To be able to place this moniker on your marketing sheets, you (as a major studio like the big "WB") BETTER have the proof to back it up.....and William Friedkin's motion picture version of William Peter Blatty's downright shocking novelization edition of The Exorcist sure can back it up. Released in 1973 to a worldwide audience that still has nightmares from the images this film creates, it has become one of the best horror pictures ever made, and has spawned a not-so-great franchise after it which makes this one continue to shine in comparison as it gets older. This film is not just visually shocking ---- it is psychologically damaging after awhile, as well, and while I can take it, my 52 year old cousin who lives with us cannot watch this film ever again since the first time she saw it in theaters because it actually gives her nightmares.

When Blatty and Friedkin got together to plan the cinematic version of Blatty's novel, there were many creative differences between the two men which led to a bitter dispute over changes to the ending, beginning and characterization flaws; sometime I believe near 1999, a theatrical re-release of this film was launched with added footage and some changes that were put back in as a comprimise between the author and director, dubbed The Version You've Never Seen. I remember seeing this re release in theaters and the teenagers that laughed at every scene just ruined the whole experience of what this film is morally and essentially about. They just didnt get it.

Before we get to the differences between Blatty and Friedkin and the two "camps" the fans of this film are broken into --- because thats VERY relevant to this picture --- the story of William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist if you dont actually know by now is actually loosely based on a supposed actual case of a young boy that was reportedly "possessed" by "the Devil" or some such evil spirit in or around the Georgetown, Washington area; in Blatty's novel version, the boy becomes a girl, played by Linda Blair. The picture begins with a connection from Exorcist: The Beginning, where an archaeologist/priest, Father Lancaster Merrin (Max Von Sydow) is on a dig in Southern Iraq (which doesnt make sense according to Exorcist: The Beginning because at the end of that film, he loses the statue head of the demon Pazuzu in KENYA, AFRICA, not IRAQ....so what was he doing in Iraq finding the statue once again?) where he, as I just said, unearths a statue head of a mythical demon named "Pazuzu".....he then runs into the actual statue of the demon, standing alone in the Iraqi desert (which was under that church in The Beginning in AFRICA, once again, so this was not an accurate connection between the two films) and we are to assume that the demon "flies" all the way from Iraq to Georgetown, where it takes possession of 12 year old Reagan MacNeil (Linda Blair); why she is selected for possession is never made clear, but there is a reference to her playing with a "weegie board" (LOL) so perhaps this suggested that she opened a portal of sorts to be possessed. Also, we do not actually SEE the possession of Blair by the demon (as we do with Jack Magner's character in Amityville II: The Possession) but instead, Friedkin develops the possession angle through creepy sounds that haunt Ellen Burstyn's Georgetown townhouse (she plays Blair's mother in the picture). Eventually, after Blair's personality begins to change, and then suddenly turns abromal and downright violent (there are vile scenes that were shocking even back in 1973 where once fully possessed, Blair shoves a crucifix into her bloody vagina as Burstyn comes into her room screaming "LET JESUS **** YOU! LET HIM **** YOU!" and then proceeds to grab Burstyn's head and push it down between her legs while saying "LICK ME! LICK ME!" and you can actually hear Burstyn's mouth on her daughter's private area --- it is quite shocking, amongst other vile sequences) Burstyn turns from regular doctors and psychiatrists to looking for a priest, convinced, due to a team of doctors suggesting Blair needs an exorcism, that an evil presence has inhabited her daughter's body.

