Director: William Friedkin

Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Max Von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Jason Miller, Kitty Winn

A young girl is possessed by a demon.

A bare-bones presentation of The Exorcist, William Friedkin’s powerful film adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel, was among the first batch of DVDs released in the US. It was released mainly because Warner Home Video was determined to be a key player in the DVD market, and was committed to making sure that a large number of titles was quickly available.

In the US the film’s status as a genre masterpiece was earned the hard way, through critical acclaim, and its popularity with astonished audiences. Here in the UK the film’s reputation and notoriety has been distorted by a lengthy ban by the BBFC.

That original disc was quickly replaced in 1998 by The Exorcist –Special Edition, a 25th anniversary version that featured a re-mastered version of the film in its theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 (16:9-enhanced) and with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The new transfer has a warmer tone than the film’s earlier DVD incarnation, and superior colour balance.

The disc features include two interesting commentary tracks, one by Friedkin, and another, by writer-producer Blatty (which runs for about an hour). Following Blatty’s contribution are test recordings of Linda Blair and Mercedes McCambridge running through some of the possessed Regan’s dialogue.

On the flip side of the disc is an extended version of the BBC’s excellent documentary, The Fear of God, which is about fifteen minutes longer than the one transmitted on TV. It contains specially-shot interviews with most of the key members of the cast and crew, and features a number of deleted scenes (including the infamous Spider Walking sequence), Linda Blair’s screen test and other behind-the-scenes footage. A more complete alternative ending is also presented, (this has been the subject of considerable argument over the years, principally between the film’s author and its director). An array of trailers and contemporary TV adverts is also offered. It's rarely worth mentioning language tracks in other languages (especially as their inclusion on a disc means less space for extras, or a reduced bitrate for the picture), but it's worth mentioning that the disc also carries a mono French soundtrack, with Jeanne Moreau providing the demon’s voice!

The UK version version was released in October 1999. It seems that Warner Brothers went to great lengths to ensure that this long-awaited release would be at least the equal of the Region 1 version, but stumbled at the last hurdle: the version of The Fear of God documentary on the UK disc is the shortened 53-minute version. The packaging lists 23 chapters for the documentary (which is correct for the long version), but the UK version doesn’t actually have chapter marks at all, and can only be accessed from the beginning.

DVD REVIEW:  The Exorcist - The Version You've Never Seen

ARTICLE:  The Exorcist - UK Home Video History


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