Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Mystery > Supernatural > Demons > Possession > The Exorcist (1973 (including Extended Director’s Cut)/Warner Blu-ray)

The Exorcist (1973, including Extended Director's Cut/first Warner Blu-ray Set)

Picture: B+ Sound: B Extras: B+ Film: B+

PLEASE NOTE: The Exorcist 4K has been issued, but does not include most of the extras in this set, or ones only on the old DVD set. You can read more about it at this link:


The Horror genre has become a wasteland of mostly bad B films (the B begin very generous) and some A product that usually is as bad as bad B product in recent years as it has become glutted beyond anything anyone could have imagined. To make a film that stands out and stands the test of time, you have to make a film that suspends disbelief, is effective throughout, well made, consistent and if it has good acting, that helps too. Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) changed filmmaking forever, then Polanski's Rosemary's Baby and Romero's Night Of The Living Dead both arrived in 1968 and the last golden era of Horror began.

One split that some writes have noted is that you had you low-budget exploitation films and some of them (Texas Chain Saw Massacre) became classics, then there were the big screen Hollywood studio films (The Omen, both of which the late Robin Wood compared in his priceless book Hollywood From Vietnam To Reagan... And Beyond) that were 'A' product and sometimes hits that worked. The horror/monster in the low-budget films were from, while the product had the menace comes from overseas. William Friedkin's film of William Peter Blatty's novel The Exorcist (1973) follows the A-level Hollywood route, but why has it endured and stood out as one of the greatest Horror films Hollywood made in the sound era, color film era and remains one of the most imitated (almost always uselessly) films of all time?

For starters, it is written as a drama, not a formula horror flick, so it is already several steps ahead of its usually shallow imitators and other wannabes that also happens to be a world of mature, grown adults. That is lacking in almost every recent horror film of late. Also, it is not a comedy, though some jokes come through in he script, they work and make sense in the context of the film. The characters are also well-developed; something the genre rarely has time for. That alone makes all this a very well made film, but then, the terror begins.

At first, we meet the hard working, very likable Chris MacNeil (the great Ellen Burstyn) who is a liberated woman, very successful in the filmmaking (nod, wink) business and a good woman all around. She has a happy, healthy daughter in Regan (Linda Blair) she is doing her best to raise, but it is not always easy and it is about to get much tougher. At first, Regan is not well, but then, it is apparent that something is very wrong, beyond her, beyond anyone's understanding and beyond anything any one has experienced before. She is not just sick or ill or psychotic, but truly is possessed by a Satanic force, maybe Satan himself.

This is based on Catholic ideas and teachings, which rarely surface in the genre outside of crosses against vampires, but is delivered in such a full-fledged way that audiences had never seen anything like it before and the particular ways the script (Blatty wrote the screenplay from his own book) slowly takes apart the idea of the happy family, deals with the sexual politics of feminism, liberalism and is not just some reactionary formula film the genre would produce en masse by the 1980s. It is smart, intense and as it moves forward, it just builds up and builds up. I am impressed how well the film endures all these years later and how many errors (mostly sloppy) recent imitators have been.

Everyone is so good in the film, including Jason Miller as the haunted priest, Lee J. Cobb as the authority figure, Blair (even with Mercedes McCambridge, the great big screen movie star who was also a brilliant voice on radio dramas for decades, as the voice of the demon) does well here, Jack MacGowran (Dance Of the Vampires, Doctor Zhivago, Lord Jim, Young Cassidy, et al in his last role) and Ingmar Bergman veteran Max Von Sydow as the title character, Father Merrin. The chemistry is amazing and dense making the dark situations seem that much darker and the film actually juggles more than one kind of the return of the repressed that resonates long after it first became a huge blockbuster.

Some have noted that some of its success was in the middle of the fiasco, but like the best films of the time, the film far exceeds that context and remains a classic that often exceeds its genre. It is not reactionary horror and terror, but the kind that slowly works on the audience and Director Friedkin was at the early peak of his filmmaking powers. The result is a classic that in some ways, the audience still has not caught up with 37+ years. All you have to know is that once it starts, it is a pure cinematic experience that just gets better and better as you watch, like all classics.
The Exorcist will continue to be so for a very, very long tome to come, especially when Warner Bros. has given it such deluxe treatment here.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image is amazing in both the Extended Director's Cut that originally arrived in 2000 and the Original Theatrical Version from 1973. Director of Photography Owen Roizman (who had lensed Friedkin's French Connection and other great films like Network, the original Stepford Wives, the original Taking Of Pelham One Two Three and Play It Again, Sam) gave the film a uniquely dark look like no other Horror film had ever delivered before and is so distinct that the imitators have never come close. He and Friedkin color-timed both cuts and they easily are the best versions of the film I have ever seen. Originally released in prints from the distinct MetroColor labs, these men have gone back and fixed the film frame by frame in such a meticulous way that the brand-new look of the print makes the suspense all that much richer.

It is amazing how great this looks ands except for some grain typical of some of the stock so the time, you would think some reshoots were done somewhere here, but they were not. This looks like a print that could have just arrived at a big screen, single screen theater of the time, the kind that made total sense to do a 70mm blow-up of in 1979 and one that even looks like a lost print, stored in a vault that somehow stayed in mint condition. This sets another high standard for film restoration and preservation, especially for films from the 1970s, which are too often written off as poor when that simply was not the case.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless mixes are amazing upgrades (6.1 on the Extended Cut, 5.1 on the Original Version), cleaned up from past remasters and now free of some of the screeching, sometimes ear-piercing distortion on past DVD editions. Originally, the film was issued in monophonic sound, but the 1979 version was in 70mm 6-track magnetic stripe sound (think 4.0 or 4.1, with sound coming especially form the screen) then the 2000 version offered a digital 5.1 mix in all three theatrical formats (DTS, SDDS, Dolby). This new mix offers audio detail, clarity and dynamic range none of the previous versions did, including the Steve Boeddeker score on the 2000 version and the classic Mike Oldfield hit Tubular Bells which launched Virgin Records with a big hit. Audiophiles know the whole Tubular Bells album was issued years ago in the underrated Super Audio CD format (with multi-channel sound as the original album was even available as a quadraphonic release and is considered one of the best of the time; a Blu-ray audio edition was issued in 2023 with a second quad mix, 12-track Dolby Atmos version of the original studio album and more, all sounding great) so the film has always had a distinct character in its sound and that comes through very well here.

Extras include the booklet built inside the Blu-ray DigiBook itself and a slip of paper inside that book with Freidkin explaining personal thoughts on the film. The Blu-ray itself offers three feature length audio commentary tracks; two by Friedkin (one for each cut of the film, one by Blatty on the 1973 cut, plus a new three-part documentary on the Extended Version that includes Raising Hell: Filming The Exorcist, The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then & Now and Faces Of Evil: The Different Versions Of The Exorcist. The Theatrical Version adds an introduction by Friedkin, the Original Ending, feature-length 1998 documentary The Fear Of God: The Making Of The Exorcist and an Interview Gallery covering the topics: The Original Cut, The Final Reckoning and Stairway To Heaven. I was hoping for an additional set of trailers, TV Spots, Radio Spots and more stills, but that is not here, though some have been on previous DVDs, but that is my only complaint.

- Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com