5CinemaTV Today no.10090 (6 July 1974) p.22. Calls to ban the film were also received by the Liverpool Magistrates' Public Entertainments Committee in March 1974 6CinemaTV Today no.10075 (23 March 1974) p.1.

Religious pressure group The Festival of Light attempted to blame The Exorcist for the apparent of a 16 year old boy who had seen the film the week before he took his own life. Then head of the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) Stephen Murphy stood his ground and refused to revoke the film's certificate.

However, when the Video Recordings Act came into effect in 1984, The Exorcist effectively vanished from legal view, bar a few hardy screenings around the country which kept the film alive at lucrative late night cinema screenings. Warners delayed the intended release of the film until well after the publicity surrounding the VRA had died down, but to no avail. When the company finally re-submitted The Exorcist for review in 1988, BBFC head James Ferman cited then recent reports of child abuse and refused the film a certificate. When the 1989 ‘satanic abuse' scare erupted, it drove yet another nail into The Exorcist‘s video coffin. Following Ferman's departure in the late 90s, the new regime at the BBFC were more forgiving and The Exorcist was finally allowed a theatrical re-release in 1998 and a belated video re-issue the following year.

In the USA the District Attorney in Mississippi accompanied a phalanx of police officers and a Justice of the Peace to a screening of the film at the Saenger Theater in Hattiesburg. They were so disturbed by what they saw that almost immediately search and arrest warrants were issued and the cinema manager and projectionist were arrested on a charge of “exhibiting an obscene, indecent and immoral motion picture.” Those charges were dropped, but a similar action taken against the theatre's corporate manager was heard and a conviction was made.

