Extended Director's Cut, Director's Cut
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Exorcist, The: Extended Director's Cut (DVD)
William Friedkin directs one of the most horrifying movies ever made. When a charming 12-year-old girl takes on the characteristics and voices of others, doctors say there is nothing they can do. As people begin to die, the girl's mother realizes her daughter has been possessed by the devil--and that her daughter's only possible hope lies with two priests and the ancient rite of demonic exorcism.]]>
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You get what you pay for. At this writing Amazon offers this edition at about eight bucks: very economical. What did I get at this price? The movie itself in good quality video, modest but effective stereo. The Blu-Ray version, I imagine, would present a much denser and crisper image; I doubt, however, that the colors would be more striking, since Friedkin, his cinematographer and production designer, decided on a more muted palette to start with. "The Director's Cut" refers to an additional 10-15 minutes that Friedkin edited out of the movie's first release (probably to keep the running time closer to the two-hour mark, thus helping Warner Bros. sell more tickets every day). What of the extra features? In THIS edition—not others—most of what you get is a series of re-relase trailers, TV, and radio promos. How much you adore these will depend on how much you love hearing, over and again, that this is "the scariest movie ever made." (I disagree, but your mileage may vary.) The principal special feature, which I was most looking forward to, was the director's commentary, voiced over the movie. This, to put it mildly, is a disappointment. Having seen and heard other interviews with Friedkin, I know that he can be articulate and perceptive. Here, for some reason, he simply narrates the story we are seeing onscreen. There are practically no insights into the film's production, precious little on its background, and few comments on the acting, (I do agree with him that the quiet, subtle "interrogation" of Ellen Burstyn's character by Lee Cobb's is a highlight of the film.) It would be unfair to accuse Friedkin of phoning in this commentary. He sounds, not bored, but merely redundant.
So … if all you want is the basic, slightly extended version, with a bland frill at a low price, this should do the job. Be prepared for little more.
The key element of this hallmark is that 'The Exorcist' is so convincingly real. Reinventing horror, it relies on revealing the nature of a possessed demon inside of its innocent young host, Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair). The way the drama unfolds is not unlike an investigation, complete with medical exams, psychiatry, and a police detective. All of the inquiry gives the whole horror a plausible presentation. For who would not be struck by the contrast between the skepticism of the modern world--including from Catholic priest, Damien Karras (Jason Miller)--in all its attempts to explain an irrational phenomena? The demonic revelation sneaks up on its main players as well as the audience with a tension that only increases over time. Needless to say, it doesn't rely a whole lot on the element of surprise with terrible malevolent beings jumping out at once. As expertly as the sound and special effects are rendered, there is little for the audience to guess at what times terrible things will happen. The presence of the demon inside of Regan makes its menace present to the audience as well. We can feel the full force of the ordeal.
'The Exorcist' takes place mainly on the Georgetown campus where Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is lead actress for a film she describes as "Walt Disney meets Ho Chi Min". She has three helpers, including two German immigrants, and her director, Burke Dennings, provides an important part of the plot's direction. Her loose connections with the priests at Georgetown provide some needed solidarity. It is mostly Chris's story, and her struggle to find some solution to her daughter's developing problem, but it is also the story of two priests (including, the exorcist, Fr. Merrin [Max Von Sydow]) whose determination and struggles give more meaning to the main plot and how it remarkably develops.
'The Exorcist' was directed skillfully by William Friedkin who has a host of classics under his directing belt, including 'The French Connection'. Based on William Peter Blatty's modern bestseller and a screenplay adapted by him, 'The Exorcist' is still a masterpiece of modern horror meant to make one look for a reality beyond the senses.
(The "version you've never seen before" doesn't do much to help or harm. A couple of added scenes provide some poignancy; some of it is extraneous, but none of it really ruins the effect.)
The movie itself is amazing, and the picture and sound on the DVD are perfect. The commentary by Director William Freidkin is as boring as could be, with nothing worth hearing. The other extras are TV, Radio, and Theatrical spots, and a few text features. Why they couldn't use some of the extras that were on previous DVD versions of the film is beyond me. The excellent documentary "The Fear of God", featured on the 25th anniversary DVD would have been a welcome addition to the disc. As another reviewer stated, get this version if you're looking for a great film. If you're looking for extras, get the 25th anniversary DVD.