Exorcist/A,C+
Warner/1973/122/ANA 1.85

Original DVD Release    

     On the chills per minute meter, The Exorcist ranks up there with the best. Itís easy to forget how frightening this film is as memory diminishes the horror with a sense of familiarity. Sit through it again on its DVD incarnation and I guarantee you enough squirming to break in your favorite seat for many future viewings. 
     For those who have forgotten, The Exorcist is a tale of possession and the battle between good and evil. The concept and execution are vintage filmmaking and director William Friedkin, following up on the  success of The French Connection, does a stellar job of maintaining a devastatingly biting pace for The Exorcist. William Peter Blatty scripted from his own novel.  
      Regan, the delightful twelve year old daughter of a successful actress, suddenly turns  erratic in her  behavior. Doctors try to rationalize  the wild  physical manifestations exhibited, but to her mother Chris MacNeil, it becomes painfully obvious that something other-worldly has taken possession of his child. Father Karras, a psychologist priest from the parish church is called upon to try and help exorcise the demon from Regan. 
     The prologue of The Exorcist,  which takes place during an archeological dig in Egypt,  creates the atmosphere from which the mystery and horror can evolve. The link from the dig to the MacNeil home is not clear until Father Merrin, the priest who was in charge of the dig, arrives to direct the exorcism.  While there is an obtuse, shrouded quality to the prologue, the scenes of Reganís possession are painfully direct and horrifying. The Exorcist, while it may lay claims to dealing with larger issues, is pure, distilled, horror in my book, superbly realized. 
      Linda Blair is terrific as Regan. She makes everything the young girl goes through totally convincing. Ellen Burstyn, rather helpless as Chris, does her best to keep the hysteria under control. Jason Miller, as Father Karras, is rather bland and lacks the compelling presence to do battle with pure evil, while Max Van Sydow as Father Merrin is perfectly cast in the role of The Exorcist
      The horror of The Exorcist DVD transfer is that the initial sequence in Egypt is time-compressed. This is the hardest working archeological crew Iíve ever seen, swinging their pick axes at an unsustainable rate. The measured pace so carefully laid out by director Friedkin for his opening is destroyed by the shoddy transfer treatment. On the positive side, watching The Exorcist in anamorphic 1.85 is the best video incarnation available. The film is still rather grainy, more  information is extracted from the widescreen process for those lucky enough to have widescreen viewing devices. The two channel sound is clean and still elicits the desired chills, yet I can imagine how much more effective a full blown 5:1 surround mix would be for The Exorcist.

 

 

 


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