The Exorcist

Special Edition

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Details At A Glance

Category Horror Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 4 - all 1.78:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 1.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) Yes, 10 - TV Spots (6) and Other Theatrical Trailers (4)
Year Released 1973 Commentary Tracks Yes, 2 - William Friedkin (Director); William Peter Blatty (Writer)
Running Time 118:56 minutes Other Extras Documentary - The Fear of God: 25 Years of The Exorcist (52:46)
Deleted Scene - Original Ending (1:44)
Interview Gallery (3) (9:06)
Introduction by William Friedkin (2:10)
Sketches and Storyboards (28) (2:49)
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director William Friedkin

Warner Home Video
Starring Ellen Burstyn
Max Von Sydow
Lee J. Cobb
Jack MacGowran
Jason Miller
Linda Blair
Case Snapper
RRP $34.95 Music -

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary 1 (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary 2 (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    As promised to one regular reader of this site, who has been positively hanging out for this review, here it is for your consideration.

    So what in general can be said about The Exorcist? Well, for one thing, if Mike Oldfield is forever known only for Tubular Bells, Tubular Bells will be forever remembered for The Exorcist! Upon release in 1973, this was one extremely disturbing film, although to be fair the intervening years have not been kind to the horror of the film and nowadays it barely gets the blood pumping, let alone scaring the bejesus out of you. The only time this really gets upsetting for me is when the doctors start poking needles into Regan MacNeil for the arteriogram, mainly because of my almost phobia about needles. But that is not to deny that this was a groundbreaking film and its quality is evidenced not only by the fact that it is still a fine film 28 years later, but by the two Oscars it won in 1974 - for Best Sound and for Best Writing, Screenplay based on Material from Another Medium. It was also nominated for eight other Oscars - Best Actress, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Add four Golden Globes to the list and the critical acclaim the film generated and it is obvious that this is a film of some stature. And it is still capable of generating the odd heated controversy around the traps.

    Okay, so the film is pretty well known, most notably for the rather explicit language and innuendo acting of the then very young Linda Blair: this was in some respects a breakout film for the use of minors in rather unsavoury roles (much like the slightly later but no less compelling Taxi Driver). The film is pretty much about twelve year old Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), a normal child by any standards whose behaviour starts becoming a little weird at a party held by her actress mother Chris (Ellen Burstyn). It has to be admitted that suddenly appearing at a party to politely tell an astronaut he is going to die in space, and then urinating on the carpet, is pretty much guaranteed to take the wind out of any social gathering. As the medical profession become increasingly incapable of offering any suggestions as to what is causing Regan's increasingly abnormal behaviour, an increasingly frustrated mother tries to find answers elsewhere. As her daughter is gradually reduced to a mere puppet by the possession of her body by the Devil, salvation of sorts comes in the form of an ancient ritual called an exorcism. Chris seeks out a Jesuit priest Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) to sound out the possibility of performing an exorcism. Reluctant at first, Karras, after observing Regan, comes to the conclusion that the ritual is warranted and approaches his superiors about the case. They assign Karras to assist a more experienced priest in the form of Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) in the performance of the ritual, much to the eternal regret of Fathers Merrin and Karras.

    Great films start with a great story, which is brought to life by a great cast, then woven together by great cinematography and great directorship. Well there is no doubt about the quality of the story on offer here, so things start out well enough. The cast here is quite magnificent. Ellen Burstyn is wonderful as the progressively more helpless and exasperated mother, and it is difficult to believe that she was by no means a leading candidate for the role. She was effectively complemented by Jason Miller as the priest questioning his faith; all the more remarkable in that he really was not an actor, but rather a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, and this was his first effort in film. Max Von Sydow is effective as the exorcist in a rather limited role. But the star here is the young Linda Blair, whose brilliance as the possessed young girl is compelling indeed. The whole film was brilliantly realized by director William Friedkin. Whilst my knowledge of the ritual is virtually non-existent, the presence of a number of priests as technical advisors, as well as bit part actors, would seem to suggest that there is a high degree of realism here. The Exorcist is a powerful film, not so much a straight horror film but rather a horror film with some serious moral and spiritual questions posed and to some extent answered.