References

Periodicals

  • America 2 February 1974 pp.65-73; 66-68 – illustrated article (How To View the Exorcist); illustrated article (The Devil and William Blatty by Richard A. Blake)
  • America 23 February 1974 pp.131-132 – letter (There is Goodness in The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty)
  • American Cinematographer vol.55 no.2 (February 1974) pp.154-157, 229-234 – illustrated interview with Owen Roizman (Filming The Exorcist)
  • American Cinematographer vol.79 no.8 (August 1998) pp.88-98 – illustrated production details (Demonic convergance by David E. Williams; credits; interview with Owen Roizman)
  • Avant-Scène di Cinéma no.499 (February 2001) pp.whole issue (France) – illustrated credits, script, interviews with William Friedkin
  • Boxoffice 17 December 1973 p.9 – note (Warners Opening ‘Exorcist' in 24 U.S., Canada Spots)
  • Cahiers du Cinéma no.253 (October/November 1974) p.41 – review (Le secret derrière la peur (L'exorciste) by Pascal Kane)
  • Cinéaste vol.6 no.3 (1974) pp.18-22 – illustrated article (“The Devil Made Me Do It!”: A critique of The Exorcist by Ruth McCormick)
  • Cinefantastique vol.3 no.2 (Spring 1974) pp.24-25, 40-41 – illustrated credits, review (by Harry Ringel)
  • Cinefantastique vol.3 no.3 (Autumn 1974) pp.6-13 – illustrated interview with William Friedkin (William Friedkin by William Crouch)
  • Cinefantastique vol.3 no.4 (Winter 1974) pp.8-13; 12-14; 14-17; 17-21 – illustrated article (The Exorcist: The Book, The Movie, the Phenomenon by David Bartholomew); illustrated interview with Jason Miller (by Dale Winogura); illustrated interview with William Friedkin (by Dale Winogura); illustrated interview with Dick Smith (by David Bartholomew)
  • Cinefantastique vol.35 no.1 (February / March 2003) pp.5-6 – illustrated article (Shout at the Devil by David E. Williams)
  • Cinema no.34 (1974) pp.22-23 – review
  • CinemaTV Today no.9993 (12 August 1972) p.12 – note (World casting)
  • CinemaTV Today no.10068 (2 February 1974) p.4 – note (Exorcist wins four Golden Globes)
  • CinemaTV Today no.10075 (23 March 1974) p.14 – credits, review (by Marjorie Bilbow)
  • CinemaTV Today no.10090 (6 July 1974) pp.13; 15; 22 – note (Preview); note (No Soho in Gosport' says committee); note (Devil guillotined)
  • CinemaTV Today no.10068 (2 February 1974) p.4 – note (Exorcist' wins four golden globes)
  • CinemaTV Today no.10071 (23 February 1974) p.1 – note (Oscar hopes for ‘Exorcist', ‘Sting by Jeffrey Blyth)
  • CinemaTV Today no.10072 (2 March 1974) p.10(UK) – note (People: Whatever happened to ‘Rosemary's Baby'… Did she grow up to be possessed by ‘The Exorcist'? by Brenda Barton)
  • CinemaTV Today no.10075 (23 March 1974) p.1; 2 – note (Ban ‘Exorcist' Call), note (Golden Square); note (Box office: ‘Exorcist' is sensational by C.H.B.-Williamson)
  • Empire no.51 (September 1993) p.46 – letter (from Barney Marriott, regarding non-availability on video)
  • Empire no.113 (November 1998) pp.106-115; 34 – illustrated interviews with cast, crew and Nick Freand Jones (The Devil Inside by Bob McCabe); illustrated review (by Neil Jeffries)
  • Empire no.119 (May 1999) p.126 – illustrated video review (by Bob McCabe)
  • Empire no.127 (January 2000) p.148 – illustrated DVD review (by Adam Smith)
  • Empire no.130 (April 2000) pp.56; 146-147 – note (Reel News: News in brief); illustrated DVD review
  • Empire no.135 (September 2000) pp.98-102 – illustrated interview with William Friedkin (Empire One on One by Simon Braund)
  • Empire no.138 (December 2000) p.67 – illustrated review (by Colin Kennedy)
  • Entertainment Weekly no.561 (29 September 2000) p.105 – review (You Go, Ghoulfriend (A-) by Owen Gleiberman)
  • Entertainment Weekly no.495 (23 July 1999) pp.25-30 – illustrated article (The 25 Scariest Movies of All Time)
  • Fade In vol.6 no.2 (2000) pp.24-29 – illustrated article (The Exorcist by Nikki Reed)
  • Fangoria no.130 (March 1994) pp.14-21 – illustrated article (Speak of the Devil by Mark Kermode)
  • Fangoria no.197 (October 2000) pp.16-20, 22-26, 28-36 – illustrated article, interview (Could it be… Satan?)
  • Film Comment vol.10 no.3 (1974) pp.32, 34; 33-35 – article (The Exorcist: a unique freak show by Stephen Farber); article (The Exorcist: part of a phenomenon? by Stuart Byron)
  • Film Criticism vol.1 no.2 (Summer 1976) pp.21-24 – illustrated article (The Exorcist Revisited by Charles A. Baker)
  • Film Quarterly vol.27 no.4 (Summer 1974) pp.61-62 – review (by Michael Dempsey)
  • Film Review November 1998 p.20 – review (by James Cameron-Wilson)
  • Film Review Special no.33 2000 – 2001 Preview p.82 – illustrated DVD review
  • Film Score Monthly vol.4 no.2 (February 1999) pp.24-30; 30 – illustrated article (The Devil's music by George Park); illustrated article ( made them do it by Jeff Bond)
  • Filmfax no.98 (August / September 2003) pp.92-100, 136; 101-103, 132 – illustrated article (The Exorcist: Before and After by Matthew R. Bradley); illustrated article, interview with Ellen Burstyn (Ellen Burstyn remembers The Exorcist by Fred Szebin)
  • Filmmakers' Newsletter vol.7 no.6 April 1974 pp.18-23 – illustrated interview with Dick Smith (The Art of Makeup: The Exorcist by Judith McNally)
  • Films and Filming vol.20 no.7 (April 1974) p.38 – credits, review (by Alexander Stuart)
  • Filmwaves no.18 (Spring 2002) pp.48-50 – illustrated article (Satan's voice in The Exorcist: Sound design with an edge by Gustavo Costantini)
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.222 no.34 (18 August 1972) p.13 – credits
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.228 no.39 (5 November 1973) pp.1, 11 – article (Blatty barred from Exorcist in W.B. flareup by Will Tusher)
