Original DVD Release
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
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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