I'm guessing that the studio had no idea that the Exorcist would become such a hot ticket. Unlike the overly hyped "blockbusters" of today, this movie to my memory, had limited showings. Therefore, its December 1973 debut wasn't an immediate smash. Then by word of mouth, its popularity snowballed until it became a mega-hit. Soon, theater managers began cramming their schedule with continuous offerings, even after midnight.
When I saw the Exorcist in early March 1974 , it was still at trendy. Together with five friends, we ventured into Manhattan on a dreary, cold and foggy night for a midnight show. We got to the ticket booth at 10:30 and were lucky because they sold out minutes later.
The "ticket holders line" extended down the block, around the corner and well beyond the back of the theater. For over an hour, we stood like idiots in an intermintent windswept drizzle. Everyone looked like drowned rats when the line started to move.
We were so far back in line that the decent seats were all taken. Four of us sat together way up front, while the other two were forced to find separate, individual seats. It wouldn't matter who you were sitting next because the audience was enraptured. I'm convinced that a pin dropped in the balcony could've been heard in the front row...at any time.
The Exorcist was a jaw-dropping assault on everyone's senses. It blazed unchartered trails for content, religious imagery, language and special effects. Yet as sensationalized as it seemed, the story still plausible.
Like muted zombies, the audience took a psychological pounding and eerily shuffled out of the theater at 3:30AM. It was uncanny how many people lingered outside to discuss the movie. Under the bright, day-time-like marquee, maybe we felt safe. while waiting for the last two stragglers in my group, I must have drifted from the pack and became separated from my friends. That's when the theater turned off the exterior lights. In the dark, I scanned the puffs of hot breath coming out of every speaker in the crowd as I tried to reconnect with my buddies. Suddenly I was startled by a tap on my shoulder. I turned around expecting one of friends. Instead, it was a bum, pan-handling for change. My mind zoomed back to the young priest (Damien Karras) being haunted by the devil. THAT WAS DEFINITELY, the most scared I ever was.
Now thirty-something years later, many lines from the Exorcist have stayed with me like, when guilt-ridden Father Karras' was told by the devil in his mother's voice, "Dimi, vhy you do dis to me." I shudder just recalling it.
My friend MIKE123 built a twenty-five seat movie theater in his basement, (complete with surround-sound, lobby posters, soda fountain and candy counter). So to recapture my old enjoyment of the Exorcist, I was thrilled that he invited my son Andrew and I to see the newly released director's cut DVD, (it includes some deleted scenes). The Exorcist's most notable new wrinkle had to be "spider-walk." Usually there's a good reason why segments are edited out of movies. But this time, they eliminated one if the best.
|TOO BAD THIS PHOTO DOESN'T PROVIDE THE ON-SCREEN IMPACT OF THE FINAL PRODUCT. ALSO, THEY DIDN'T USE TRICK-PHOTOGRAPHY, THEY HIRED A CONTORTIONIST TO BE LINDA BLAIR'S STUNT DOUBLE.|
In addition to the cast, the story and the settings, The Exorcist owes it's success to realism and the concept of; what if something like this happened to me. More importantly, the religious overtones strike a cord in people...and you don't have to be a Catholic to appreciate the stark questions of faith and the examination of the degrees of guilt that many of us drag through life. Also the film does a great job balancing implied (psychological) terror with graphic verbiage and images. Hell, even the music "TUBULAR BELLS," is still as effective today as it was 34 years ago.
Still it surprises me that people are intimidated to see it or were so scared that they would never see it again. I like being scared and even though I know what's coming, the Exorcist never lets me down. To prove my point, last week, I was channel surfing and caught the beginning of the film. But it was getting late and I conked out before Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) left Iraq.
|WHAT GREAT CASTING, WHAT GREAT ACTING, MAX von SYDOW (1929-PRESENT), PLAYED THE OLDER PRIEST, EIGHTY-YEAR OLD FATHER LANKESTER MERRIN.|
However, to help prove my point, I woke-up a minute from the end. By this time everything is calm, the exorcism is over and the movie is being wrapped up. Ellen Burstyn's character, leads her daughter, a scuffed-up but normal Regan (Linda Blair) to the car. Father Dyer, a priest and friend of the young priest (Damien Karras...who died during ceremony) is outside to wish them well. Linda Blair sees Dyer's crucifix and lunges forward...to hug him. I knew what was going to happen yet it still scared the life out of me. PLUS, as the car drives away, it runs over a sheet of cardboard. Through cinematic genius, the seemingly harmless cardboard gets kicked up at such an angle, that it startled me...and suggested that the battle was NOT over.
That's why the Exorcist is my favorite...do you have a favorite...please leave your comments and tell me.