William Peter Blatty
Jason Miller as Father Damien Karras
Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil
Max von Sydow as Father Lankester Merrin
Lee J. Cobb as Lieutenant William Kinderman
Kitty Winn as Sharon Spencer
Jack MacGowran as Burke Dennings
Linda Blair as Regan Teresa MacNeil
Two academy awards in 1974, best screenplay based on another medium (William Peter Blatty) and best sound (Robert Knudson, Christopher Newman), as well as 12 other awards and 14 nominations demonstrate the notoriety that The Exorcist has received for everything from Directing to sound to acting to the whole package.
I can remember when The Exorcist came out and my parents talked about it at the kitchen table. “Three ambulances are required outside of every theater where the movie is showing”, they said. “People have heart attacks and die from the terror of it all” they continued. Yes, this flick caused quite a stir.
I can also remember why they said it was so scary…”I believe something like this could really happen” said my mother about this tale of demonic possession.
For those who don’t know, the story is very simple. The sweet young daughter (Linda Blair) of a successful actress suddenly takes ill. Her sickness progresses to the point where ole mom (Ellen Burstyn) becomes convinced that her daughter has been possessed by evil spirits. Perhaps the fact that daughter Regan speaks in strange spectral voices and floats through the air was her first clue.
A young priest whom is questioning his faith (Jason Miller) is convinced to work with a church elder to exorcise the demon. All hell breaks loose (so to speak).
There are several factors that come together to make this film such a masterpiece. Well, ALL of the factors came together to make this a masterpiece really. Director William Friedkin interpreted the story written by William Peter Blatty (novel and the screenplay) and, through the support of superb acting, music, effects and cinematography, created an experiential trek through the terrifying unknown that stands up just as brilliantly today as it ever did.
The addition of the subliminal elements of screen flashes and bees buzzing in the background help to create a shroud of fear and uncertainty that persists even when the overt action on the screen wouldn’t seem to cause it. Panic, fear, uneasiness, doubt and terror are all emotions that one can expect to experience while watching The Exorcist.
The only real loser in all this was actress Linda Blair. Blair played the possessed girl Regan at the tender age of 14. This was only the third credited role for this young actress, and it catapulted her to fame.
It also pigeon-holed Blair as the possessed Regan in the eyes of casting directors and movie-goers and prevented her from being taken seriously in any other role throughout her professional career. Well, it was either The Exorcist that caused her difficulties at getting other roles to develop as an actress, or the fact that she really couldn’t act once she passed puberty…not sure which one.
In any case, Blair did make some attempts to do other things as an actress (I could find 39 movie credits since The Exorcist) but it seems that each one either exploited her persona as the possessed Regan, or capitalized on the fact that Regan acted a bit sluttish when she was controlled by evil forces by portraying her as sleazy.
Overall, it’s hard to say if we would even know her name today had it not been for The Exorcist, so did the movie ruin her career, or make it? You be the judge.
The plight of poor Linda Blair does not detract from the quality of what is arguably the best horror movie of all time though. This is one of those horror flicks that you can watch again and again, and be scared each time.
The themes have been debated and analyzed, and The Exorcist appeals not only to those that want to be scared, but also to those who are looking for moviemaking elements that elevate a film above the pack.
If you have seen this film then you’ve likely seen it multiple times, and you don’t need me to tell you that you should watch it again because it’s already in your plan. If you haven’t seen it…watch at your own risk. This one will have an affect on you.