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"The Exorcist" {Blu-ray}- (Wayne)
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Warner
Genre:
Horror
Release Date:
10/4/10
Special Features:

Commentary tracks, two documentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, alternate ending, deluxe booklet, introduction by director William Friedkin Rated: R for violence, lanauge, sexuality, adult themes

Review:

There was a time when horror flicks thrived on creating tension and actually had some character development in addition to the shocks and chills of the genre. While exploitation horror flicks have always been around, director William Friedkin ("The French Connection", "Sorcerer", "Cruising", "To Live and Die in L.A.") and writer/producer William Peter Blatty tucked elements of those films into a film examining the issues of faith, science and the cost of redemption with "The Exorcist". Much like Roman Polanski with "Rosemary's Baby", Friedkin and Blatty chose to use the horror film to dig into human behavior as much as they shock us. ***

The new 2 disc Blu-ray gives us both the original theatrical cut and the 2000 "Extended Director's Cut" that Friedkin reworked adding in a couple of scenes, shuffling the order of a few scenes and editing out a few others in his pursuit of perfection. Both versions have their merits and both look marvelous in a stunning (for a 1973 film) transfer that doesn't betray the grainy look of the original film while still capturing the film with sharpness only hinted at in the previous DVD releases. As to which you prefer, that'll be your call. As much as I enjoy the addition of the show stopping "spider walk" sequence (and it does, indeed, stop the movie cold as the screen briefly goes to black)and some of the editing/digital tricks up Friedkin's sleeve, the original film resonates more for me and allows our imagination and the psychological terror a bit more free rein. The original film runs 122 minutes while the "Extended Director's Cut" runs about 132 minutes. ***

Be aware though that Friedkin has tinkered with the 2000 "Director's Cut" that appeared on DVD removing some flash images of demons, etc. that evidently he felt might have been a bit cheesy in retrospect. Nevertheless, this is, largely, that 2000 DVD release with the exception of these minor differences. There isn't any additional footage beyond that edition included in the film that I could tell. ---

Image & Sound:

A beautifully rendered transfer, "The Exorcist" had new prints struck for this edition. Friedkin and his director of photography came in and supervised the transfer. While there wasn't the tinkering that we saw with the Blu-ray release of "The French Connection" in terms of color here, the timing and saturation looks a bit different than some previous editions. Part of the difference could be due to the fading of the original prints/negative used for previous home video versions. One might quibble a bit with Friedkin's choices (for example the blue tint in Regan's after she is possessed is much more pronounced) but that attention to detail works in the film's favor and this is not like the revisionist tinkering that impacted (in a negative way) "The French Connection" when it arrived on Blu-ray. Images are crisp with great fine detail and with a depth/clarity only hinted at before. ***

The sound is marvelous throughout with a 5.1 mix that adds a wallop to the impact of the film. There's also a featurette on the different versions of "The Exorcist" that is quite interesting and an insightful commentary from director William Friedkin (although Friedkin occasionally falls into the bad habit of telling us what we're seeing he usually comes up with some interesting insight in the process). These are located on the first disc which features the "Director's Cut" from 2000.

Special Features:

The second disc features the original cut of the film, two commentaries one with Friedkin and one with Blatty as well as the 1998 "The Fear of God: The Making of The Exorcist" from the original DVD release. We also get the interview gallery featuring various members of the cast and crew discussing everything from the original ending intended for the film to the meaning of the film. Friedkin's introduction of the 1998 DVD is included here as well.There is, of course, the original ending of the film which differs subtly from the final version with a bit more ambiguity. ***

The film comes complete with a three part documentary on the making of the film which reveals a lot of the difficult issues that dogged the production both prior to release and after it hit theaters where many religious groups condemned the film which is ironic given the themes that are at the heart of the film. ***

The first edition of this also comes with a handsome looking booklet looking like a hardcover book with biographies of the cast members, behind-the-scenes and production stills as well as a one sheet with thoughts on the film by the director. ***

Warner has done a brilliant job of transferring the film to Blu-ray (although some may quibble a bit with the choices by Friedkin and his DP in regards to color saturation--but it IS their film)and have brought over all the extras from previous editions as well as adding a three part documentary on the making of the film. ---

Final Words:

Is "The Exorcist" the scariest film ever made? That's for you to judge--it all depends on whether or not you like your horror served hot or cold (i.e., shock value exploitation type horror or a mixture of that with psychological character driven suspense) either way Warner has once again done a brilliant job of creating the ultimate Blu-ray of the film for home video. ***

Friedkin and Blatty managed to make a horror film that touched on our deepest, darkest fears AND also managed to deal with a number of major themes all while giving us complex, interesting characters an accomplishment that very few directors have managed when creating a horror film (Ridley Scott's "Alien" also does much the same thing) that is psychologically claustrophobic. ***

Highly recommended.

 

 
 
 
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