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Details At A Glance
||Yes, 4 - all 1.78:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 1.0
||Yes, 10 - TV Spots (6) and Other Theatrical Trailers
||Yes, 2 - William Friedkin (Director); William Peter Blatty
||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)
Cast & Crew
Warner Home Video
Max Von Sydow
Lee J. Cobb
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio
||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
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement
|Action In or After Credits
In a just world, this film would be called The
Film That Set The Cause Of Mental Health Back By A Couple Of Decades.
Fundamentalist Christians often whine about the theory of evolution being
taught in schools as if it were fact, in spite of it coming a lot closer
to fact than anything they can come up with, but they don't seem to mind
if such atrocities as exorcism are portrayed as being something heroic.
Holding a poor, defenceless schizophrenic down and beating the crap out
of them (or otherwise tormenting them) until they either die or the symptoms
of their acute crisis abate is really heroic (can you smell the
stench of my sarcasm exuding from my voice yet?). As far as I am concerned,
Satan/Reagan (Linda Blair) is the hero of this film, just as Satan
is the hero of the Old Testament. Okay, so you can tell I am not a big
fan of this film's premise for some very good reasons. None of them are
to do with the construction of the story or the acting, but they are compelling
and powerful reasons, certainly far more so than the reasons people hail
this film as a classic piece of work.
Anyway, if you can call the writer a moron for his
glorification of one of the darkest hangovers from the Middle Ages, you
certainly can't say that the actors are particularly bad for their execution
of the story. Essentially, the plot begins with an archaeological dig in
Iraq being led by Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow), who discovers various
items buried in the Middle East. Given that archaeology is a science dedicated
to discovering facts, such as the fact that evidence says Jesus never even
existed, the idea that a Catholic priest would be leading an archaeological
dig is hilarious. Anyway, after various events in Iraq, we cut to an average
upper middle class suburb in America where we see actress Chris MacNeil
(Ellen Burstyn) and her daughter Regan (Linda Blair). After
a slow build-up, we find that Regan has become possessed by not just any
old demon from the old block, but by Satan himself. During the course of
the film, a distraught mother attempts to find a cure for her daughter's
condition. As Father Karras (Jason Miller) so wonderfully points
out, exorcism is a hangover from the dark days when the Catholic church
had absolute political power, and the power to brutally torture to death
any poor sod they disliked. This, friends and neighbours, is the only semblance
of sense in the entire story. Once it passes, prepare to kiss your sense
of tolerance for a lack of believability goodbye.
What is even more amusing is the attempt by the director,
Friedkin, to tell us that the story as written both in novel and screenplay
format by William Peter Blatty is based on a true story. This "true
story", as detailed on the inside of the snapper case, is one of a 14-year-old
boy by the name of John Hoffman, whose Protestant parents basically sought
the services of a Jesuit priest to beat the crap out of their boy until
the so-called "evil spirits" left his body. If there is one thing that
this Special Edition of what is a historically bound and culturally relevant
horror story (much like the Bible) proves, it is this: As far as the Christian
empire is concerned, the Dark Ages have never come to an end.
This is probably the best version I have ever seen of
this film, although that is saying very little. Suffice to say that you
won't find a better looking presentation of this film on any other medium,
and it is certainly far better than the first time I viewed this "classic",
which was courtesy of a heavily edited television broadcast. The film is
presented at the aspect ration of 1.78:1, complete with 16x9 Enhancement.
The original theatrical presentation was at the ratio of 1.85:1, and I
am not really particularly happy with the difference in spite of the fact
that it is a relatively minor one. While this transfer is still not without
its problems, particularly with the rather apparent graininess of some
shots, the restoration process has resulted in a very sharp transfer indeed.
The level of detail in such sequences as Chris MacNeil's exploration of
the attic is surprisingly good, although the shadow detail is distinctly
average by most standards. Thankfully, no low-level noise was present in
this transfer, which is definitely the biggest advantage it is has over
the VHS version I had the displeasure of viewing a couple of years ago.