Transfer Quality


    Well, despite the age of the film, the transfer holds up pretty well and has been well restored for its 25th Anniversary release a few years back.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    Whilst there are still some rather obvious problems with the transfer, most notably some rather grainy patches, the restoration has in general resulted in a sharp transfer with some rather nice definition throughout; indeed I was a little surprised by the level of detail in a number of sequences, such as in the attic. It does have to be said however that the earlier part of the film is in general more successful than the later parts of the film. The shadow detail is very good for a film of this age. The transfer is not an especially clear effort at times, but nonetheless seems to have benefited well from the restoration. Overall, it is doubtful that the transfer has looked this good for many a year.

    If you are looking for rich, vibrant colours here, you are going to be sadly disappointed. This is not that style of film and what we have on offer is a nicely muted style of colour that suits the film and location very well indeed. It is a completely believable palette and whilst not especially vibrant, conveys the feel of the setting very well indeed.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There was some problem with minor film-to-video artefacts, mainly very slight aliasing throughout. This is not too noticeable at all and is not especially distracting to the film. Not only has the restoration had a beneficial effect on the transfer, but also with cleaning up of the print film artefacts were significantly less than I was expecting, and what was present was not much of an intrusion.

    This is a dual sided format disc, with the movie contained on side A and the extras contained on side B.

    In keeping with the Warners tradition of packaging errors, the Bulgarian and Romanian subtitles are not listed in the special features listing, and William Friedkin is credited as being William Friedken. If you can proofread, perhaps you should apply for a job at Warners.


    Matching the excellent video restoration is a wonderful audio remastering.

    There are three soundtracks on the DVD: the English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and two English Audio Commentaries in Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to all three soundtracks.

    The dialogue was generally clear and easy to understand throughout, bearing in mind that some sequences involving the possessed Regan are supposed to be a little indistinct.

    Audio sync does not appear to be a problem with the transfer.

    The score comprises excerpts from relatively contemporary classical music by the likes of Krzysztof Penderecki and Hans Werner Henze, complemented by the originality of the aforementioned Tubular Bells. The music choices and the aims of the choices are mentioned in the commentary from director William Friedkin, and this ends up being a most effective contributor to the film.

    Whilst this is never going to be an audio demonstration, the remastering has resulted in a nicely effective soundtrack that really complements the film well. There is not a huge amount of use out of the rear channels, but the front surrounds really do an effective job in capturing the demonic feel of the film. The bass channel does not get a lot of overt use, but adds a nicely complementary feel to the overall soundtrack. If you are after huge amounts of "false" bass activity to scare the heck out of you, I would suggest that you look at more recent and far less successful horror films. That style is not what is on offer here, but if you appreciate understated but effective soundtracks, this will provide much reward.


    What is this? - the second Warners disc in a row through my player with extras! Special Edition it says and I would not disagree with the description.


    Nicely themed to the film and presented in full screen format, and with 16x9 enhancement.

Theatrical Trailers - 8

    Okay they are not all for The Exorcist, and the actual list is three for The Exorcist, one for The Exorcist II: The Heretic, with single efforts for other Warners releases in the form of Beetlejuice (1:25), Devil's Advocate (2:14), Fallen (2:20) and Interview With The Vampire (2:29). One of the trailers for The Exorcist is shortish and really is more of a teaser trailer. All the trailers are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are 16x9 enhanced. The four trailers relating to The Exorcist series are presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 sound, whereas the four other film trailers are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. In general, the trailers for The Exorcist show their age, with plenty of film artefacts on display, but they are welcome additions to the package. It is also nice to finally see the provision of trailers for other films in Region 4: rarely seen in our favourite region, they are quite common in Region 1. For those interested in the detail, The Exorcist trailers are listed as Nobody Expected It (1:42), Beyond Comprehension (0:31), Flash Image (1:45) and Exorcist II: The Heretic (1:47).

