Blog Directory CineVerse: Speak of the devil

Speak of the devil

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

by Erik J. Martin

Back in 1973, chances are you were either having sweet dreams of then-big-screen-sex-symbols Jane Fonda or Robert Redford, or else having nightmares after seeing “The Exorcist.”

Directed by William Friedkin and produced by William Peter Blatty and Bill Malley, “The Exorcist” is based on Blatty’s hair raising, best-selling novel that tells the story of every parent’s worst fear: demonic possession of their child. 

Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller star as Father Merrin and Father Karras, respectively--two priests summoned by a frightened mother (Ellen Burstyn) to try to exorcize Satan from the body of her 12-year old daughter Regan, played masterfully by Linda Blair. Without revealing too much of the plot, the results are, to say the least, completely terrifying to audiences.

The possessed little girl proceeds to attack the priests, projectile vomit pea soup, spew forth limitless obscenities (in a perfectly chilling satanic voice provided by veteran radio actress Mercedes McCambridge), spin her head 360 degrees, and even levitate. Ace makeup artists Rick Baker and Dick Smith gave Blair her gory, hellish appearance--the face that launched a thousand nightmares.

As word-of-mouth spread, “The Exorcist” became a big hit at the box office. Later, it was nominated for best picture of 1973, and won Blatty an Oscar for best screenplay.

The film spawned a virtual new genre of demonic horror films, among them: “The House of Exorcism” (1975); “Beyond the Door” (‘75); “Cathy’s Curse” (‘76); and “The Omen” (1976) series. A series of dismal “Exorcist” sequels followed, including 1977’s widely panned “Exorcist II: The Heretic,” also starring Blair. Blair went on to spoof her role in the 1990 comedy “Repossessed,” co-starring Leslie Nielson.

Even after 36 years, many critics still regard “The Exorcist” as the best horror film of its kind. And for movie fans, it remains at or near the top of the all-time scariest flicks list.

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