January 22, 2014
Before the impact that was "Jaws". Before the sensation that was "Star Wars".
Before "Rocky", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "Saturday Night Fever",or even "Grease",there was the first major blockbuster phenomenon that not only shattered box-office records,but made motion... picture history as one of the first horror movie in the genre that had a powerful influence that define a decade and established itself as the film that became one of the biggest hits of the 1970's.
That motion picture was "The Exorcist". Never before has a horror film been the subject of so much prerelease hype,but without speculation as to why people went to see this movie again and again in droves upon it's general release. As to why people who saw this movie had psychological nightmares upon its viewing to watch something reputed to having it audiences having fits of vomiting,fainting,even temporary psychosis. The culture impact of "The Exorcist" challenged existing regulations specifying what was acceptable to show on the big screen that was unheard of in 1973. The film stole newspaper headlines away from the ongoing scandal that was 'Watergate',not to mention the esculating choas of the 'Vietnam War'. Inspired by newspaper reports that was based on a 1949 incident of a thirteen year-old Maryland boy that was taken over by demonic forces,novelist William Peter Blatty made the possessee a girl. The book on which it is based had heavy doses of philosophical-theological speculation on the nature of evil which became one of the New York Times' top ten best seller list in 1971. After its phenomenol success as a best selling novel,the studio Warner Brothers purchased the film rights,and after numerous rewrites of the original script,Blatty finally came up with a version of "The Exorcist" that managed to meet director William Friedkin's exacting demands.
"The Exorcist" was William Friedkin's first-ever horror movie,and this was two years after he scored critical acclaim with his crime thriller "The French Connection" which became one of the biggest hits of 1971 and garnered five Oscars including the Best Picture of that year. "The Exorcist" deals with the crisis situation involving Regan MacNeil(Linda Blair),the almost-pubescent daughter of divorcee and well-known movie star Chris MacNeil(Ellen Burstyn). When the child prophesis the death of her mother's acquaintance and urinates in front of a roomful of dinner guests,Chris starts to wonder what has gotten into her daughter. More odd and shocking behavior continues when Regan lands in the hospital and is subject to medical procedures proves nothing,and from there the terror begins when Chris seek the help of a priest Karras(Jason Miller) in a bold and daring effort to save her daughter from the demonic forces that has taken over her. An intense battle between Karras and Regan's demonic possessor along with the experienced exorcist Father Merrin(Max Von Sydow),dies in the struggle. At the end Karras finally saves Ragan's life by accepting the demon into his own body,only to be throw himself,or let himself be thrown,out of a window to his death.
"The Exorcist" was a phenomenon in an era that was at the height of student protest,experimental drug use,and general questioning of authority. The film allows viewers to take pleasure in the terrible and sometimes shocking scenes of punishments inflicted on the rebellious Regan. But by making the demon so fascinating to watch,the film is full of nasty surprises that include scenes that were not for the squeamish or fate of heart. "The Exorcist" was so successful it became the top grossing film of 1973. It also made motion picture history as the first horror movie in the genre to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. The film was nominated for an astounding 10 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director(William Friedkin), Best Actress (Ellen Burstyn), Best Supporting Actress (Linda Blair), Best Actor (Jason Miller),
Best Supporting Actor (Max Von Sydow), and Best Cinematopgraphy (Owen Roizman). It was victorious in winning 4 Golden Globes including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress(Linda Blair), Best Director (William Friedkin),
Best Adapted Screenplay (William Peter Blatty). It won 2 Oscars in 1973 for Best Adapated Screenplay(William Peter Blatty),and Best Sound(Chris Newman and Robert Knudson). "The Exorcist" stands as one of the top ten movies of 1973 in a year that was dominated by "The Sting", "Papillon",
"American Graffiti", "Serpico", and "The Paper Chase".
The film set the standard for the horror genre of films to come and opened the doors for the next array of horror movies to dominated the 1970's like "The Omen",and "Halloween". "The Exorcist" held the title of the first horror movie in the genre to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar,a title that would stand for the next 18 years until 1991 when "Silence of the Lambs" wins the Best Picture Oscar and the first horror movie to do so. The succes of "The Exorcist" spun three sequels and a dozen remakes,but none of them has held up since the original that started it all in 1973.