There is a sub-plot going on here in the film as well, where Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller, who returns in Exorcist III fully possessed by the demon that possesses Blair in this first picture --- but I'll get to that) is a priest and psychologist at Georgetown University who is beginning to lose his faith.....until he is called upon by Burstyn to investigate the possession of her daughter. When he is convinced, after having conversations with the demon inside Blair (which was a bit ridiculous because there are moments when Miller is in Blair's bedroom and she is tied to the bed with restraints but showing green eyes, cuts on her face, and speaking in a demonic growl in different languages and yet it takes him TWO visits to Burstyn's house to realize the problem is NOT in Blair's mind), he takes his case to the church, who decide to authorize an exorcism......but they ask Father Lancaster Merrin (Von Sydow from the beginning of the film and who had experience fighting this demon before in Africa) to come to Georgetown to do the exorcism with Miller assisting. The final exorcism scene is still shocking to this day, with a possessed blair yelling "YOUR MOTHER SUCKS COCKS IN HELL KARRAS!" and "STICK YOUR COCK UP HER ASS YOU MOTHER ****ING WORTHLESS COCKSUCKER!" as the priests are preparing for the exorcism. The language is vile, the actions are vile, and its STILL shocking by today's standards, and its all ripped off in Harlin's prequel. The film concludes with Van Sydow having some kind of heart attack when he goes back into Blair's bedroom without Miller to do more of the exorcism, and when Miller finds him and the possessed Blair is sitting on the bed laughing, Miller grabs the possessed girl and begins beating the **** out her with closed fists saying "YOU SON OF A *****! TAKE ME! COME INTO ME! GOD DAMN YOU TAKE ME! TAKE ME!" (much like James Olsen's Father Adamsky character does at the end of Amityville II: The Possession). Suddenly, Miller's eyes turn green, as the demon jumps from Blair to Miller, and instead of accepting his fate as a possession vicitim, he throws himself out of Blair's bedroom window and down a flight of steps outside the townhouse to what we are lead to believe is his death (but this just sets up the plot for the REAL sequel of this film, which was William Peter Blatty's Exorcist III). I'll do a separate review of THAT REALLY REALLY confusing film based on Blatty's follow up novel called Legion the next time I take that DVD off the shelf.

Now....diehard Exorcist fans will argue that this re-released cut called The Version You've Never Seen completely ruins the pacing, plot and FEEL of Friedkin's first cut of the film ---- then there are others like me who feel the additions to the film (which I'll get to in a second) actually made the film a bit creepier.....these two camps of fans are drastically separated on debate forums all over the internet, in chat rooms and during Exorcist fan conventions regarding these two cuts of the picture. What this slightly extended version of Friedkin's film adds (like I said, due to "bad blood" and disagreements between the author of the book, William Peter Blatty, and the director, Friedkin, regarding how the final film should have looked) are some creepy moments of background music to certain scenes to add suspense (which I think worked), some CGI shots of the demon Pazuzu statue on Blair's bedroom walls and in different parts of the house, and a most shocking additional piece of what has been called "The Spiderwalk" sequence, where Blair comes down the steps of the house upside down like a spider with blood spilling from her mouth.....what's bad about this scene is that when the camera comes up close to the blood, this doesnt look like Linda Blair at all, and the stunt double is too obvious. There were also changes to the opening and closing moments of the film on this "Version You've Never Seen"; in the original cut, the film begins with the opening red on black credits with the Iraqi music in the background, and then onto showing Father Merrin (Von Sydow) at the dig in Iraq.....in this restored version, the film opens with a shot of Burstyn's townhouse and then a closeup of some statue near a church before the opening title sequence; personally, I dont think this changed anything, but REAL diehard fans feel differently. The ending has also been altered in this Blatty-authorized cut of the picture, where instead of the now un-possessed Blair driving away with Burstyn in her Mercedes, there is a friendship that is suggested that develops between the homicide cop Kinderman character (Lee J. Cobb in this film, played by George C. Scott in Exorcist III) and Father Karras' best friend, Father Joseph Dyer. This also sets up more of The Exorcist III.

Inbetween, there are some added moments on this "Version You've Never Seen" as well, including a sequence where Blair is being examined by doctors before she is diagnosed with a brain disorder, and the doctor tells Burstyn that during the exam, Blair told him to "keep his fingers away from her god damn ****"; this was never in the original version. There are other added moments which I believe added some good backdrop to the story, such as some dialogue interaction between Miller and Van Sydow during the exorcism at the end. But, as I said, many fans feel this is NOT the definitive version of this landmark horror motion picture.

There was, at one time, actually THREE versions of this DVD running around --- a now (thankfully) out of print original pressing by Warner Brothers, then a 25th Anniversary Edition (which can still be found) which adds very nice supplements to this film which are missing from "The Version You've Never Seen" like an awesome "Fear of God" documentary and a bunch of behind the scenes featurettes on The Exorcist, and thirdly, THIS DVD, titled The Version You've Never Seen; aside from the added footage, this version doesnt add much extras wise, so if you are a diehard fan, you may want to track down a copy of that 25 Anniversary Edition DVD for the added supplements and the Fear of God documentary; of course, you wont get the altered version of "The Version You've Never Seen" but you could always, as alot of fans have done, buy BOTH DVDs.

As I said, gladly, the first release of this film on DVD is out of print, as it was horribly riddled with problems on the transfer; the 25th Anniversary was cleaned up a bit, but I think THIS restored longer cut of the film looks best on DVD, at least until High Definition DVD arrives.....but thats not to say its without its problems; unfortunately, and something I could NEVER understand given this film's WORLDWIDE fan base, Warner Brothers has given EVERY version of The Exorcist one of their horrible "snapper case" packages without any special box-inside-a-box packages a lot of other DVDs get for special edition treatment; here, we get the same boring, cheap, cardboard-made snapper box for The Version You've Never Seen and its quite annoying.


Again, in typical Warner Brothers fashion, we get NO indication of this film's aspect ratio on the back of the box, which I have to assume is either 1:78:1 or 1:85:1 because it filled my screen with NO letterboxing, indicating that it was NOT a 2:35 or 2:40 transfer.When I first bought this DVD, I was still running a 27" 4:3 set and the print looked great on it; now, blown up on a 55" 16X9 screen, I can see some flaws in The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen; as I said, this is probably the best the film will ever look for now, but there are moments when the age of the film stock Warner had to work with shows itself; some compression grain creeps into some scenes --- but its not distracting and its a wonderful transfer overall for a film from 1973 that has been washed so many times through a remastering project of some kind.


THIS is where The Exorcist really shines, as you can tell from the moment the film opens that the Dolby EX mix re-created for this version adds some magic to it. This is a well-done, if not bone-shaking, EX remix of an old mono film, and it sounds great. Surrounds are put to constant use (even if you have a 5.1 setup like I do and cant make use of the EX decoding in which case your receiver will collapse the added EX channel into your existing two surrounds) with the sounds of crowd ambience, voices, the wheezing breath and growl of the demon --- all coming from the surrounds with added force. There is a quite startling scene in the film where Miller is in a Georgetown University bar with another priest, and the Allman Brothers' "Rambling Man" is playing, and the song plus the sounds of the bar COMPLETELY FILL the surround sound stage....it was a very nice effort from Warner. There is also a scene at the end, where Von Sydow arrives at the house to do the exorcism, and the demon bellows "MEEEEEEERRRRRRRIIIIIINNNNN!!!!!" when he walks in the house; this comes BLARING from the surround channels and can make you jump right out of your seat if you arent ready for it.

The problem with the audio on this newly prepared EX track for "The Version You've Never Seen" is that you can hear where the film sounds so dated in the original dialogue stems they used --- the dialogue is quite low compared to the pumped-up special audio effects they added --- as compared to the fresh surround ambience pushed back into the mix, and this sounds a bit obvious and "gimmicky" at times.....but, I am all for remixing a soundtrack and adding TONS of surround information, gimmicky or not, so I loved it. But this was a nice surround remix for this --- and here's that dreaded word again --- classic film and this is the best audio presentation for the film so far on DVD. Listen for the moaning, wheezing breathing of the demon from the surrounds.....little things like this that made the EX remix well worth the effort. Like I said, the only downfall to the mix is that you'll need to turn your processor/receiver's volume up quite a bit as compared to most other modern DVDs on the market to hear the dialogue clearly because the overall volume of the mix isnt that loud and only starts to open up when the new EX effects that were added in kick through.

And, as I said, if you are looking for the absolute definitive version of The Exorcist on DVD, you may want to skip "The Version You've Never Seen" because of its lack of extras --- look for the 25th Anniversary Edtion for that, which I believe is still in circulation. What we get on this disc are:

-Feature-Length Commentary by Director William Friedkin
-Interactive Menus
-2 Theatrical Trailers
-4 TV Spots
-2 Radio Spots
-Scene Access