Blu-ray Review: The Exorcist: 40th Anniversary Edition (3 Disk Set)

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Distributor: Warner Brothers

Release Date: 8/Oct/2013

Region: A

Length: 122 min, 132 min

Video: 1080p (VC-1, 22.14 Mbps)

Main Audio:

English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio:

Spanish Dolby Digital Mono

French Dolby Digital Mono

Italian Dolby Digital Mono

German Dolby Digital Mono

Japanese Dolby Digital Mono

Portuguese Dolby Digital Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Portuguese, Mandarin (Traditional)

Ratio: 1.78:1

Notes: Available in multiple DVD and Blu-ray releases. The previous 2 disc Blu-ray release contains the exact same discs as the first 2 discs in this 3 disc edition.

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“To be frank with you, Bill Blatty and I never set out to make a horror film. The idea never crossed our minds.” –William Friedkin

It is interesting that Friedkin insists on playing down the horror angle of The Exorcist considering that his film has been hailed “the scariest film of all time” in many magazine polls. It is indeed one of the most chilling horror films ever made. It does seem to go beyond the obvious horror elements and delve into the character’s inner lives on a spiritual and psychological level. There were a handful of moments in the film that reminded me of Ingmar Bergman (the dream sequence in Wild Strawberries to be precise). These psychological elements are really extensions of the horror in the film. They create a whirlwind of thought in the viewer’s mind and these thoughts fester until one is at home in bed with the lights out. This is when the film is at its scariest. If this happens to you, do not worry… unless the bed begins to shake.

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Screams

This is a gorgeous box with wonderful new cover artwork that houses a standard 3-disc plastic case and a slim hardback book entitled, The Friedkin Connection. The standard case showcases the same exceptional artwork as the box that holds it. Standard protective cases are certainly preferable to the folder-style casing that these special sets are often given. These folders scar the discs and do not keep them secure. The standard casing tends to protect the discs admirably. With this release, consumers are given a gorgeous and special presentation without sacrificing the safety of the discs themselves.

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The menus are static but attractive and serviceable. The same design is used for the first two discs and the Bonus disc simply utilizes a black screen with the title of the film in red letters.  Everything here looks quite nice and over the menus, the creepy ambiance of the film can be heard.

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It is a very attractive presentation and one doubts that fans will find any reason to complain. 

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Screams

The first two discs in this 40th Anniversary version are the same discs available in the prior release. This is not a complaint. The transfers used are of excellent quality and it is safe to say that The Exorcist has never looked better on home video. The image is sharper than ever with richer detail and clean edges. While grain is certainly apparent, this is inherent in the film’s celluloid source and is never distracting. The film is a bit soft at times (as is usual for films of this era), but again it manages to represent the source adequately. The quality on the “director’s cut” might be slightly better than the “original theatrical” version of the film. 

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Screams

Purists might resent the fact that the release offers only a 5.1 remix made from the film’s original elements. (This is true for both versions of the film.) It would have been wonderful if Warner Brothers had also included the original audio mix for the original theatrical version of the film, but I found no real reason to complain about the available 5.1 mix. Dialogue is usually clear and audible, though there are occasions when it tends to be buried in some of the louder scenes. This is rarely distracting and is probably in keeping with the original intent. Subtle atmospheric effects (such as panning) are always smooth. The mix likely represents the best possible sound under the circumstances. The mix for the “director’s cut” is probably the stronger of the two mixes.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Screams

Disc 1: The Extended Director’s Cut (aka: The Version You’ve Never Seen)

Director William Friedkin’s Audio Commentary:

While listeners are able to hear the occasional “behind the scenes” anecdote, Friedkin tends to prefer giving descriptions of what is going on in a particular scene. This grows rather tiresome and the few facts given here are available in the many other more informative supplements.

Raising Hell: Filming the Exorcist (HD, 30 minutes):

The real gem of the supplemental material available on the disk is this excellent retrospective documentary on the making of The Exorcist (directed by Laurent Bouzereau). Rare ‘behind the scenes’ footage is utilized along with the usual anecdotal interviews that are common in such documentaries. What sets this apart from many other retrospective documentaries is the wealth of vintage footage from the set. This is essential viewing for fans of the film.

The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now (HD, 9 minutes):

It is interesting to see modern footage alongside clips from the film as Friedkin and Blatty discuss the Georgetown (and Iraq) locations used in the film. This modest featurette adds a bit of value to the disc and we see a few short behind the scenes clips as well.

Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of the Exorcist (HD, 10 minutes):

This featurette is extremely interesting because Friedkin discusses the reasons that he went back and made a longer version of the film for re-release in 2000. There is also interesting footage of deleted scenes that aren’t in either cut of the film and these scenes are also discussed.

Theatrical Trailers (SD)

There are two theatrical trailers for the successful theatrical release of The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen.

TV Spots (SD)

There are three television spots for the successful theatrical release of The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen.

Radio Spots (SD)

There are two radio spots for the successful theatrical release of The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen.

* The collection of Trailers, TV Spots, and Radio Spots all add up to approximately 7 minutes.

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Disc 2: The Original Theatrical Cut

Director William Friedkin’s Audio Commentary:

Friedkin’s commentary for the original version of the film is vastly superior to the one on the directors cut. There are moments that he seems to be reading his commentary, but he does give listeners significantly more information. He discusses many aspects of the production. Topics that are discussed include; how he became attached to the project, location details, casting anecdotes, cast rehearsals, the film’s music, and even Dick Powell’s make-up effects.

Screenwriter William Peter Blatty’s Audio Commentary & Sound Tests:

This isn’t exactly a commentary track. We hear Blatty discuss the original novel and the genesis and evolution of that work. Blatty states his intentions and makes it obvious that he is not a writer that prefers his audience to draw their own conclusions. The movie and its screenplay are discussed as well.  The discussion stops with no warning halfway through the film. After a few moments of silence, Friedkin’s voice is heard as he introduces a series of sound tests. Some of these tests are interesting as we hear Linda Blair recite the demonic lines looped by Mercedes McCambridge. After these tests stop, the film continues with its normal soundtrack.

Director’s Introduction (SD, 2 minutes):

Friedkin gives a short introduction to the film and says a few words about the film.

The Fear of God (SD, 77 minutes):

This documentary was made for television in 1998 and is a fairly comprehensive look at the making of The Exorcist. Included here are interviews with most of the film’s cast and crew. It is better than many documentaries of its kind and is likely the best supplemental feature available on disc 2.

3 Short Interviews: The Original Cut, Stairway to Heaven, & The Final Reckoning (SD, 9 minutes):

These interview clips are far from substantial, but manage to remain interesting as the director and screenwriter discuss their differing opinions about the film’s original release cut. Some of this footage is also included in The Fear of God.

Sketches and Storyboards (SD, 3 minutes):

This is a silent video montage of some of the pre-production and storyboard sketches for The Exorcist.

Original Ending (SD, 2 minutes):

This is the raw footage from the film’s ending as written in the script (most of which is included in the re-release version).

Theatrical Trailers (SD):

There are three theatrical trailers for the successful original theatrical release of The Exorcist. 

TV Spots (SD):

There are four Television Spots for the successful original theatrical release of The Exorcist. 

* The collection of Trailers and TV Spots add up to approximately 7 minutes.

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Disk 3: 40th Anniversary Bonus Disc

Beyond Comprehension: William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist (HD) – (27:49)

Blatty relates various anecdotes about writing The Exorcist and guides us on a tour of various locations relevant to the novel. He also discusses the revised 40th anniversary edition of his novel and reads excerpts from its text.

Talk of the Devil  (HD) – (19:50)

This is a talk with Father Eugene Gallagher (a former teacher of Blatty’s and a Jesuit priest) about Blatty, demonic possession, and the true story behind The Exorcist. This is the better of the two supplements included on this third disc. It is an extremely interesting addition to this set.

Hardcover Book:

This is essentially an excerpt from William Friedkin’s, “The Friedkin Connection” (the director’s memoir). This excerpt focuses on the production of “The Exorcist” and is an extremely welcome addition to this set. The text is illustrated with beautiful film related photographs that should be a real treat for fans.

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Final Words:

This attractive set is absolutely essential for fans of the film that do not yet own The Exorcist on Blu-ray.  Whether or not this release warrants an upgrade for those who already own the previous 2-disc release of the film on Blu-ray is questionable (since they already own two of the three discs). This will depend on how badly one wants the supplementary material that is contained on the third disc.

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Review by: Devon Powell

 

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