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.228 no.40 (6 November 1973) pp.1, 4 – article (Friedkin version on Exorcist by Will Tusher)
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.228 no.42 (8 November 1973) pp.1, 17 – article (B.O. tab up 50c on Exorcist by Will Tusher)
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.228 no.44 (12 November 1973) pp.1, 9 – article (Lid lifted on year of Devil's work in new Exorcist tales by Will Tusher)
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.229 no.23 (24 December 1973) pp.3, 7 – credits, review (by Alan R. Howard)
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.229 no.46 (28 January 1974) pp.1, 4; 4 – article (Exorcist and CBS Grab Globe Laurels by Will Tusher); article (Exorcist Also Out Front in One-Liners by Will Tusher)
  • IF no.29 (November 2000) p.14 (Australia) – illustrated article (The Exorcist: It's not over yet by Peter Galvin)
  • Journal of Popular Film vol.3 no.2 (Spring 1974) pp.183-187 – article (The Exorcist and multicinema aesthetics by Robert F. Willson Jr.)
  • Jump Cut no.1 (May / June 1974) pp.3-5 – illustrated review (The Exorcist: Ritual or therapy? by William Van Wert)
  • Literature/Film Quarterly vol.4 no.3 (1976) pp.196-214 – article (The Exorcist and Jaws by Stephen E. Bowles)
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.41 no.7 (April 1974) p.71 – credits, synopsis, review (by Tom Milne)
  • Movie no.25 (December 1977) pp.16-20 – illustrated article (American Cinema in the '70s: The Exorcist by Andrew Britton)
  • Neon February 1997 pp.100-105 – illustrated production notes (Oh yes, it's Hades night by Mark Kermode)
  • The New Yorker 7 January 1974 p.59 – review (by Pauline Kael)
  • Newsweek 11 February 1974 pp.60-66 – illustrated article (The Exorcism Frenzy by Kenneth L. Woodward)
  • Photon no.25 (1974) pp.15-18; 18-23; 23 – illustrated review (by Ronald V. Borst); illustrated review (by David MacDowall); credits
  • Premiere vol.11 no.9 (May 1998) pp.84-88, 91-93, 102 – illustrated article (Sympathy for the Devil by Peter Biskind)
  • Radio Times vol.299 no.3899 (31 October 1998) p.72 – illustrated review
  • Radio Times 1 November 2003 p.59 – note (Not a lot of people know that… by David Parkinson)
  • Rolling Stone vol.1 no.851 (12 October 2000) p.101 – review (by Peter Travers)
  • Saturday Review/World 15 June 1974 pp.41-42; 43-44 – article (A Psychoanalyst's Indictment of The Exorcist by Ralph R. Greenson); article (In Answer to Dr Greenson by Hollis Alpert)
  • Screen International no.1169 (31 July 1998) p.9 – illustrated article (Regan-omics by Allan Hunter)
  • Screen International no.1181 (sic) (30 October 1998) p.13 – illustrated article (Scare tactics by Adam Minns)
  • Screen International no.1233 (5 November 1999) p.4 – illustrated note (London)
  • Screen International no.1301 (23 March 2001) p.23 – article (Exorcist possesses French box office by Françoise Meaux Saint Marc)
  • Screen International no.1422 (26 September 2003) p.5 – illustrated note (This week's top stories)
  • Shivers no.56 p.43 – review
  • Shivers no.58 pp.19-21, 42 – illustrated article
  • Sight & Sound vol.43 no.2 (Spring 1974) p.120 – review (by Richard Combs)
  • Sight & Sound vol.8 no.7 (July 1998) pp.6-11; 8 – illustrated interviews with the cast and crew (Lucifer rising by Mark Kermode); illustrated article (The Fear of God in the making by Nick Freand Jones)
  • Sight & Sound vol.8 no.10 (October 1998) p.5 – short article (On the Cross)
  • Sight & Sound vol.9 no.12 (December 1999) p.66 – note regarding DVD release
  • Sight & Sound vol.12 no.1 (January 2002) p.59 – DVD review (by Geoffrey Macnab)
  • Starburst Special no.44: Summer Sci-Fi Films p.114 – illustrated article, DVD review (The Future is Shiny)
  • Time 11 February 1974 p.53 – illustrated article (Exorcist Fever)
  • Total Film no.20 (September 1998) p.68 – illustrated article (Top 10 Mad Movie Shoots – Shoots to Kill by Andy Lowe)
  • Total Film no.26 (March 1999) supplement: Things That Make You Go Bleurghh: The 50 Grossest Movie Moments p.13 – illustrated note (7. The Exorcist)
  • Total Film no.28 (May 1999) pp.31, 97 – illustrated article (Rough Cut: Exorcist Unbound by Simon Crook); illustrated video review (by Dan Jolin)
  • Total Film no.63 (April 2002) pp.134-135 – illustrated interview with William Friedkin (DVD Disc-ussion by Jamie Graham)
  • Variety 26 December 1973 p.12 – credits, review (by Murf)
  • Variety 25 September 2000 p.60 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
  • Velvet Light Trap no.13 (Autumn 1974) pp.7-10 – illustrated article (William Friedkin… Exorcist by Mark Falonga)

Newspapers

  • Diário de Notícias 9 May 1997 – review (by Eurico De Barros)
  • Diário de Notícias, DNmais 24 October 1998 – review (by José De Matos-Cruz)
  • Expresso, Cartaz 13 June 1997 – review (Jorge Leitao Ramos)
  • Metro 16 October 2000 p.9 – illustrated article (Horror movies back with a bigger bump)

Books

  • Banned Films pp.146, 361-362, 384 – articles
  • BFI Modern Classics The Exorcist by Mark Kermode (London: BFI Publishing (1997; 2nd edition 1998))
  • Censored pp.214, 247-8, 274 – illustrated articles
  • The Exorcist: From Novel To Film by William Peter Blatty (New York: Bantam Books (1974))
  • Hoffman's Guide to Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Movies 1991-1992 p.127 – credits, short review
  • Out of the Shadows by Bob McCabe (Omnibus Press (1999))
  • The Story Behind The Exorcist by Peter Travers and Stephanie Reiff (New York: Crown Publishers (1974))

Other sources

  • 44th London Film Festival Catalogue (2000) p.118 – illustrated credits, note
  • Sex, Shocks and Sadism p.30 – credits, review