The Exorcist (Extended Director's Cut & Original Theatrical Edition) [Blu-ray]

Actors: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn
Director: William Friedkin
Writer: William Peter Blatty
Producers: David Salven, Noel Marshall, William Peter Blatty
Format: AC-3, Director's Cut, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 2
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date: October 5, 2010
Run Time: 122 minutes

Special Features

Disc 1:

  • Extended Director's Cut (2000 version)
  • English DTS-HD MA 6.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1 (both Parisian and dubbed in Quebec), Spanish 5.1 (both Castilian and Latin 2.0 stereo)
  • New 3-part documentary on the movie's production and legacy – for the first time, relive the actual on-set filming of classic scenes via never-before-seen set footage: Raising Hell: Filming The Exorcist, The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now and Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of The Exorcist
  • Commentary by director William Friedkin

Disc 2:

  • Original theatrical cut (1973 version)
  • English DTS-HD MA 5.1, French Dolby Digital 1.0, Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 (both Castilian and Latin)
  • 2 commentaries: 1) director William Friedkin, 2) producer/screenwriter William Peter Blatty, plus sound effects tests
  • Introduction by William Friedkin
  • Feature-length 1998 documentary The Fear of God: The Making of The Exorcist
  • Interview gallery covering the topics: the original cut, the final reckoning and stairway to heaven
  • Original ending and more


Few films have retained their ability to horrify us quite the way The Exorcist has . . .

I recall the first time I saw it in theaters, during the 2000 re-release with the new, expanded footage. The theater was full of smug, snickering young people: raised on a diet of sub-par slasher films and expecting a few retro-jolts with which they could goose their dates. They staggered into the lobby afterwards like survivors of the Battle of Verdun: faces ashen, hands trembling, mouths struggling to come up with some quip or snarky remark that could dispel the dread coiled in the pit of their stomach. One young woman collapsed on the floor in hysterics, her boyfriend standing mutely beside her with no words of comfort.

Such is the power of this movie: it gets us where we sleep and never lets us go.

Its power lies in the slow and gradual way it pulls us in, coupled with director William Friedkin’s ability to render every aspect utterly plausible. But for the opening title, we wouldn’t even be able to pinpoint it as a horror movie . . . at least at first.

A nice lady (Ellen Burstyn) living in a very normal Georgetown house has an adorable little girl (Linda Blair) who begins acting oddly. The lady takes her to doctors. She takes her to psychiatrists. She takes her to the smartest people in the world. They all explain that they can help her, that she’s experiencing nothing out of the ordinary, that all she needs is this cure or that cure or that other cure which really should work. And all the time, the girl grows worse and worse and worse… until a room full of the most learned experts in the neurological field stammeringly explain that perhaps she needs help of a much older kind.

For all the shocking elements on display, that slow, gradual progression gives the film its real strength. We fall under its spell so quietly that we’re hardly aware of what we’re seeing, right up until the moment when the pea soup starts flying. Friedkin’s masterful pacing bolsters the presence of utterly believable characters: Burstyn’s frazzled movie star, Blair’s adorable innocent (and unmitigated fiend), Jason Miller’s doubting priest, and Max von Sydow’s titular exorcist: his aging body held up by sheer steely determination.

They all come together in that infamous bedroom, products of a rational world faced with the inexplicable. Despite its overtly Catholic overtones, The Exorcist offers no clear answers to what happens: not for us and not for the figures onscreen. We can’t even be sure that the grinning thing behind Blair’s eyes is really the Devil, or if the finale constitutes defeat or victory. Within that mystery lies the roots of its paralytic fear: the sort that thirty-five years of pop culture deconstruction has been unable to dent. No matter how many Saturday Night Live parodies they shovel at us, we still get the shakes every time we see it. The more grotesque moments rise above the knee-jerk shocks of Eli Roth and his ilk because they have genuine thought behind them: both Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty steep the story in real theology even as they plunge us straight into the abyss.

That very grounding, combined with the film’s other elements, further allows it to transcend the confines of the genre. For all of its terrifying reminders of how little we know about the universe—and about how true evil can appear in the most mundane locations—it never give in to despair. For if the Devil truly exists in the world, then God must too. The Exorcist entertains that comforting notion at all times, allowing it to flourish while neither confirming or denying its influence over the proceedings. If horror movies constitute a distillation of the basic struggle of good vs. evil, The Exorcist delivers it in the most profound way: inviting us to meditate on the universe around us while still scaring the pants off of us at every turn. Few other efforts can stake such a claim. Then again, if they could, then this wouldn’t be the greatest horror movie ever made.

THE DISCS: Warners gave this the special treatment, with a two-disc set bound in a handsome book-style casing and joined by a 24-page booklet filled with images of the cast and crew. The first disc contains the re-released “director’s cut” with new footage, while the second disc holds the original 1973 version. The former remains a lesser effort, despite a few prize moments like Blair’s infamous “spider walk” down the stairs. In addition to the films themselves, Disc 1 contains a new documentary covering the film and audio commentary from Friedkin. Disc 2 contains two audio commentaries—one from Blatty and one from Friedkin—along with an earlier 1998 documentary, a series of interviews from the cast and crew, and an introduction from Friedkin. The extra goodies are all solid, but the film itself remains the primary draw: looking strong (though a little grainy) in the new format.

WORTH IT? Horror fans dare not let it pass, and any serious lover of cinema needs to find a place for it in his or her collection.

RECOMMENDATION: Provided you don’t scare easily, The Exorcist constitutes a Halloween treat like no other.

- Rob Vaux



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