Many believed that the actual film was cursed and that playing it through a projector was an invitation for demonic possession. During the Roman premiere, audiences had to fight their way through a torrential downpour, accompanied by thunder and lightning, in order to get in to the theater.
Many inside claimed to hear a horrific, almost demonic cry, coming from outside once the film started rolling. At one showing, a woman was so frightened she passed out in the theater and broke her jaw when she fell. She later sued the filmmakers suggesting that subliminal messages caused the accident. Warner Brothers settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Share This. Tweet This. In fact, on a city book tour, Blatty kept arriving in cities to find bookstores uncomfortable with the content and returning their copies.
What saved the book was another happy accident. Two weeks later, Blatty recalled in later interviews, the book was number one on the New York Times best-seller list. It stayed there for four months, and in the top 10 for more than a year.
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Ultimately it sold more than 13 million copies in the United States alone. MacLaine was definitely interested. Later Jane Fonda would be offered the role. Blatty wanted William Friedkin. The excitement! The look of documentary realism! Warner Brothers agreed. When a director comes onboard a movie, the one thing you can count on is that he or she is going to make changes in the story.
John J. But in the s that was not an option. A stunt man actually had to fall down the frighteningly steep step Georgetown flight of stairs featured at the end of the film. One morning the crew arrived to find the room had gotten so cold there was a thin layer of snow covering the set. On set, Friedkin was both god and devil, fighting to get a very challenging shoot completed, but sometimes going to extremes.
Regularly and without warning he would shoot off guns to produce startled reactions in the actors. When actress Ellen Burstyn complained that she was getting pulled across the room too hard by special effects supervisor Marcel Vercoutere, Friedkin said he would have it fixed, then instead encouraged Vercoutere to pull her harder. Burstyn flew across the room, then writhed and screamed in actual pain on the floor. And that obsession was contagious.
A certain anxiety proved contagious too. The son of another cast member, Jason Miller, was also hit by a motorcyclist on an empty beach and almost died.
A carpenter lost a thumb, a lightning technician a toe. And one weekend the set for the MacNeil home caught fire when no one was there, shutting the production down for weeks.
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Through it all, year-old Blair, who played the possessed Regan, impressed everyone with her poise. Though she was raised a Christian, Blair was not troubled by the idea of demonic possession. While she had an adult body double for certain moments, at others, such as when her body is being thrown around on the bed, Blair was herself tied into the rigging creating the effect.
That was the take Friedkin used, of course. Blair would be nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress and win a Golden Globe for the same category. Warner Brothers had to hire bodyguards to live with her family 24 hours a day for six months. The threats continued off and on for years; at times her parents had to hide her with friends in other states.
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Everybody just sat there. The response horrified Warner Brothers executives. They decided to release the film slowly, just in a few theaters across the country at first. But every day the enormous interest pushed the film to more screens. A few months later, the film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including all the major categories. It was the first horror film ever to be nominated for best picture; print ads for the Oscars that year depicted the golden statue with horns and a tail surrounded by fire. The film would win for best adapted screenplay and sound. Its cinematography likewise has an artistry much more akin to the great masters of cinema than to standard horror fare.
It is a film that takes on big questions and aspires to do much more than shock. Everywhere Chris goes, she is confronted by patriarchal figures—doctors, priests, the detective—who insist they are the ones to figure out what is really going on with Regan, when in fact Chris herself is the only person with any understanding of what is happening.
Meanwhile these men dehumanize Regan; she is bled, poked and scanned in ways that are unsettling to watch and bring tears to her eyes. For a time Chris refuses to accept their answers. The first half of the film shows her challenging the men around her more and more vociferously. But ultimately she has to be rescued by this patriarchal authority.
The Exorcist movie review & film summary () | Roger Ebert
This is about punishing her: Regan is the child of divorce, Chris is a single working mother. And [to save Regan] she has to She fades to the background of the narrative in order for Regan to survive.
It is a far cry, Moorman notes, from many other horror films of the era. And she has to be cleansed of that in order to be brought back into the normal social order.
In the s, Blatty had a hard time finding cases that had the ring of truth about them, but in recent decades the number of exorcisms seems to have increased considerably. The Vatican now has a school for training exorcists. Pope John Paul II asked every diocese to provide an exorcist. In recent decades the number of exorcisms seems to have increased considerably.
The phenomenon of possession, he explains, does not necessarily entail the kind of dramatic things you see in the movies. Likewise the practice of healing and deliverance today takes a variety of forms; he uses the official rite in less than 5 percent of cases. The church is still doing that. At the same time he critiques the film and the Hollywood cottage industry it has spawned for its lack of honest appreciation for the ministry. When you are in the room and someone is possessed, the hair on the back of your neck stands up.
You sense there is something very unnatural present. Sometimes you hear it in the voice, you hear the hate in the voice. In the novel, directly before the final confrontation, Father Karras asks Father Merrin what exactly is going on. Why would the devil attack a little girl?
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Merrin proposes the target is not really the girl at all. And I think—I think the point is to make us despair, to reject our own humanity, Damien: to see ourselves as ultimately bestial, vile and putrescent; without dignity; ugly; unworthy. And there lies the heart of it, perhaps: in unworthiness. For I think belief in God is not a matter of reason at all; I think it finally is a matter of love, of accepting the possibility that God could ever love us.
For Blatty, this question of despair and love lies at the heart of the story. Karras overcomes his despair and doubt to sacrifice himself for Regan. But the exorcist I spoke to saw it differently. How can it be wrong to save an innocent girl? Christopher J. Duffy, S. The husband of the first couple to come up looked very concerned. Because if you did we would just be devastated. Father Duffy was happy to oblige. But I thought that was just a one-off experience…. She went with a friend, both of them young mothers. My mom had also read the book. Still the movie horrified her. It made us both think of what if it happened to one of our children.