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On December 26, 1973, The Exorcist, a horror film starring the actress Linda Blair as a girl possessed by an evil spirit, makes its debut in theaters; it will go on to earn a reputation as one of the scariest movies in history.
The Exorcist was based on William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel of the same name, about the last sanctioned Catholic exorcism to take place in the United States, in the late 1940s. In the film, Blair played Regan, a sweet 12-year-old girl who begins suffering bouts of bizarre behavior. When her concerned mother (Ellen Burstyn), contacts a priest, he recommends performing an exorcism. Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller played the two priests who eventually conduct the exorcism at the home where Regan is living in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C.
Directed by William Friedkin, The Exorcist was a huge box-office success. The film terrified audiences to the point of fainting, in some cases, with scenes in which Regan’s head spins, her body levitates and she vomits green bile. The film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture, both of which it lost to The Sting. The Exorcist spawned the sequels Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), The Exorcist III (1990), which was written and directed by William Peter Blatty, who won a Best Screenplay Oscar for the original movie in the series; Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), directed by Renny Harlin, and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005), helmed by Paul Schrader.
The Exorcist catapulted Linda Blair, who got her start in show business by acting in commercials as a child, to fame in Hollywood and earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination (she lost to Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon). Though she went on to star in a string of made-for-TV films and to reprise her role as Regan in Exorcist II: The Heretic, none of Blair’s later projects achieved the same commercial success as The Exorcist.
Before The Exorcist made its debut in 1973, Friedkin had already earned accolades in Hollywood for helming 1971’s The French Connection. That film, which starred Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider as New York City police detectives who go after an international heroin-smuggling ring, won five Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Picture and Best Actor (Hackman). Friedkin, who was born on August 29, 1935, went on to make such movies as 1980’s Cruising, with Al Pacino, 1985’s To Live and Die in L.A., with Willem Dafoe and William Petersen, and 2000’s Rules of Engagement, with Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson. None of these films, however, were as well received as The French Connection or The Exorcist.
The Exorcist (film series)
The Exorcist is an American horror film series consisting of five films based on the 1971 novel The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. The films have been distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and 20th Century Fox.
- 26 December 1973 (1)
- 17 June 1977 (2)
- 17 August 1990 (3)
- 20 August 2004 (4)
- 20 May 2005 (5)
The films have grossed over $661 million at the worldwide box office. Critics have given the films mixed reviews. In 2004, a prequel (Exorcist: The Beginning) was released. This was the second version of the prequel film made at that time as the first version (directed by Paul Schrader) was deemed unsatisfactory by the studio upon completion, and the entire project was refilmed by director Renny Harlin. However, Schrader's version received a limited release in 2005, after Harlin's, and was titled Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. 20th Century Fox Television developed a television series continuation of The Exorcist.  It premiered on September 23, 2016. As of 2020, a reboot of the film series which was later changed to a direct sequel to the 1973 film is in development with David Gordon Green as director.
“The Exorcist” opens in theaters - HISTORY
The Exorcist (1973) is the sensational, shocking horror story about devil possession and the subsequent exorcism of the demonic spirits from a young, innocent girl (of a divorced family). The Exorcist was notable for being one of the biggest box-office successes (and one of the first 'blockbusters' in film history, predating Jaws (1975)), and surpassing The Godfather (1972) as the biggest money-maker of its time. And it remains one of the few horror films nominated for Best Picture. However, it was also one of the most opposed films for its controversial content. Roman Polanski's successful Rosemary's Baby (1968) played upon similar fears of devil possession. Originally X-rated, the film was released as an uncut 'R' rating which allowed minors to view the film if accompanied by an adult.
The film's screenplay - a horror-tinged western (and tale of good vs. evil), was faithfully based upon author William Peter Blatty's 1971 best-selling theological-horror novel of the same name. Academy-Award winning director William Friedkin (previously known for The French Connection (1971)) created a frightening, horror film masterpiece, with sensational, nauseating, horrendous special effects (360 degree head-rotation, self-mutilation/masturbation with a crucifix, the projectile spewing of green puke, a mixture of split-pea soup and oatmeal, etc.). The film also featured the terrific acting debut of 12-year old actress Linda Blair, who played the helpless girl possessed by demons. The recognizable opening instrumental tune, titled Tubular Bells (by Mike Oldfield), eventually became a #1 single on the Billboard charts - and the first big seller for Virgin Records. The film's poster described:
Something almost beyond comprehension is happening to a girl on this street, in this house and a man has been sent for as a last resort. This man is The Exorcist.
The controversial nature of the film's content - exorcism (accompanied by blasphemies, obscenities and graphic physical shocks), was supposedly based upon an authentic, nearly two-month long exorcism performed in 1949 on a 14-year old boy (with pseudonym "Robbie Mannheim") in Mt. Rainier, Maryland by the Catholic Church (in the form of a fifty-two year old Jesuit priest named Fr. William S. Bowdern and Fr. Raymond Bishop). The official exorcism was reported in Thomas B. Allen's and Carl Brandt's 1993 book Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism. [Possessed (2000) was also a pay-TV-cable Showtime movie of the same name, starring Timothy Dalton.] The film's plot was also partially inspired by a similar demonic possession case in Earling, Iowa in 1928.
The film was enormously popular with moviegoers at Christmas-time of 1973, but some portions of the viewing audience fled from theaters due to nausea or sheer fright/anger, especially during the long sequence of invasive medical testing performed on the hapless patient. Its tale of the devil came at a difficult and disordered time when the world had just experienced the end of the Vietnam War (US troop withdrawal and the fall of Saigon) and at the time of the coverup of the Watergate office break-in (also in Washington, D.C.). Friction developed between director Friedkin and various cast and crew members during production, and there were additional post-production conflicts between Friedkin and Blatty. Other disturbing events that affected some of the film's stars (injury and death) also plagued the production.
Critically, it was presented with ten Academy Award nominations, two of which won (Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound). The other eight nominations included: Best Picture, Best Actress (Ellen Burstyn), Best Supporting Actor (Jason Miller), Best Supporting Actress (Linda Blair), Best Director, Best Cinematography (Owen Roizman), Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, and Best Film Editing. [Until The Silence of the Lambs (1991), the film was the only horror film to be nominated for Best Picture in Academy Award history.]
Unfortunately, the film spawned imitations (i.e., The Omen trilogy, the Italian knockoff films Beyond the Door (1974) and The Tempter (1974) (aka The Anti-Christ), the 'blaxploitation' clone Abby (1974), and the UK's The Devil Within Her (1975)), a spoof-parody of all the 'Exorcist' films (Repossessed (1990) with Linda Blair again possessed while watching the TV show of evangelists Ernest and Fanny Rae Weller (Ned Beatty and Linda Schwab) and with Leslie Nielsen as an ex-exorcist named Father Jedediah Mayii), and the biased "true story" courtroom drama The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005).
It also inspired many inferior sequels of its own:
A box-office flop, with only Linda Blair, Max von Sydow (in flashbacks) and Kitty Winn returning in their original roles, and Richard Burton starring as investigating priest Fr. Philip Lamont.
d. William Peter Blatty, based on his book Legion, the sequel to the original book The Exorcist
George C. Scott was cast in Lee J. Cobb's role as Lt. Kinderman, and Ed Flanders was cast in Reverend William O'Malley's role as Father Joseph K. Dyer.
Test audiences forced two major changes and reshoots: the casting of Jason Miller (test audiences wanted someone from the original film to appear), and an awkwardly spliced-in exorcism scene with Nicol Williamson as the exorcist Father Paul Morning. [Note: the interrogation scenes between Kinderman and Patient X/The Gemini Killer (played by both Brad Dourif and Jason Miller) strongly resembled similar scenes in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) one year later.]
Featuring Linda Blair as possessed mom Nancy Aglet and Leslie Nielsen as Father Jebedaiah Mayii.
d. Renny Harlin (originally to be directed by John Frankenheimer, who died before shooting) who was known for Cliffhanger (1993), Cutthroat Island (1995) and Deep Blue Sea (1999)
It was shot from a retooled script created by Alexi Hawley, using the already-completed screenplay from Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005) - see below.
A Satanic backstory with little success when released in August of 2004. Included Swedish star Stellan Skarsgard (as Father Lancaster Merrin), James D'Arcy, Izabella Scorupco, Ralph Brown, and Alan Ford.
The film followed Merrin's earlier life as a young, conflicted ex-missionary priest and archaeologist confronting the Satanic devil (Pazuzu) in post-WWII 1949 East Africa (Kenya). Noted for a scary hyena attack, swarms of flies, a maggoty stillborn, and a blaspheming Lucifer.
d. Paul Schrader, with a script co-written by William Wisher, Jr. and Caleb Carr
This talky, $40 million film was shelved by production company Morgan Creek and Warner Bros after the film was shot. The action occurs mostly in East Africa in 1947. Stars included Gabriel Mann (as Father Francis), Clara Bellar (as Rachel Lesno), Stellan Skarsgard (as Father Lankester Merrin) and Billy Crawford (as Cheche).
After a few blood-red credits on a black background, the film opens with a prologue. The locale is an archaeological dig site deep in the arid desert of Northern Iraq - near the ancient town of Nineveh. An Arabic prayer is chanted on the soundtrack behind an image of an oblong, burnt-reddish sun. Workers dig inexorably with pick-axes through mounds of dirt to uncover ancient artifacts. A young boy in a red head-dress runs through the weaving, maze-like trenches to summon one of the supervisors. The camera shoots through his legs as he speaks in Arabic: "(Subtitle): They found something. small pieces. At the base of the mound."
Father Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow), an elderly, scholarly Jesuit Catholic priest and archaeologist, is told that ancient objects have been unearthed during his search for evil: "Lamps, arrowheads, coins. " Merrin inspects a small silver, Christian medallion (depicting Mary and the baby Jesus) and observes that it is unusual to find it buried in a pre-Christian location: "This is strange. Not of the same period." Merrin then digs in a crevice near the Christian objects and discovers a small, greenish, gargoyle-like stone amulet or statuette [in the figure of the Mesopotamian demon Pazuzu, known for its serpent-like phallus]. [The Iraqi sequence sets a tone of foreboding and establishes the presence of 'Good' and 'Evil' - it also foreshadows the battle between the two forces later in the film.]
In the Iraqi marketplace on the streets of Mosul, with a throbbing, drumming sound, the strain is evident as Merrin's hand shakes when he takes his heart medicine. Iron workers clang their hammers on anvils near a red-hot burning furnace. One of the steelworkers turns toward Merrin, revealing his blind right eye [an allusion to future horrors in the film]. Back in the curator's office, as Merrin eyes the ancient Pazuzu amulet, he is told: "Evil against evil." Ominously, the swinging pendulum of the clock behind him stops working. The curator knows Merrin will be leaving to go home to the States: "I wish you didn't have to go." Weary and exhausted, Merrin replies: "There is something I must do." He passes by prostrate Muslim worshippers and into a dark passageway. When he emerges in the narrow, sunlit street, he is nearly run down by a fast-moving, horse-drawn carriage carrying an old woman in a black droshky, worn over her face like a shroud.