For all the deficiencies of this transfer, however, I can honestly say
that this film has never looked so good, not even during its original theatrical
I'm not sure what it is with some of the most recent
transfers I have been reviewing, but this is another one with such dull
colours that it reminds me of watching Days Of Our Lives
on an old early-1980s television set. Such dull colouration is mainly the
result of the way the locations in the film are designed on the cosmetic
level, so this is not a fault with the transfer. The palette is very drab,
limited, and lifeless, but completely believable and appropriate to the
general feel of the film. MPEG artefacts didn't make any appearance in
the film, thankfully. Film-to-video artefacts were a slight problem, with
very slight aliasing occurring throughout the film. However, this is not
especially noticeable and not particularly distracting from the film. Film
artefacts are where the restoration process has been especially good to
this feature, as the few film artefacts that were present were not especially
As one expects from Warner Brothers, packaging errors
can be found in abundance. The Bulgarian and Romanian subtitles present
on this disc are certainly not mentioned on the packaging. Needless to
say, the description of the extra features is presented in the usual ugly
fashion that Warner Brothers have become famous for. If you can proof-read,
or if you have any appreciation for cosmetic design, then Warner Brothers
are in dire need of you.
This disc is a Flipper,
with most of the extra features placed on Side B. Now, I know some of you
readers are going to get a bit shirty with me for calling this disc a flipper,
but the result of putting vital information on both sides of the disc is
the same. You wind up with a disc that requires far more care and effort
to keep in a playable condition, and a throwback to the days of vinyl.
As one other critic who was merciless in their damning of such formatting
said, let's hope these types of discs are forever banned.
In keeping with the freshly restored look of the video
transfer, we also have a wonderfully executed audio transfer, complete
with what sounds like a true digital remastering. All in all, there are
three audio tracks included on this DVD: the standard English Dolby Digital
5.1 soundtrack, and two Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio Commentaries in English.
I listened to all three audio tracks in order to satisfy my curiosity.
The dialogue was generally very clear and easy to understand from start
to finish, except for the sequences involving a possessed Regan which were
not meant to be particularly distinct. Even the dialogue shot during the
sequences in Iraq was very clear. Given the manner in which the dialogue
performed and recorded in the production of this film, the level of clarity
in the dialogue is quite surprising.
The infrequently used score music is comprised of
excerpts from relatively contemporary classical music by such composers
as Krzysztof Penderecki,
Jack Nitzsche and Hans Werner
Henze, as well as Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells,
to name just a few of the many names mentioned in the closing credits.
The choices of music and the purposes behind those choices are mentioned
in the audio commentary by director William Friedkin, but overall,
I found the music to be something of a distraction more than anything else.
The music used does not have any strong connection with the action on the
screen, nor does it have much thematic relevance to the characters being
portrayed. Like the rest of the film in question, the score music tried
very hard to move me and fell rather sadly short of the mark.
The surround presence is not especially enveloping,
but it does an effective enough job of giving the film an appropriately
demonic feel. There is not much use of the rear channels, but the centre
channel was used quite well to support the ambient sound effects and dialogue.
Essentially, this film is very front-and-centre in terms of channel usage.
The subwoofer did not get a lot of overt use, but it did support the overall
soundtrack in a way that surpasses a lot of other films that make use of
the subwoofer. If you're not expecting a Star Wars style
use of the surround channels, but one with great subtlety and sparing use,
then you won't be disappointed with this DVD.
Although Warner Brothers seem to lack any understanding
of how important extras are to a presentation, the extras they have included
with this disc are amazingly comprehensive.
The menu is very well themed to the film with very well-rendered
graphics. They are presented in the full-screen format with 16x9 Enhancement,
and make a very nice change from the pathetic menus we were given with
In a rare burst of common sense for Warner Brothers, we are able to access
all 48 chapters of the film from the scene selection menu, but the chapter
listing on the inside of the snapper case is utterly pathetic in how it
fails to coincide with the actual chapters of the film from the word go.
Eight theatrical trailers are presented under various
submenus, and not all of them are actually for The Exorcist.
All of the trailers are presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1, complete
with 16x9 Enhancement. The four trailers that are for The Exorcist
are presented with Dolby Digital 1.0 sound, while the other four trailers
are presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Generally, the four trailers
for The Exorcist show their age, with film artefacts showing
themselves in a certain kind of abundance. Under the Reel Recommendations
menu, trailers are presented for Beetlejuice (1:25), The
Devil's Advocate (2:14), Fallen (2:20), and Interview
With The Vampire (2:29). The quality of these trailers is somewhat
variable, but generally good. The trailers for The Exorcist
are listed as Nobody Expected It (1:42),
(0:31), Flash Image (1:45), and Exorcist II: The Heretic
(1:47). The actual trailers relating to The Exorcist are
only of vague interest and suffer the general limitations of most trailers
for films made in this era. Nonetheless, they do justify the once-over.
