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?
The Exorcist is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a new transfer and it shows, this edition is much more defined and sharper than the previous issue. The improvements aren’t all obvious, but if you compare the two, you’ll see this new transfer is much better in the end. I am a little let down the grain wasn’t cleaned up more, but that is a small price to pay for the other improvements, I suppose. Also in better form is the contrast, which is balanced to perfection and that adds even more detail to this version. The colors seem about the same, which is good and I am pleased no compression flaws surface here. All in all, this is the best looking print for this film you’ll on home video. Of course, if you dislike the additional footage, then that doesn’t matter in the end, I guess.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc also houses a new audio presentation, which is an excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track that knocks the previous edition to the floor. This is one of the best sounding horror films mixes I have heard, which is a compliment, as I have heard a lot of them. I can’t believe this film is over twenty-five years old, as it sounds so natural in this advanced audio presentation. The surrounds are active and put to good use here, with a lot of atmospheric use that adds to the eerie nature of the film. That means those creepy sequences are even creepier than usual, which is cool by me. But this track never seems hollow or forced, so don’t worry about the mix coming off as unnatural, by any means. The score and dialogue also come through well, so don’t be concerned that they’ll be buried under the power of this new mix. This disc also contains French & English 2.0 surround tracks and subtitles in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is where the previous edition takes top honors, as this disc contains few supplements in the end. A brand new audio commentary from director William Friedkin is present, but one has to wonder where author William Peter Blatty is in all this, since he pushed to have this version released in the first place. Friedkin has a lot of remarks in this track, but never really touches on the changes and such, which is a let down. Still, it’s another solid commentary track, so no real complaints here in the end. A wealth of in depth production notes can found here also, as well as two theatrical trailers, four television spots, and two radio spots, all specifically made for this extended version of the film. At the end of the bonus materials are some talent files, god love ’em.