After driving his jeep to an ancient temple ruins guarded by armed, white and black-garbed watchmen, he walks up to a full-sized stone statue of the demon Pazuzu. Nearby, two dogs begin fighting and snarling at each other in the dust. [This struggle foreshadows the eventual conflict between good (the priest) and evil (the possessed girl), and also hints at the theme of "evil against evil" - Karras' deliberate 'evil' act of demon possession to save Regan.] He again has a premonition that the amulet is a concrete manifestation that something evil has been unearthed - the soundtrack simulates an eerie, shrieking chord, symbolizing the loosing of ancient, pagan evil in the world. The camera zooms in on the face of the open-mouthed, fearsome creature. As he confronts the demonic statue that has been called up for protection by the amulet's discovery, the wind blows dust over the scene as he feels all around him the presence of the devil.
In a clever transitional dissolve linking two distant locales and their coincidental association, the scene from the desert (a sizzling view of the orb of the dawning sun) dissolves into the sounds and views of early morning traffic crossing the Potomac in Georgetown outside Washington, D.C. The camera zooms into one of the Georgetown houses where a hand turns on a different kind of bright light - a white electric lamp. Inside her bedroom, divorced mother and actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn, reportedly modeling her role on actress Shirley MacLaine) is working on lines in her latest script. She hears unsettling sounds from the attic similar to the dirt-digging sounds of the prologue. [This form of infestation is the first classic stage of possession.] She investigates - following the sounds to her 12-year old daughter Regan's (Linda Blair) bedroom where the young girl is sleeping. The covers are pulled back and the window is inexplicably wide open with fluttering curtains - she senses a certain coldness or presence in the room. Downstairs in the kitchen, Chris instructs housekeeper Karl (Rudolf Schundler) to purchase traps for "rats in the attic."
The next minimalist scene introduces other film characters and a 'film within a film.' On the Georgetown University campus, Chris emerges from a movie-set trailer on the set of Warner Bros. Inc.' Crash Course (now filming at locations in California and Washington, D.C.). (Later, Chris expresses how she despises the film when she describes the movie as "kinda like the, uh, Walt Disney version of the Ho Chi Minh story. ") [William Peter Blatty makes a brief cameo appearance as an upset producer, telling the director: "Is the scene really essential? Would you just consider it, whether or not. "] The scene that is being filmed at the Catholic school dramatizes early 1970s student protest that threatens to tear down the historic stone walls of the university. Chris, a representative of the academic-adult population, questions the British director Burke Dennings (Jack MacGowran, who died one week after completing his scenes in the film) about the unrealistic plot of adolescent counter-cultural turmoil. One of the curious onlookers among a crowd of students, a Jesuit priest (in black) from the university, named Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller in his debut screen role), smiles amusedly after overhearing their conversation.
A few moments later into the shoot, when Chris grabs a bullhorn and tells the rebellious students in the crowd: "If you want to effect any change, you have to do it within the system," a long crane shot finds Father Karras walking away from the crowd and the filming - he turns back to watch for a moment, and then continues his departure in serious thought. [To accentuate one of the film's themes, the actor's lines are deliberately juxtaposed with the priest's departure, since he is experiencing an inner struggle of religious faith within his own system - the church.]
After the day's shoot is finished, Chris walks the leaf-covered street from the campus to her home, accompanied by the tinkling, mesmerizing sounds of "Tubular Bells' (by Mike Oldfield). It is Halloween, and children run by in their masks and costumes. [Historically, scary Halloween masks, pumpkin faces, and costumes were designed to ward off evil spirits - another manifestation of the film's theme.] For a brief moment, a roaring black motorbike that passes behind her slightly drowns out the sounds of the bells. Two nuns trailing billowing black and white habits walk down a road in front of a brick wall. Now in her neighborhood, she turns and hears, from a distance, the priest Karras counseling a fellow priest (until his spiritual words are overshadowed by the loud, mechanical roar of an overhead jet engine):
There's not a day in my life that I don't feel like a fraud. Other priests, doctors, lawyers - I talk to them all. I don't know anyone who hasn't felt that.
As priest Karras rises up from an underground stairwell, emerging into the noisy track area of the New York City subway where the tracks spew jets of steam, the camera pans past a soft-drink vending machine, emblazoned with: "TRAVEL REFRESHED." On the dirty, trash-littered platform of the subway station, he turns to hear a tattered, derelict drunk begging with an outstretched hand:
Father, could you help an old altar boy. I'm Cat'lick.
Wrapped up in his own problems and unable to be charitable in this subway encounter, Father Karras turns away from the wretched man whose bearded, sweaty face is momentarily illuminated in flashes by the window lights of a passing subway.
He visits his dying, sick mother, Mother Karras (Vasiliki Maliaros) who lives in humble, pauper's conditions by herself (after he left her and moved to the priesthood in Georgetown) in a derelict area of New York City. The street, lined with run-down housing, is populated with unruly kids, drunks, graffiti, and litter. After first stopping in his own room and reflecting on his past [two photographs of his early boxing career, trophies, a childhood photograph, and a picture of a former girlfriend], he enters his Mama's room. As he carefully binds his mother's injured leg and then lights a cigarette for a smoke [atypical for a priest], he suggests moving her elsewhere, but she is a stoic, stubborn, Greek immigrant woman from the Old World, and she doesn't want to move:
Damien: Mama, I could take you somewhere where you'd be safe. You wouldn't be alone. There would be people around. You know, you wouldn't be sitting here listening to a radio.
Mother: (She first speaks in her native tongue) . You understand me? This is my house and I'm not going no place. Dimmy, you're worried for something?
Damien: No, Mama.
Mother: You're not happy. Tell me, what is the matter?
Damien: Mama, I'm all right, I'm fine, really I am.
Why The Exorcist Deleted (Then Restored) Regan's Spider Walk
As one might imagine, The Exorcist's spider walk scene wasn't performed by Linda Blair, but instead by stuntwoman Ann Miles. There were actually two versions filmed, one closer to the book, in which Regan flips over and crawls at Sharon, as well as displays a snake-like tongue. The other version, which more people are aware of, has Regan with the blood in her mouth at the end. Director William Friedkin, against the wishes of writer Blatty, opted to excise the spider walk from the theatrical cut due to three main factors. He felt the scene was too big a special effect so early in the story, that it undercut the impact of Chris MacNeil having just learned of Burke Dennings' death, and that the wires used to make the stunt work were too noticeable and hurt the effect.
In 2000, Friedkin put together an extended director's cut of The Exorcist originally subtitled "The Version You've Never Seen." In this cut, Friedkin reinserted the bloody version of the spider walk, using CGI to erase the wires, and remastering the footage to fit with the rest of the film, much to Blatty's delight. While many fans were aware of the spider walk, and it had been included as a deleted scene on a prior DVD release, seeing it cleaned up and put back into the film proper enabled many to see it in a new light, and it's become a favorite sequence of many since. Interestingly though, some fans feel its inclusion creates a plot hole, as if Regan can leave her room and attack at any time, why doesn't she do that? It's a fair criticism, but one most seem willing to overlook.
The Exorcist: Differences In The Extended Director's Cut
To start, there are many small alterations made throughout the extended director's cut of The Exorcist. These include new music cues and sound effects, new CGI effects, including subliminally inserted demon faces, added or changed lines of dialogue, and more. As far as the bigger differences between the theatrical cut and the director's cut go, the first comes in the form of a different opening, with shots of the MacNeil home in Georgetown and a statue of the Virgin Mary being shown between the Warner Bros. logo and the opening credits.
At around a half hour in, an entirely new sequence sees Regan MacNeil at the doctor being tested in various ways to try and determine what's wrong with her, including several that look quite painful. The doctor later tells Chris that her daughter had said very unusual and inappropriate things during the visit, which she's quite surprised to here. With her changed behavior now established earlier, the bit of Regan talking normally with guests at her mother's party from the theatrical cut has been removed. Perhaps the biggest addition to The Exorcist's extended director's cut is the infamous spider walk scene, in which possessed Regan comes down the stairs backward on her hands, and spits blood toward the camera. This scene had been available as unfinished deleted material on prior home video releases, but was completed and restored using CGI for this new cut.
Later on, new scenes feature Father Karras listening to a tape recording of a conversation between Regan and Chris, Sharon trying to block out Regan's demonic noises with earplugs, and Chris offering Father Merrin a cup of tea with alcohol in it that hints at his failing health. Other added bits see Merrin ask Chris what Regan's middle name is, and the two priests talk about why exactly a demon has chosen to possess such an innocent child. The other major difference comes at the end, making The Exorcist's conclusion much more upbeat. When Regan gives Father Karras' medal to Father Dyer, he gives it back to her, telling her to keep it. They then wave goodbye to each other. Then, a new scene sees the beginning of a friendship between Dyer and Lieutenant Kinderman, who head off to get lunch together. That friendship would figure into the plot of The Exorcist 3.
Saint Maud and AMC Theatres Bringing Special Screenings of Rosemary's Baby,The Exorcist, and The Conjuring
Landing in theaters this April is Saint Maud, the latest horror film from A24 that blends the world of the supernatural with religious devotion, which the studio is celebrating by partnering with AMC Theatres throughout March to deliver audiences seminal features throughout genre history. This "She Is Risen" screening event will culminate with a screening of Saint Maud on April 1st, two days before the film officially lands in theaters. You can head to AMC's official website for the event to get the details on the screenings, as well as purchase tickets. Audiences can see Saint Maud when it officially opens on April 3rd.
Screening details are as follows, per press release:
The Exorcist (Director's Cut) - Friday, March 13th
"That's right. We're kicking off Friday the 13th with one of the greatest horrors of all time, The Exorcist (director's cut). Get ready to get possessed &mdash the power of Christ compels you!"
Rosemary's Baby - Friday, March 20th
"In this 1968 horror classic, Mia Farrow delivers an unsettling performance as a pregnant woman who becomes increasingly paranoid about the safety of her unborn child."
The Conjuring - Friday, March 27th
"Released in 2013, The Conjuring is particularly frightening because, one, it's based on a true story, and two, director James Wan takes us into the haunted farmhouse where we first meet the evil vintage doll Annabelle."
Saint Maud - Wednesday, April 1st
"The debut film from writer-director Rose Glass, Saint Maud is a chilling and boldly original vision of faith, madness, and salvation in a fallen world. Maud, a newly devout hospice nurse, becomes obsessed with saving her dying patient&rsquos soul &mdash but sinister forces, and her own sinful past, threaten to put an end to her holy calling."
(Photo: AMC Theatres)
The film has already screened at festivals, sitting at 91% positive reviews on aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
David Ehrlich at IndieWire writes, "This extremely promising debut can become didactic as it circles the drain between truth and delusion, and such either/or stakes have a way of making the movie feel even smaller than its 83-minute run time might suggest, but Glass refuses to stay on the fence. In her own way, the filmmaker is as much of a hardliner as her heroine, and Saint Maud is all the more satisfying for how it refuses to back down from its truth."
Head to AMC's official website to grab tickets for the screening series. Saint Maud hits theaters on April 3rd.
Will you be attending any of these screenings? Let us know in the comments below or contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter to talk all things horror and Star Wars!
26 It Was Based On A True Story
Horror movies have the power to be scary on their own, but it adds a whole other level if that film is based on a true story. While the movie was based on William Peter Blatty’s book called The Exorcist, both the book and movie were inspired by the story of a teenager with the pseudonym Roland Doe.
The exorcism of Doe is said to have taken weeks to perform in a home in Missouri in 1949.
The devil’s face apparently appeared on the boy’s leg before the voice of Saint Michael came out of the boy’s mouth telling Satan to leave the boy’s body.
People walking out of The Exorcist on opening night in 1973.
Blair Witch Project was probably my generations version of this. That’s the last movie where I remember people being genuinely freaked out and unsure if it were real.
It dropped at the perfect time where the internet was sort of new so the marketing could work without the interference of social media.
Blair Witch was incredible. Had no idea what it was going in, all the “true story” hype was huge. First time I saw it on opening night, the theatre was dead quiet all through and everyone stayed in their seats right through the credits. There was a collective “WTF did we just see?” that I’ve never experienced before or sense in a theatre. Added to the atmosphere, big time. Spooked me for days.
Then saw it a second time with a theatre packed with idiot high school kids who talked and laughed all the way through it. Ruined it. Very glad this wasn’t the first time I’d seen the movie, as it would’ve impacted on how it hit me.
Fox orders Lethal Weapon, The Exorcist, Pitch, Making History to series
Fox has given series orders to dramas Lethal Weapon, The Exorcist, A.P.B. and Pitch, as well as comedies Making History and The Mick.
In Lethal Weapon, when Texas cop and former Navy SEAL Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) suffers the loss of his wife and baby, he moves to Los Angeles to start anew. There, he gets partnered with LAPD detective Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans, Sr.), who, having recently suffered a “minor” heart attack, must avoid any stress in his life. Matt Miller will write and executive-produce with Dan Lin, Jennifer Gwartz, and McG. Keesha Sharp, Jordana Brewster, and Kevin Rahm will also star.
A modern reinvention inspired by William Blatty’s original 1971 book, The Exorcist is a propulsive, serialized psychological thriller following two very different men tackling one family’s case of horrifying demonic possession, and confronting the face of true evil. Jeremy Slater will write and executive-produce with James Robinson, Rolin Jones, David Robinson, Barbara Wall, and Rupert Wyatt. Geena Davis, Brianne Howey, Hannah Kasulka, Kurt Egyiawan, Alfonso Herrera, Ben Daniels, and Alan Ruck will star.
In A.P.B., a tech billionaire (Justin Kirk) purchases a troubled police precinct in the wake of a loved one’s murder, but can this eccentric and enigmatic figure’s cutting-edge approach fix the broken ways of these police veterans? Matt Nix will write and executive-produce with Len Wiseman, Dennis Kim, Todd Hoffman, and Robert Friedman. Natalie Martinez, Caitlin Stasey, Taylor Handley, Eric Winter, Ernie Hudson, and Tamberla Perry will also star.
Pitch follows a young female pitcher (Kylie Bunbury) who defies the odds when she becomes the first woman to play in the major leagues. Dan Fogelman and Rick Singer will write and executive-produce with Tony Bill, Helen Bartlett, Jess Rosenthal, Kevin Falls, and Paris Barclay. Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Ali Larter, Mo McRae, Meagan Holder, Tim Jo, Dan Lauria, Mark Consuelos, and Bob Balaban will also star.
On the comedy side, Making History tells the story of three friends who try to balance the adventure of time travel with the mundane concerns of their present-day lives. Julius Sharpe will write and executive-produce with Phil Lord, Chris Miller, and Seth Cohen. Adam Pally, Leighton Meester, and Yassir Lester star.
The Mick follows a hard-living, foul-mouthed woman (Kaitlin Olson) who moves to affluent Greenwich, Connecticut, to raise the spoiled kids of her wealthy sister who has fled the country to avoid a federal indictment. She quickly learns what the rest of us already know — other people’s children are awful. John Chernin and Dave Chernin will write and executive-produce with Nick Frenkel, Oly Obst, and Randall Einhorn, who will helm the pilot. Sofia Black D𠆞lia, Carla Jimenez, Thomas Barbusca, Jack Stanton, and Susan Park also star.
The new series join the previously ordered 24: Legacy and Star. More details here.
Philip Lamont, a priest struggling with his faith, attempts to exorcise a possessed South American girl who claims to "heal the sick". However, the exorcism goes wrong and a lit candle sets fire to the girl's dress, killing her. Afterwards, Lamont is assigned by the Cardinal to investigate the death of Father Lankester Merrin, who had been killed four years earlier in the course of exorcising the Assyrian demon Pazuzu from Regan MacNeil. The Cardinal informs Lamont (who has had some experience at exorcism and has been exposed to Merrin's teachings) that Merrin is facing posthumous heresy charges because of his controversial writings as Church authorities are trying to modernize and do not want to acknowledge that Satan exists.
Regan, although now seemingly normal and staying with her guardian Sharon Spencer in New York City, continues to be monitored at a psychiatric institute by Dr. Gene Tuskin. Regan claims that she remembers nothing about her ordeal in Washington, D.C., but Tuskin believes that her memories are repressed.
Father Lamont visits the institute, but his attempts to question Regan about the circumstances of Father Merrin's death are rebuffed by Dr. Tuskin, who believes that Lamont's approach would do Regan more harm than good. In an attempt to plumb her memories of the exorcism, and specifically the circumstances in which Merrin died, Dr. Tuskin hypnotizes the girl, to whom she is linked by a "synchronizer", a revolutionary biofeedback device used by two people to synchronize their brainwaves. After a guided tour by Sharon of the Georgetown house where the exorcism took place, Lamont returns to be coupled with Regan by the synchronizer. The priest is spirited to the past by Pazuzu to observe Father Merrin exorcising a young boy, Kokumo, in Africa. Learning that the boy developed special powers to fight Pazuzu, who appears as a swarm of locusts, Lamont journeys to Africa, defying his superior, to seek help from the adult Kokumo.
Kokumo has become a scientist studying how to prevent locust swarms. Lamont learns that Pazuzu attacks people who have psychic healing ability. Regan is able to reach telepathically inside the minds of others she uses this to help an autistic girl to speak, for instance. Father Merrin, who belonged to a group of theologians that believed psychic powers were a spiritual gift which would one day be shared by all people, thought people like Kokumo and Regan were forerunners of this new type of humanity. In a vision, Merrin asks Lamont to watch over Regan.
Lamont and Regan return to the old house in Georgetown. The pair are followed in a taxi by Tuskin and Sharon, who are concerned about Regan's safety. En route, Pazuzu tempts Lamont by offering him unlimited power, appearing as a succubus who is a doppelgänger of Regan. The taxi crashes into the Georgetown house, killing the driver, but his passengers survive and enter the house, where Sharon sets herself on fire. Although Lamont initially succumbs to the succubus, he is brought back by Regan and attacks her doppelgänger while a swarm of locusts deluge the house, which begins to crumble around them. However, Lamont manages to kill the doppelgänger by beating open its chest and pulling out its heart. In the end, Regan banishes the locusts (and Pazuzu) by enacting the same bullroarer ritual attempted by Kokumo to get rid of locusts in Africa (although he failed and was himself possessed). Outside the house, Sharon dies from her injuries and Tuskin tells Lamont to watch over Regan. Regan and Lamont leave while Tuskin stays to answer police questions.
- as Regan MacNeil as Father Philip Lamont as Dr. Gene Tuskin as Father Lankester Merrin as Sharon Spencer as The Cardinal as Kokumo
- Joey Green as young Kokumo
Neither William Peter Blatty nor William Friedkin, the writer/producer and the director, respectively, of the original The Exorcist, had any desire to involve themselves in an Exorcist sequel.  According to the film's co-producer Richard Lederer, Exorcist II was conceived as a relatively low-budget affair: "What we essentially wanted to do with the sequel was to redo the first movie . Have the central figure, an investigative priest, interview everyone involved with the exorcism, then fade out to unused footage, unused angles from the first film. A low-budget rehash — about $3 million — of The Exorcist, a rather cynical approach to movie-making, I'll admit. But that was the start". 
Playwright William Goodhart was commissioned to write the screenplay, titled The Heretic he based it around the theories of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (the Jesuit paleontologist/archaeologist who had inspired the character of Father Merrin in Blatty's novel The Exorcist). Goodhart's screenplay took a more metaphysical and intellectual approach compared with the original film. Here, the battle between good and evil would centre on human consciousness—with the specific idea that, within the framework of Catholic theology, human consciousnesses could be brought together as one through technology, although this would also result in conflict between those who sought good and evil. 
British filmmaker John Boorman signed on to direct, stating that "the idea of making a metaphysical thriller greatly appealed to my psyche".  Years earlier, Boorman had been considered by Warner Bros. as a possible director for the first Exorcist movie, but he turned the opportunity down because he found the story "rather repulsive".  However, he was intrigued with the idea of directing a sequel, explaining that "every film has to struggle to find a connection with its audience. Here I saw the chance to make an extremely ambitious film without having to spend the time developing this connection. I could make assumptions and then take the audience on a very adventurous cinematic journey". 
Linda Blair agreed to reprise her role of Regan MacNeil for Exorcist II, but refused to wear demon make-up (a double was used for the brief flashback scenes depicting a demonic Regan). Max von Sydow was persuaded by Boorman to reprise the role of Father Merrin he was initially reluctant to return because of his concerns over the negative impact of the first Exorcist film. Kitty Winn signed on to reprise the role of Sharon Spencer for Exorcist II after Ellen Burstyn flatly refused to return as Chris MacNeil.
Boorman contacted William O'Malley to reprise his role as Father Joseph Dyer from the first film. However, O'Malley was busy and could not take up the part, and the character of Father Dyer was changed to Father Philip Lamont. Jon Voight, David Carradine, Jack Nicholson and Christopher Walken all were considered for or offered the part of Father Lamont, who John Boorman initially conceived as a younger priest in awe of Father Merrin's writings. As mentioned in Variety, Voight initially signed on for the role but left in April 1976 when "differences about the role could not be resolved".  He was replaced with Richard Burton signing on for the role.
The role of Dr. Gene Tuskin was originally written for a man, with Chris Sarandon and George Segal both considered. When the sex of the character was changed, both Ann-Margret and Jane Fonda were under consideration. Louise Fletcher, who had just won the Academy Award for Best Actress for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), accepted the part.
Screenplay and filming Edit
Principal photography began in May 1976 at a budget of $12.5 million (the film ultimately cost $14 million to make). Although Boorman wanted to film the majority of the film on location (including Ethiopia and The Vatican), many of his plans proved to be impossible, resulting in key exterior scenes having to be filmed set-bound at the Warner Bros. backlot. Even the MacNeil house in Georgetown had to be replicated in the studio because the filmmakers were refused permission to film at the original house. The filmmakers also had to replicate the infamous "Hitchcock Steps" adjacent to the MacNeil house, as they were refused permission by Washington city officials to shoot scenes by the real steps.  A key scene of a sleepwalking Regan about to wander off a rooftop was filmed in New York City, atop 666 Fifth Avenue (where Warner Bros. offices were then located). With no stunt person and no special effects, the shot showed actress Linda Blair's feet on the edge of the building with Fifth Avenue down below. 
Boorman was unhappy with Goodhart's script and asked Goodhart to do a rewrite incorporating ideas from Rospo Pallenberg. Goodhart refused, and so the script was subsequently rewritten by Pallenberg and Boorman. Goodhart's script was being constantly rewritten as the film was shooting, with the filmmakers uncertain as to how the story should end. Linda Blair recalled, "It was a really good script at first. Then after everybody signed on they rewrote it five times and it ended up nothing like the same movie". 
Exorcist II was beset by numerous problems during production. Boorman himself contracted a dose of San Joaquin Valley Fever (a respiratory fungal infection), which cancelled production for over a month (a costly delay). Other problems included footage being oversaturated and necessitating reshoots the rapid deaths of locusts imported from England for the film's climactic scenes (2500 locusts were shipped in and died at a rate of 100 a day) original film editor John Merritt quitting the production (he was replaced by Tom Priestley) and stars Kitty Winn and Louise Fletcher both suffering from gall bladder infections. 
Blair said in one interview that Pallenberg directed a lot of the film as well as doing rewrites.  Pallenberg was credited as the second unit director and a "creative associate".
Box office Edit
The Heretic was Warner's largest day and date launch, opening in 725 theatres in the United States and Canada  and set an opening weekend record for Warner's  with $6.7 million  but poor word of mouth hampered its performance.  The film eventually grossed $30,749,142 in the United States,  turning a profit but still disappointing in comparison to the original film's gross.
Critical reception Edit
The film received a strongly negative response. Reports indicated that the film inspired derisive audience laughter at its premiere in New York City.  William Peter Blatty claimed to have been the first person to start laughing at the theater in which he saw the film, only to be followed by the other patrons ("You'd think we were watching The Producers").  William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, recalled hearing a story in which angry audience members at Exorcist II's first public performance began chasing Warner Bros. executives down the street within the first ten minutes of the screening.  Friedkin saw half an hour of the film: "I was at Technicolor and a guy said 'We just finished a print of Exorcist II, do you wanna have a look at it?' And I looked at half an hour of it and I thought it was as bad as seeing a traffic accident in the street. It was horrible. It's just a stupid mess made by a dumb guy – John Boorman by name, somebody who should be nameless, but in this case should be named. Scurrilous. A horrible picture".  Friedkin later said that this sequel diminished the value of the original and called it "the worst piece of crap I've ever seen" and "a freaking disgrace".   He later added, "That film was made by a demented mind".
Variety wrote, "Exorcist II is not as good as The Exorcist. It isn't even close". BBC film critic Mark Kermode stated, "Exorcist II is demonstrably the worst film ever made. It took the greatest film ever made and trashed it in a way that was on one level farcically stupid and on another level absolutely unforgivable. Everyone involved in this, apart from Linda Blair, should be ashamed for all eternity". Vincent Canby, writing in The New York Times, was similarly dismissive:
Given the huge box-office success of the William Peter Blatty – William Friedkin production of The Exorcist, there had to be a sequel, but did it have to be this desperate concoction, the main thrust of which is that original exorcism wasn't all it was cracked up to be? It's one thing to carry a story further along, but it's another to deny the original, no matter what you thought of it. I thought it was something even less than good, but this new film, which opened yesterday at the Criterion and other theaters, is of such spectacular fatuousness that it makes the first seem virtually an axiom of screen art. 
Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film zero stars out of four and declared it "the worst major motion picture I've seen in almost eight years on the job".  John Simon wrote,  "There is a very strong probability that Exorcist II is the stupidest major movie ever made", and Jack Lewis wrote in the Daily Mirror, "It's all too ludicrous to frighten and the only time you're likely to hide your head will be in shame for watching it".  Ruth Batchelor's review for The Los Angeles Free Press stated, "I never thought I'd appreciate Billy Freidkin because I didn't like The Exorcist very much. But Exorcist II: The Heretic makes the original look like Citizen Kane. This movie is a laughable horror. It should be exorcised out of the theaters".  Bernard Drew wrote in The San Bernardino Sun, "it is ridiculous, hopelessly confused, and incomprehensible. Upon who's (sic) feet to lay the blame for this disaster I do not know. There's blame enough for everybody involved in this".  Spanish film critic Fernando Trueba's review in El País called the movie, "a stupid and useless film, whose mere existence is difficult to justify". 
Leslie Halliwell described the film as a "highly unsatisfactory psychic melodrama which . falls flat on its face along some wayward path of metaphysical and religious fancy. It was released in two versions and is unintelligible in either".  Leonard Maltin described the film as a "preposterous sequel . Special effects are the only virtue in this turkey".  Steven Scheuer wrote, "This may be the worst sequel in the history of film".  Danny Peary dismissed Exorcist II as "absurd."  In his 1984 book The Hollywood Hall of Shame, Michael Medved called the film "a thoroughly wretched piece of work", and added, "Richard Burton is a laugh a minute".  Edward Margulies called the film a "calamitious, head-scratching, sequel . a rollicking mess" and wondered "whatever possessed them?"  The Blockbuster Entertainment Guide to Movies & Videos gave this film its lowest possible rating and dismissed its story as "the expected demonic shenanigans". 
However, Pauline Kael preferred Boorman's sequel to the original, writing in her review in The New Yorker that Exorcist II "had more visual magic than a dozen movies". Kim Newman commented that "Exorcist II doesn't work in all sorts of ways . However, like Ennio Morricone's mix of tribal and liturgical music, it does manage to be very interesting".  Director Martin Scorsese asserted, "The picture asks: Does great goodness bring upon itself great evil? This goes back to the Book of Job it's God testing the good. In this sense, Regan (Linda Blair) is a modern-day saint — like Ingrid Bergman in Europa '51, and in a way, like Charlie in Mean Streets. I like the first Exorcist, because of the Catholic guilt I have, and because it scared the hell out of me but The Heretic surpasses it. Maybe Boorman failed to execute the material, but the movie still deserved better than it got". 