Six television commercials for The Exorcist
are presented under their own submenu. They are all presented in Full Frame
format without 16x9 Enhancement, and with Dolby Digital 1.0 sound. The
six commercials are listed as Beyond Comprehension (0:33),
Too Can See The Exorcist (0:34), Between Science And Superstition
The Movie You've Been Waiting For (1:03),
It (0:33), and Life Had Been Good (0:33). The second
of these commercials is especially hilarious stuff, and well worth the
effort to watch. However, the quality of these television commercials is
not the best.
Audio Commentary - William Friedkin (director)
This commentary is poorly mixed with the original audio
soundtrack, and a bit of effort has to be made in order to properly hear
what William Friedkin is saying. However, what he does say during
the course of the film often makes me want to scream at him that he hasn't
made another Amadeus or Star Wars, he's just
made a typical summer horror blockbuster that is long on hype and short
on intelligence. It's worth listening to once, maybe, but I would not take
the time to listen to it again. One thing in Friedkin's favour, however,
is the fact that he doesn't feel the need to keep on speaking when he has
nothing of any great value to tell the listener.
Audio Commentary - William Peter Blatty (writer)
Sadly, this is not a full-length commentary, clocking
in at somewhere in the neighbourhood of fifty-seven minutes. Like William
Friedkin, he has no desire to speak incessantly, although I feel that
this indicates he has little of any interest to say. A lot of what he does
say has little to do with the action on the screen, and more to do with
the background information of the film. After the commentary ends, we are
treated to a thirteen-minute demonstration of the vocal sound effects done
by one Mercedes McCambridge and inserted into the soundtrack to
replace the lines spoken by Linda Blair, as well as what sound like
some test recordings of these effects. I didn't find either part of this
commentary to be particularly interesting.
Documentary - The Fear Of God: 25 Years Of The Exorcist (52:46)
This is a shorter version of a documentary available
on the Region 1 release. Said documentary was produced by the BBC for the
film's 25th anniversary, and its original length is around 74 minutes.
This documentary is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with 16x9 Enhancement
and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. If you're interested in how some of the effects
in the film were achieved, then this documentary has a lot to offer.
Introduction by William Friedkin (2:10)
This is an introduction to the film, specially recorded
for the film's 25th Anniversary. It is presented in an aspect ratio of
1.78:1, with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.
Deleted Scene - Original Ending (1:44)
This is a sequence that was cut from the end of the
film and has not been restored. It does not add anything to the picture
in the overall sense. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, without
16x9 Enhancement. The sound is restricted to Dolby Digital 1.0, which is
just fine given that the only real sound in this sequence is speech.
Sketches And Storyboards
A collection of twenty-eight drawings to demonstrate
how the look of the film was developed. There is no annotation of any kind,
but even without it, this is an interesting comparison to the final film.
My interest in this extra was rather limited, but others may find it to
be of more interest.
This is just a collection of three interview segments
that appear to be pieces taken out of the documentary. They are presented
at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, still without 16x9 Enhancement, and with
Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. William Peter Blatty and William Friedkin
appear to have a few differences of opinion about aspects of the film,
but this is about the only interesting thing about these interview segments.
R4 vs R1
Basically, the difference between the two versions of
this film boils down to the full-length documentary feature, or the PAL
formatting. Given how much more the Region 1 version would cost, and the
fact that it is still packaged in one of those crappy snapper cases, I
think it is a better idea to stick with the Region 4 version for now.
The Exorcist makes me wonder what all
the fuss is about, and has done since I first saw it around a decade ago.
However, in that passing time, I have grown to be progressively more and
more unimpressed with this film for reasons I've already covered in this
review. This particular DVD presentation, however, is certainly the best
presentation you're likely to see for some time. If you're not as ticked
off by the story as I am, this DVD is worth the investment.
The video quality is good, and I have never seen
the film look quite so good before.
The audio quality is good, and I don't think I've
heard it sound this good before, either.
The extras are very comprehensive, but your enjoyment
of them will depend a lot on your enjoyment of the film itself.
One thing I must be concurrent with Ian about is
the call for the ditching of the snapper case. I've lost count of the number
of times the artwork on a DVD that I've just purchased or received for
review has been severely eroded on one of these cases. A special edition
of any film, regardless of how much in poor taste the film is, does not
deserve such cheap and nasty-looking packaging.
© Dean McIntosh
March 1, 2000
||Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109,
using S-video output
||Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite
input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and
||Built In (Amplifier)
||Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back
Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer