Exorcist fans are partying like it's 1973, with the recent big screen showings of the extended director's cut of the movie as well as the soon-to-be-released Blu-ray special edition that contains unseen behind-the-scenes footage. Additionally, the next issue of Cinema Retro (#19) will feature a cover story on the film and an exclusive interview with William Peter Blatty. Adding to the hoopla, the Museum of Modern Art in New York just hosted a special event relating to the film.
By David Savage
The Museum of Modern Art’s famed Titus Theater was the
setting for an unforgettable evening last Wednesday, September 29th,
as director William Friedkin, actress Linda Blair, and other crew members reunited
for a screening of The Exorcist: The
Extended Director’s Cut. The event was timed to celebrate the upcoming
release of a landmark new collector’s edition, two-disc Blu-ray™ set, available beginning October 5th
from Warner Home Video.
Projected on the big screen in a spectacular,
remastered print in 1080p from the original camera negative, and with restored
sound that revealed subtleties from the original score and sound reel seemingly
lost under a layer of murk until now, the entire experience was like a layer of
sooty tape had been lifted off the entire film, both heightening its
cinematographic beauty as well as restoring its power to drop jaws as it did 37
years ago. The theater’s Dolby processor/ 5.1 surround system seemed to turn up
the aural and emotional volume on the terror.
While the film is routinely included in the horror
genre, Friedkin stressed that it was never intended to be a horror film, but
rather “a film about the mystery of faith.” Indeed, he confirmed with novelist
and screenwriter William Peter Blatty (onstage after the screening) that they
never mentioned the word horror
during the entire production. Every decision they made, Friedkin said, was
steeped in research, realism and getting at the truthful representation of the
characters’ confrontation with religious belief. Horror-film conventions were
irrelevant, he said, a perspective which influenced everything from the
screenwriting to the cinematography.
Personally, I’ve always maintained (and Friedkin’s
remarks seemed to back me up) that the film is only on the surface about the
demonic possession of a little girl. Its deeper focus lies on a priest’s crisis
of faith. As he tries to come to terms with the role he played in the neglect and
death of his mother, he must also negotiate his own moral crossroads as he
decides whether or not to get involved with a real-life exorcism involving an
innocent 13 year-old girl.
Even at their most shocking and (to people of faith)
sacrilegious, the scenes involving the demonic possession of Regan do not play
as gratuitous, a point further echoing Friedkin’s contention stated above.There is a seriousness of purpose and,
strangely enough, a palpable piety in the treatment of desecration, sacrilege
and heresy. Again, Blatty and Friedkin, together with cinematographer Owen
Roizman (also present), discussed for months before shooting began how they
were going to approach such explosive subject matter in a manner that would not
involve genre-conventions, shock appeal or empty, transgressive gestures toward
After the screening, audience members were given the
treat of a lifetime to see Friedkin joined on the stage, first by novelist and
Oscar-winning screenwriter (for this film) William Peter Blatty, then by
cinematographer Owen Roizman (who also lensed Friedkin’s The French Connection), then by Linda Blair (looking fit and lovely
at 51), and finally by Chris Newman, the sound maestro on the film.
Blatty and Friedkin sparred like the old friends they
are, with Blatty mercilessly teasing Friedkin about a continuity lapse in one
scene, which Friedkin rebutted with “Bill, I view that like cracks in fine
leather.” Their tone underscored the family atmosphere that was established while
working on the film and which continues to this day.
My introduction to Ralph Bakshi’s animation came in November 1978 when I turned ten.My father had been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series and, after having seen Rankin and Bass’ The Hobbit cartoon the year before, I was eager to see the new large-screen treatment of Tolkien’s beloved adventure.Up until this point, all of the cartoons that I had seen theatrically were made by Walt Disney, with the exception of Charlotte’s Web (1973), Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure and The Mouse and His Child, both from 1977.So, along with Watership Down, it was unusual to see a cartoon aimed at adults and rated PG.
To my young eyes, The Lord of the Rings did not disappoint. I loved the music (I still have the 8-track!) and the visual style (including the rotoscoped scenes wherein the animators drew over live-action, which invoked much consternation from others with whom I debated the film’s merits).It was not until some years later that I became more aware of Mr. Bakshi’s previous filmography which included the very-adult-oriented Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, and Wizards, the latter of which played frequently as a midnight show at the Middlesex Mall cinema in South Plainfield, NJ.
Despite recalling the ads for American Pop, Hey Good Lookin’ and actually seeing Cool World theatrically, one film seemed to get lost in the shuffle.Although it had an August 1983 theatrically release date, Fire and Ice, a sword and sorcery epic that I caught up with on VHS in 1991, completely slipped by me.I would imagine that due to the prevalence of like-minded fare in the early 80’s (think Conan the Barbarian, The Beastmaster, The Sword and the Sorcerer, Krull, Hearts and Armour, etc.), Mr. Bakshi jumped on the bandwagon with this film, collaborating with none other than artist Frank Frazetta, the indisputable king of fantasy art.Fortunately, Blue Underground, William Lustig’s wonderful DVD and Blu Ray company, has released this film in both formats.
News reports indicate that Hollywood legend Tony Curtis has died at age 85. According to the MSNBC news show Morning Joe, the actor's daughter Jamie Lee Curtis has confirmed the rumor. Entertainment Tonight says that Curtis died of a heart attack in his Nevada home. The actor, who was born Bernard Schwartz,was one of the last symbols of Hollywood's golden era. He emerged as a star almost immediately. It was a far cry from his upbringing in the Bronx, where he and his brother Julius were temporarily placed in an orphanage because their parents could not provide adequate care for them. Curtis served in the U.S. Navy during WWII, having enlisted because he was impressed by seeing Cary Grant in Destination Tokyo. After the War, Curtis found stardom in Hollywood through a contract with Universal. He ended up becoming one of the top sex symbols of the 1950s and 60s. His ability to play light comedy as well as intense drama made him a major box-office draw for many years. He earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Stanley Kramer's The Defiant Ones, but the Academy didn't recognize his most memorable performance in Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot, wherein he uses a dead-on impersonation of Cary Grant to try to seduce Marilyn Monroe. He also gave a brilliant performance in Sweet Smell of Success opposite Burt Lancaster. As his big screen career waned in the 70s, Curtis moved to television. In 1972, he starred opposite Roger Moore in The Persuaders. Although the show was not a hit in the USA, it was enormously popular internationally and a big screen version is being planned.
Curtis' active love life included six marriages, including one to Janet Leigh. He also married his 17 year-old Taras Bulba co-star Christine Kaufmann. In recent years, Curtis concentrated on writing his autobiography and immersing himself in painting. He had long ago acquired a reputation as an artist of considerable talent. Curtis' volatile personality and shoot-from-the-hip tendency to say whatever crossed his mind resulted in some minor scandals even in his later years, but he lived to see his career re-evaluated by Hollywood historians who had often dismissed his talents. Among his other major films: Trapeze, Spartacus, The Boston Strangler, Operation Petticoat, The Vikings, Sex and the Single Girl and The Great Race. For more click here