Author Bob McCabe's book The Exorcist: Out of the Shadows (2000) contains a chapter on the film in which Linda Blair said the movie "was one of the big disappointments of my career",  and John Boorman commented, "The sin I committed was not giving the audience what it wanted in terms of horror . There's this wild beast out there which is the audience. I created this arena and I just didn't throw enough Christians into it".  McCabe himself offered no one answer as to why Exorcist II failed: "Who knows where the blame ultimately lies? Boorman's illness and constant revising of the script can't have helped, but these events alone are not enough to explain the film's almighty failure. Boorman has certainly gone on to produce some fine work subsequently . When a list was compiled for The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made, Exorcist II: The Heretic came in at number two. It was beaten only by Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space, a film that generally receives a warmer response from its audience than this terribly misjudged sequel". 
In a 2005 interview, Boorman remarked:
It all comes down to audience expectations. The film that I made, I saw as a kind of riposte to the ugliness and darkness of The Exorcist – I wanted a film about journeys that was positive, about good, essentially. And I think that audiences, in hindsight, were right. I denied them what they wanted and they were pissed off about it – quite rightly, I knew I wasn't giving them what they wanted and it was a really foolish choice. The film itself, I think, is an interesting one – there's some good work in it – but when they came to me with it I told John Calley, who was running Warner Bros. then, that I didn't want it. "Look", I said, "I have daughters, I don't want to make a film about torturing a child", which is how I saw the original film. But then I read a three-page treatment for a sequel written by a man named William Goodhart and I was really intrigued by it because it was about goodness. I saw it then as a chance to film a riposte to the first picture. But it had one of the most disastrous openings ever – there were riots! And we recut the actual prints in the theatres, about six a day, but it didn't help of course and I couldn't bear to talk about it, or look at it, for years. 
As of October 2020 [update] , Exorcist II: The Heretic had a 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 27 reviews, with an average rating of 3.61/10. The site's consensus read, "Hokey mystical effects, lousy plotting, and worse acting directly tarnishes the first's chilling legacy". 
Home media Edit
Exorcist II: The Heretic was originally released on VHS and Laserdisc formats in the United States. A re-issued VHS was made available in the U.S. on December 4, 1992 via Warner Home Video. It was first released on DVD format on August 6, 2002, in snapcase packaging,  while a second DVD was made available in standard packaging on November 3, 2009.  Additionally, the film is available as part of "The Complete Anthology" set, which features all five films of the franchise and was released on DVD on October 10, 2006. 
The film was released for the first time on Blu-ray in both an individual set  and as part of the Blu-ray release of "The Complete Anthology" on September 23, 2014. 
In June 2018, Scream Factory announced that Exorcist II: The Heretic would be released on Blu-ray, a subsidiary of Shout Factory, in a newly commissioned two-disc "Collector's Edition". The set includes the theatrical cut, a shorter alternative version of the film, new interviews with Linda Blair and editor Tom Priestly as well as commentary tracks from director John Boorman and project consultant Scott Bosco. It was made available on September 25.  and, like its predecessor and successors, is available for online viewing-streaming video rental and permanent download though Amazon, Apple iTunes Store and Vudu.
'The only day we ever closed was Good Friday'
The brothers were quick to dispel a commonly told story about the family’s time operating the theater. The story goes that the Corona family painted over the intricate murals in the theater so as not to distract moviegoers during the screening of films.
“That’s not true,” Hector said. “When we acquired the building the walls were already black. Even the ceiling as well had a beautiful sky and that was already painted over. We really took care of the building as best as we could as a family.”
The Corona family ran the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix in the 1970s and ྌs. During the Christmas celebration, kids could come up on stage to meet Santa, get gifts and have a swing at the piñata. (Photo: Courtesy of Alex Corona)
By the early 1980s, the Coronas and the Orpheum were facing a number of headwinds. According to the brothers, Hispanic films hadn’t kept pace with Hollywood movies in terms of quality. Videos and CDs were becoming ubiquitous. People were moving to the suburbs, where modern movie theaters proliferated. Downtown buildings were being demolished to make room for new structures. And the kids had grown up.
“Most of us were pretty much grown," Alex said. "It was definitely hard. It was our life. It was all we knew. We spent every Christmas, Thanksgiving there.
"My mother would set up our Thanksgiving dinner up there and we would all take turns having dinner. We’d say, ‘Here you go, I’ll sell tickets while you go eat.’ The only day we ever closed was Good Friday.”
While other downtown buildings were being sold, demolished or both, Nederlander didn’t want to sell. Yet, in 1984 he agreed to sell the theater to the city. In 1985 the Orpheum was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That same year the city began a 12-year, $14 million restoration. The Orpheum reopened in 1997 with a performance of the play “Hello Dolly,” starring Carol Channing.
The Corona family ceased their operations at the Orpheum in 1985. They still own the Corona Ranch in south Phoenix, where they hold rodeos, conferences, weddings and private parties. Felix, soon to be 90, and Soledad, 86, spend part of their time in Mexico but still lend a hand when they are around.
"We want them to retire, but they are always working together,” Alex said.
It is a work ethic born of necessity and ingenuity by immigrants looking to make something of themselves, their children and their community. Despite the toil over the decades, the children never saw their parents as overworked. It was always a labor of love and a family affair.
“For us as their children, we didn’t see them as that (hard working), we saw it as we were all helping the family business,” Alex said.
“My parents still to this day get the biggest enjoyment out of seeing the community happy and so by offering entertainment where you could offer your community a piece of home, it made them happy and that’s how they have always been, that's really what pushed them.
"And it may have seemed like work at times when we wanted to go out, but we were always together, eight kids, mom and dad.”
Details: The Orpheum Theatre will reopen in August. 203 W. Adams St., Phoenix. https://www.pccticketing.com.
You can connect with Arizona Republic Culture and Outdoors Reporter Shanti Lerner through email at [email protected] or you can also follow her on Twitter.
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