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Somewhere between science and superstition, there is another world. The Exorcist

Aug 2, 2008
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:This movie is a masterpiece of timeing and plot. It will scare you.

Cons:You can't just dismiss it.

The Bottom Line: This movie was nominated for 10 Oscars, and won 2. It is brilliant and disturbing.


The Exorcist (1974) Directed by William Friedkin, from the novel by William Peter Blatty.

”Your mother sews socks that smell, you faithless slime!” Lorraine Newman, from the parody on Saturday Night Live.

The story of The Exorcist is simple, and well known. Reagan, the daughter of an actress, starts experiencing problems. She sleeps poorly. Chris, her mom, thinks it might be because of the rats she hears in the attic. Then, at a party, she comes down stairs in her nightgown, turns to the astronaut in the group, and says, “You’re going to die up there.” And then she urinates on the floor.

Chris takes her to the doctor. Nothing wrong. The bed starts shaking. Tests are ordered looking for lesions of the temporal lobes. These involve injecting dye into the Caryatid artery and a series of X-Rays. Then Reagan begins beating the bed to death, whipping about far worse than any seizure. More tests. No answers. Hypnosis indicates there might be a second presence in Reagan.

Psychiatrist: Is there someone inside you?
Regan MacNeil: Sometimes.
Psychiatrist: Who is it?
Regan MacNeil: I don't know.
Psychiatrist: Is it Captain Howdy?
Regan MacNeil: I don't know.
Psychiatrist: If I ask him to tell me, will you let him answer?
Regan MacNeil: No.
Psychiatrist: Why not?
Regan MacNeil: I'm afraid.


But when pressed on the matter, the entity places the hypnotist in a testicular death grip.

Finally, someone suggests the problems might be spiritual.

Dr. Barringer, Clinic Director: There is one outside chance for a cure. I think of it as shock treatment - as I said, it's a very outside chance... Have you ever heard of exorcism? Well, it's a stylized ritual in which the rabbi or the priest try to drive out the so-called invading spirit. It's been pretty much discarded these days except by the Catholics who keep it in the closet as a sort of an embarrassment, but uh, it has worked. In fact, although not for the reasons they think, of course. It's purely a force of suggestion. The victim's belief in possession is what helped cause it, so in that same way, a belief in the power of exorcism can make it disappear.
Chris MacNeil: You're telling me that I should take my daughter to a witch doctor? Is that it?


Father Karras is both a priest and a psychiatric councilor. He is having problems himself; his mother, who is ill, has to be admitted to a psychiatric ward. The conditions there are intolerable for her, and Karras, a good son, wants desperately to have her moved to a private facility. However, as a priest, he lives in poverty, vow or not, and can’t afford to do it. She dies.

Chris approaches Father Karras because of his double specialty. He tries to discourage her, but she is a desperate woman, and she insists, and he comes to look at Reagan. What he sees perplexes him. She is obviously ill, and there is something very wrong, but certain signs of real possession are missing. One of the things the church looks for is the possession of exclusive knowledge. Speaking foreign or dead languages is an example. But the only things that Reagan lets slip are little things that she might or might not have had knowledge about. Her speaking in tongues is English, in reverse.

But as things progress, Father Karras finally turns to the Church to send a real Exorcist, Father Merrin. And the two of them prepare to wage a battle for Reagan’s soul.

The Cast

Ellen Burstyn ... Chris MacNeil
Max von Sydow ... Father Merrin
Lee J. Cobb ... Lt. Kinderman
Kitty Winn ... Sharon
Jack MacGowran ... Burke Dennings
Jason Miller ... Father Karras
Linda Blair ... Regan
Reverend William O'Malley ... Father Dyer
Barton Heyman ... Dr. Klein
Peter Masterson ... Dr. Barringer, Clinic Director
Rudolf Schündler ... Karl
Gina Petrushka ... Willi
Robert Symonds ... Dr. Taney
Arthur Storch ... Psychiatrist
Vasiliki Maliaros ... Karras' Mother

The Analysis
This movie made a splash in Hollywood like few others. There had definitely never been anything like it before. From the controversial material, including the scenes of Linda Blair masturbating with a crucifix to the clever tricks, like the head spinning scene, this movie had people talking. It was profane, and most of the worst lines delivered by a little girl, and it was scary. People had histrionics when this movie was shown. Some left in an ambulance.

And everyone talked about it. There were discussions at the office, and on the play ground, and sermons from the pulpit, both denouncing the movie, and making use of its themes. Some people hated it, some people loved it, but everyone talked about it. Pea soup jokes abounded.

There was actually a resurgence in church attendance in the wake of its release, and it is credited as one of the influences on the current evangelical movement.

There are even rumors that the set itself was haunted. Here are some real facts on that matter. Linda Blair was injured by the harness rig that helped flail her about in the bed. When Reagan hit her mother in the famous masturbating with crucifixes scene, Ellen Burstyn was pulled backwards by a harness. When she hit the wall, she broke her coccyx. The scream of pain in the movie is real.

Nine people associated with the movie died before it was released, including actors Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Malairos.

A fire destroyed the set, and it had to be rebuilt.

The statue of Pazzuzzu went traveling; it was sent to Hong Kong before it made it to Iraq.

The Reverend William O’Malley, who played Father Dyer, was asked to perform an exorcism on the set. He refused, but did bless the production, and had a talk with the cast and crew to allay their fears. He still shows this movie once a year on the fourth floor of Hughes Hall at Fordham University. That is where Father Karras’ room was filmed, and Father O’Malley tells the students about working on the film.

The filming schedule was 85 days. It took 224.

The events of this film were based on real events. On January 15, 1949, Robbie, a 13 year old boy in the seventh grade left that school. An exorcism was performed on him, both in Cottage City, Maryland, and continued in Bel-Nor Missouri. The ceremony continued for six weeks, and concluded on April 19, 1949. It appeared to have been successful, and Robbie reenrolled in school. The Catholic Church labels the incident a genuine case of possession, and a successful Exorcism.


Recommend this product? Yes


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