Television spots - 6

    A collection of generally short television spots for the film, presented in a full frame format, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 1.0 sound. The six spots are listed as Beyond Comprehension (0:33), You Too Can See The Exorcist (0:34), Between Science and Suspicion (1:03), The Movie You've Been Waiting For (1:03), Nobody Expected It (0:33) and Life Had Been Good (0:33). The second spot listed is especially priceless. A nice addition to the package even though the quality is not the best.

Audio Commentary - William Friedkin (Director)

    Technically not the best sounding commentary I have heard, with some rather noticeable fluctuations in the audio level, it is also not the most engaging effort I have ever heard either. However, he thankfully does not feel the need to chat without pause and when he does come in with the comments, they are nicely informative of a lot of background stuff to the film. Well worth a listen at least once but not something that I would return to very often at all.

Audio Commentary - William Peter Blatty (Writer)

    This is not a full length commentary, and lasts just about 57 minutes. In many respects his style is very similar to that of William Friedkin, in that he has no desire to chat incessantly. A lot of what he has to say has little to do with the onscreen action and again is mainly providing a lot of the background information to the film. Quite informative, but again not something I would return to often. After the commentary ends, there are about 13 minutes of demonstration of the vocal sound effects done by Mercedes McCambridge and inserted into the soundtrack to replace the words spoken by Linda Blair, as well as what sounds like some test recordings of some of those vocal sound effects. I did not find these especially exciting, but others may find more interest here than I.

Documentary - The Fear of God: 25 Years of The Exorcist (52:46)

    Well lets get it out in the open - this is a shortened version of the documentary available on the Region 1 release. Produced by the BBC for the 25th Anniversary, it is basically a collection of interviews with many of the main cast and crew of the movie, with some behind the scenes stuff added. Quite an interesting collection, with some nice insights into the making of the film. Well worth the time to watch and a welcome addition to the package, even if for some reason we do have a slightly butchered version (the Region 1 version lasts about 74 minutes). This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Introduction by William Friedkin (2:10)

    This is an introduction to the film, specially recorded for the 25th Anniversary and is played before the main feature commences. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.

Deleted Scene - Original Ending (1:44)

    The subject of some "discussion" between William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty as to why this was cut from the film judging by the interview segment, this is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, not 16x9 enhanced and is presented with Dolby Digital 1.0 sound. I am not certain that it adds anything to the film but it is worthwhile to have the chance to decide for yourself.

Sketches and Storyboards

    This a collection of 28 drawings that demonstrate how the look of the film was developed, and even without any annotation this is an interesting comparison to the final film. A not too spectacular addition to the package, but nonetheless a useful inclusion.

Interview Gallery

    This is actually just three interview segments. They are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, are not 16x9 enhanced and are presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Whilst these things usually sound as if it is a gathering of a mutual admiration society, it would seem that these two still have some friendly differences on their views about certain aspects of the film. An interesting addition to the package.

R4 vs R1

   Apart from the shortened length of the documentary on the Region 4 release, there appears to be no significant difference between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases. Basically your decision will come down to either the full 74 minute documentary or PAL resolution. Personally, I would go with the inherent superiority of the PAL system, but I know others are indignant about the shortening of the documentary.


    Currently well entrenched in the Internet Movie Database's Top 250, The Exorcist is definitely a classic film and deserving of addition to your collection. The transfer has come up very well in the restoration of the film, and there would be very few real complaints about the quality on offer here.

    The overall video quality is good.

    The overall audio quality is good.

    The extras package is very good indeed.

    And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, can I raise the issue of those dreadful snapper cases again? This one arrived looking a little the worse for wear and decidedly very cheap and nasty for a Special Edition. Please, just compare how this looks against say the presentation of Speed in the (very) transparent Amaray case, The Mummy in the (slightly less) transparent Brackley case or Notting Hill in the super jewel case. At the very least could you please switch to the Amaray case like the MGM and Disney releases please?

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
23rd January 2000
Amended 17th January 2001
Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL