The Exorcist: a film that has terrified the public since December 26, 1973

The Exorcist: a film that has terrified the public since December 26, 1973

The Exorcist

Do you hear the notes of a disturbing soundtrack and echoes of gruesome and disturbing scenes resound, in the mind the image of a girl with a hideous face is formed that rotates her head 360 degrees? It's okay, you are not suddenly crazy, it's just The Exorcist who, becoming a cult of horror cinema, has taken root in pop culture and in the collective imagination as one of the scariest films ever. So frightening that, it seems, there were cases of fainting, epileptic seizures and general hysteria on its debut in the hall on December 26, 1973. It is not surprising that in many countries the film was banned from cinemas, but it seems that around The Exorcist there tends to hover a general cloak of bad luck confirmed by the real events that took place during the shooting. A worldwide blockbuster, The Exorcist is known not only for the agonizing terror it causes, but also for the strange events that involved the cast and crew in its production. 48 years after the release of the film, we want to tell you some of these facts.

A demon, a girl and an exorcist

The plot narrated in The Exorcist develops starting from Iraq : here, at an archaeological excavation, a disturbing effigy depicting the demon Pazuzu is brought to light, in the presence of the archaeologist and priest Lankester Merrin (Max Von Sydow). The discovery seems to be a harbinger of dire events, as actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) and daughter Regan (Linda Blair) will soon discover on the other side of the world. While Chris is busy shooting the new film, Regan finds an ouija board at home and makes the acquaintance of "Captain Gaius": he is none other than Pazuzu summoned by the girl and ready to possess her body.

if (jQuery ("# ​​crm_srl-th_culturapop_d_mh2_1"). is (": visible")) {console.log ("Edinet ADV adding zone: tag crm_srl-th_culturapop_d_mh2_1 slot id: th_culturapop_d_mh2"); } Regan thus begins to exhibit alarming behaviors that no medical check-up can explain. The death of director friend Burke Dennings (Jack McGowran) at the MacNeil home makes police and mother suspicions lean towards Regan. There is only one thing left for Chris to do: contact the Jesuit priest Damien Karras (Jason Miller) to perform an exorcism. Father Karras then contacts his mentor, the elderly Father Merrin, who arrived on the spot and immediately started all the preparations for the exorcism together with his colleague. However, the demon who now inhabits Regan's body is tenacious and does not want to abandon what he now considers his…

A director and a writer at work on an ambitious project

American cinemas on December 26, 1973, The Exorcist causes a great sensation, some sequences are censored, in some cases the film is not screened at all. Despite the controversies, the criticisms, the illnesses, the film won two Oscars and recorded remarkable revenues (440 million dollars at the world box office). How did it get here? The starting point is William Peter Blatty's horror novel of the same name published in 1971 by Harper & Row. Blatty was deeply impressed by a real event that occurred in Maryland in 1949 during his studies at Georgetown University: which made headlines across the country, the event concerned a 14-year-old boy by the fictitious name of Roland Doe who, after having shown strange behavior to say the least, he was said to have been exorcised. Hence, the drafting of The Exorcist, of which William Peter Blatty soon sold the rights to Warner Bros. The author does not stop there, however, and is commissioned to write a screenplay that can adapt the novel for cinema.

The intent is clear: to bring The Exorcist to the big screen, but to do so it is necessary for someone to direct a project that is so powerful on an emotional level and so ambitious on a directorial level. First, Warner Bros turns its interest to Stanley Kubrick and other well-known directors such as Arthur Penn and Mike Nichols, but none of them accepts the job. However, Blatty is determined to have William Friedkin direct the film, after being fascinated by his documentary approach applied to the Oscar-winning The French Connection. The writer's idea is in fact to bring a highly realistic work to the screen and Friedkin seems to be the right man for this: Blatty remains so firm on choosing him that he is able to convince everyone! William Friedkin at the helm of The Exorcist therefore wastes no time in bringing his realistic approach to the set, even if the poor cast members sometimes pay the costs. The director wants to get the most intense and truthful reactions possible from the actors and to do so he is not afraid of adopting "unorthodox" methods.

if (jQuery ("# ​​crm_srl-th_culturapop_d_mh3_1"). Is (": visible ")) {console.log (" Edinet ADV adding zone: tag crm_srl-th_culturapop_d_mh3_1 slot id: th_culturapop_d_mh3 "); } The slap in the face of William O'Malley, interpreter of Father Dyer, during the filming of the last unction to Father Karras; the jerks with ropes and without warning at Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair; the gunshots behind the actors; the jet of fake vomit on Jason Miller, who is hit in the face instead of on the chest: these are just some of the tricks that Friedkin uses on the set to generate sincere reactions from his cast. What a blast! In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter William Friedkin also stated that he had achieved excellent results in directing The Exorcist thanks to having shot it with a believer's eye, having worked with passion thanks to faith. We have no doubts, however, that the rest of the staff may have developed their own religious faith during the shoot, as a result of the strange events that occurred on the verge of the paranormal.

The Exorcist: the fear behind the scenes

The film The Exorcist, no doubt, is a horror with all the trappings (here in the blu-ray version of Warner Bros Horror Maniacs). Scary, disturbing, sacrilegious. Screened for the first time on December 26, 1973, it has given many a period of festivity that is certainly “unforgettable”. However, the intense experience given by this film was not a prerogative of the audience alone, but rather also of the insiders. On the set it seems that strange events occurred during the making of the film. One of these, the fire caused by a short circuit that destroyed most of the sets, with damages for 200,000 dollars. The only room left unscathed by the flames? Regan's. The staff was then forced to recreate almost entirely the interiors of the protagonists' house, moving the set from New York to Washington.

Nine people connected to the film also lost their lives during filming. For example, Jack McGowran, interpreter of Burke Dennings, was struck by a flu epidemic a few months before the release of the film, but it seems that not even those who were related to the actors were spared: among them, the grandmother. by Linda Blair and Max Von Sydow's brother. Fortunately, someone did not lose their lives, but they certainly had a bad time, like Jordan, the son of Jason Miller, who was involved in a motorcycle accident while visiting his father on the set. A set that many began to think was cursed, leading William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty to invite a priest to give it a blessing.

if (jQuery ("# ​​crm_srl-th_culturapop_d_mh4_1"). is (": visible")) {console.log ("Edinet ADV adding zone: tag crm_srl-th_culturapop_d_mh4_1 slot id: th_culturapop_d_mh4"); } Cursed or simply a place of accidents and unfortunate coincidences, the set of The Exorcist, however, also hosted what would become a true serial killer a few years later. Paul Bateson, the extra who plays a radiologist in one of the film's most disturbing sequences, was accused of killing journalist Addison Verrill in 1979 and also carrying out numerous other homosexual murders. Bateson himself confessed to being the perpetrator of these crimes, however insufficient evidence was found to substantiate the allegations. These facts then inspired the making of the film Cruising, by William Friedkin himself, starring Al Pacino and Paul Sorvino.

The cast, the soundtrack, the sequels

The protagonists of The Exorcist we all know today could have had different faces. First of all, Father Merrin, for whom the first casting choice was directed towards Marlon Brando. Opposing this decision was director William Friedkin, believing that Marlon Brando would overshadow the other actors because of his "bulky" reputation for him. The second name was therefore that of Max Von Sydow, chosen for the role of the elderly priest despite his age: at the time of the shooting, the actor was in fact 43 years old and to play Father Merrin he was subjected to long hours of makeup, perhaps equal to those needed to make Linda Blair's face horrifying in complete possession. Father Karras, on the other hand, could have been played by Jack Nicholson or Stacy Keach, but William Friedkin got a hand once again: he was fascinated by the play That Championship Season, he wanted to hire Jason Miller, author and main interpreter of the play.

For the part of Regan, Friedkin then encountered many difficulties. In fact, finding a young actress to play the part of a 12-year-old girl was not at all easy and several names appeared in contention. Among them, those of Jamie Lee Curtis, Pamelyn Ferdin, Denise Nickerson, Sharon Stone and Kim Basinger. The role, however, was entrusted to the young and daring Linda Blair, after the "surprise" audition: her mother, Elinore Blair, in fact, seems to have led her daughter to the selections without an appointment and that Linda surprised Friedkin with her knowledge of Blatty's novel. Acting in The Exorcist was not, however, a walk in the park for Linda Blair. Following the release of the film, Warner Bros was forced to hire bodyguards to protect the young actress, who was targeted by death threats from fanatic groups. The accusation? The alleged belief in Satan, of which Linda Blair was believed to be the spokesperson.

What made The Exorcist easily recognizable, however, is not only its talented cast, but also its soundtrack. In particular, the main theme: Tubular Bells, a song taken from the album of the same name by the musician Mike Oldfield, although initially the music of the film should have been edited by the composer Lalo Schifrin. William Friedkin, particularly enthusiastic about listening to Tubular Bells, made him the piece making it one of the best known pieces ever. The soundtrack is also composed of songs made by Jack Nitzsche and Krysztof Penderecki. However, the surprising audio of the film does not only include the musical part: just think of the voice of the demon Pazuzu, voiced by actress Mercedes McCambridge. To obtain this result, it seems that McCambridge has used alcohol and cigarettes for a certain period, while some of the demon's verses not reproducible by the actress (despite the strict "diet") are those of some pigs.

Despite its frightening aura, it seems that there is never enough of The Exorcist anyway. After the success of the first film, two sequels were made in 1977 and 1990 respectively: The Exorcist II - The Heretic, directed by John Boorman, and The Exorcist III, directed by the same author William Peter Blatty. The success of the first film has not been replicated, however this has not prevented it from remaining in history, thanks to the two Oscars won (best non-original screenplay and best sound) and the record held for a long time as an "R rated" film to have obtained the highest grossing in the world. In 2016, a TV series titled The Exorcist was also dealt with as a sequel (and partly as a remake) to the first film, which achieved moderate success (despite the cancellation of the third season after the acquisition by Disney).

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