The Exorcist: 40th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)

October 17, 2013 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

A little girl named Regan McNeil (Linda Blair) has been having some tough times of late, it seems her mental and physical health have been sliding in the recent past. But we’re not talking about a simple sore throat here, more like superhuman strength and intense projectile vomiting, which aren’t symptoms of the common cold, at least any strain we know of. After her mother tries all the medical options she can to cure the problems, she decides to go see a psychologist, who is also a man of the cloth, or a priest. This man is certain Regan has been possessed by an evil and demonic spirit, so unless she is freed soon, she could be killed in the process. So Regan’s final hope lies within two men of religion, one world weary, but experienced priest and another who has begun to doubt his faith. As a team, these two men must work together to free this young girl from the demon within her, which will not be an easy task, to say the least. Pea soup, anyone?

If you’re a fan of The Exorcist, then chances are you’ve heard about the debates between author William Peter Blatty and director William Friedkin, who had different ideas when it came to the film’s final cut. Friedkin was pleased with the version that ran in theaters years ago, while Blatty wanted Friedkin’s original rough cut to be issued edition of The Exorcist. After some time of back and forth, Friedkin agreed to recut the film to resemble that original rough version and though it isn’t exact, this new version is a close match for that edition. This new cut runs about ten minutes longer and has a lot of added dialogue, which slows the pace somewhat, though you have to love that Spider Walk sequence, am I right? Even though I like a couple of the new sequences found in this version, I still prefer the original cut, as it seems spookier and that’s kind of the point here. It seems as though this new edition tries to explain too much, which pulls out some of the scariness and that isn’t good in a horror flick. I like this new version and I am pleased to have seen it, but I think fans will want to hold on to both editions in the end. Even if you like this extended cut better, keep that 25th Anniversary disc, as it has a ton of great supplements not found here. As many of you will be also, I’ll be adding both of these discs to my collection, so I recommend this new cut to fans of the film with no hesitations.

Since this edition was driven into existence by William Peter Blatty (also wrote The Exorcist III and a few films in the 1960s), I figured I would give him a few lines of ink here. As I am sure you know, Blatty penned the novel on which the film was based and he also wrote the film’s screenplay, which worked out well. In other words, you don’t have to worry about the novel being tossed aside in the process, since the same dude took the reins on both projects. His work in both formats is fantastic and really sets the stage for the film, which also delivers on the potential of Blatty’s writings. I’m sure there was some concern about whether or not the film could match the novel’s visual and atmospherical potential, but I think director William Friedkin (The French Connection, Rules of Engagement) and his crew come through with flying colors. The cast here is also top notch, with such performers as Max Von Sydow (The Seventh Seal, Needful Things), Jason Miller (Rudy, Toy Soldiers), Ellen Burstyn (The Last Picture Show, The Yards), Lee J. Cobb (Mackenna’s Gold, In Like Flint), and of course, Linda Blair (Chained Heat, Ruckus).

Video: How does it look?

Warner came out with this movie on Blu-ray back in 2010 that looked pretty darn good.  This is the 40th Anniversary edition of the film and I have to say that the transfer does look just a tad bit better than the previous edition.  Some of the scenes lacked the banding that was present in the previous edition and the entire color palette is still somewhat reserved and though black levels look fairly good. there were a couple scenes in which I saw the tiniest bit of artifacting and “noise” in the shadows. Contrast is right on the mark and let me tell you, if you’ve never seen Linda Blair’s vomit in HD well you’re missing out on the best that life has to offer. While this does look a tad bit better than the previous edition, it’s not a night and day difference.

Audio: How does it sound?

The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack appears to be the same one used for the 2010 release. Unlike many films of the age, the mix on The Exorcist doesn’t really sound engineered or fake. I was pretty impressed at how robust this really did sound and even as many times as I’ve seen the film, found myself craning my neck to hear some of the little nuances that kept emanating out of my surround speakers. Dialogue is key to this film, well any film I suppose, and the vocals are very strong and clear here. Max Von Sydow’s powerful voice is ever so present and again I find it hard to believe that this film is 40 years old. This new mix is by far the best the movie has to offer, embrace it.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This might be the deal-breaker for those that are pondering putting down their money for this “new” edition.  All of the previous supplements from the 2010 edition are present here, but we do have a new documentary as well as a 40 page book that document Friedkin’s experiences on the set of the film.  We’ve covered those here and the new features are below:

  • Extended Director’s Cut – The 132 minute version of the film is included on this disc with the theatrical version housed on Disc 2.
  • 40-Page Book – Director William Friedkin recounts his experiences on the set of the film.  A page a year?
  • Beyond Comprehension: William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist – Author William Peter Blatty tours the cabin where he wrote most of the original novel. He also mentioned the “Exorcist Steps” will always be the “Hitchcock Steps” due to their use in Hitchcock’s film, The 39 Steps. He also reads excerpts from his novel while scenes play over it.
  • Talk of the Devil – Father  Ghallager and Mike Siegel are interviewed and Ghallager recounts Blatty in his classes at Georgetown. As the lone “new” supplement here, this is a hit and miss feature.
  • UltraViolet Copy

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