The Exorcist (1973)

 ●  English ● 2 hrs

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Thrilling and spine-chillingly terrifying, this classic supernatural horror movie is inspired by the 1949 exorcism case of Roland Doe. Deeply embedded in religion and belief in the existence of dark and satanic entities, this horror story deals with the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl and her mother's desperate attempts to win back her child through an exorcism conducted by two priests.
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Cast: Linda Blair

Crew: William Friedkin (Director), Owen Roizman (Director of Photography), Steve Boeddeker (Music Director)

Rating: A (India)

Genres: Horror

Release Dates: 26 Dec 1973 (India)

Tagline: The movie you've been waiting for...without the wait.

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Did you know? Friedkin had a problem with von Sydow during the scene where Father Merrin commands the demon to leave "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit," at which point Regan's bedroom ceiling cracks open. Friedkin spent three days trying to get the line reading he wanted, going through nearly 20 fake ceilings in the process. Finally, von Sydow admitted that he had trouble with the words because he himself didn't believe in God. Friedkin asked how he'd been able to play Jesus so convincingly in "The Greatest Story Ever Told." Von Sydow replied that he'd played Jesus as a man, not a god. Friedkin suggested that he play Father Merrin as a man, and though he instantly thought that was a weak bit of direction, it worked on von Sydow, who went off by himself for an hour, returned, and delivered the line with the intensity Friedkin wanted. Read More
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as Regan
Supporting Actor
Supporting Actress
as Chris MacNeil
as Father Karras
as Burke Dennings
as Sharon
as Lt William Kinderman
as Father Merrin
Supporting Actor
Supporting Actor
as Father Dyer
Supporting Actor




Production Company



Screenplay Writer

Camera and Electrical

Director of Photography


Music Director


Art Director


Film Type:
Feature Film
Colour Info:
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1
The movie you've been waiting for...without the wait.
Now... Open your eyes to... (1976 re-release)
Something beyond comprehension is happening to a little girl on this street, in this house. A man has been called for as a last resort to try and save her. That man is The Exorcist.
The Devil Inside
The Scariest Movie Of All Time Has Returned. In The Version _You've Never Seen Before_.
Somewhere between science and superstition, there is another world. The world of darkness.
Nobody expected it, nobody believed it, and nobody could stop it. The one hope, the only hope: THE EXORCIST
The infamous stairs that Father Karras plummets down are indeed adjacent to the house, though the facade of the wing in which Regan's bedroom is located was added for the film.

Revealing Mistakes
Rubber mats are visible on the steps for the famous fall down the staircase scene.

The final scene when the family is driving off in the black Mercedes, the badge naming the type of Mercedes changes from Sxxx to a longer German word.

Revealing Mistakes
During the exorcism scene, the plasma bottle and stand are tipped over, and the nearly-full bottle smashes on the floor. No liquid comes out.

Revealing Mistakes
During the exorcism, Regan is lying on the bed with her head to one side while green vomit is pouring from her mouth onto the bed. When she turns her head to the other side, the tube that pumps this "vomit" is visible on the back of her cheek, just under her ear, which in turn is shown devoid of make-up after the pressure from the pump tube lifts the prosthetic mask away from her neck.

Revealing Mistakes
When Karras listens to the recording of possessed Regan backwards, the questions the priest asks her are heard speaking forward. The questions should be heard backwards.

Revealing Mistakes
The wire that yanks Chris (when possessed Regan smacks her to the ground) can be seen lifting the bottom of the curtain where her head lands.

Revealing Mistakes
Wires holding Regan can be clearly seen during the exorcist levitation scenes.

Crew/Equipment Visible
In the birds-eye view of the scene where Damien is running around the track before meeting the detective, there is a fly on the camera lens.

The bruise on Chris's face changes from scene to scene.

Whille recording Regan, Karras's left hand moves to start the tape recorder, but the cut-in shows him doing it with his right.

After he is vomited on, Karras looks at some drawings and holds them horizontally, but the cut-in shows him holding the drawing vertically.

When Father Karras visits his mother at her house, he removes his collar and places it edge-wise on the shelf. In the next shot, the collar is lying down at a different angle.

During the exorcism scene, the pillows underneath Regan's head disappear and then reappear.

When the clock stops, the pendulum stops on the left side of the clock-casing. When the camera cuts back to the clock the pendulum hangs to the right.

At the beginning of the exorcism, Regan's blanket is yellow. Towards the end, when Father Karras is checking her heart, the blanket is blue.

In the basement with the Ouija board, Regan is playing with a table tennis paddle and ball. She puts the ball under the paddle and rests it on the table when her mother brings the Ouija board. Clearly the ball is under the paddle as evidenced by the angle of the paddle. In the very next shot, the paddle is flat on the table and the ball has disappeared. In the next shot, the ball reappears as demonstrated by the angle of the paddle.

After the initial session of exorcism, Father Damien Karras unties Regan's wrist from the bed and ties them together. When Father Merrin returns to resume the session Regan's wrists are again tied to the bed.

Father Karras's lighter changes hands just as he is about to light a cigarette in his apartment.

When father Karras is in the dorm sitting on the bed smoking a cigarette, the priest takes the cigarette from Karras and lays him down on the bed. When father Karras sits up and grabs the priest's arm, the cigarette is still in Karras's right hand. In the next shot, the cigarette is back with the other priest.

When Father Karras first goes to visit Regan, one of the bedside tables next to her bed is gone, along with the rest of the extraneous furniture from the room; later, this bedside table is back in place, though with a different lamp than was initially on it.

The cigarette that Chris stomps out in the park is back in her hand a moment later.

At one point in the exorcism, Karras stands right at the end of the bed as it begins to thump on the floor. There's a cut to a wider shot showing this end lifting off the floor but Karras has vanished. A subsequent shot shows him still standing in that spot.

Character Error
William Peter Blatty closely modeled the exorcism scene on the actual rite of exorcism in the Church's "Rituale Romanum". Father Merrin can be seen opening a copy of the Rituale in the scene in question. However, the priests depart from the Rituale in two important details. First, there should have been four people (apart from Regan) in the room during the exorcism: the exorcist himself; an assistant priest to take over in case the exorcist died midway through; a member of the victim's family of the same sex as the victim, to help restrain her; and a doctor, to (among other things) administer any medication that was needed. Due to the "2 Priest rule", Fr Merrin should have delayed the second round of the exorcism and phoned the bishop to get a replacement for Fr Karras, instead of trying to tackle it on his own.

Once, in the Iraq sequence, the shadow of a microphone is visible on Father Merrin's hat.

Audio/Video Mismatch
When Regan insults Karras's mother, the lines don't match her mouth movements.
Rick Baker, whose first movie gig was as makeup artist Dick Smith's assistant on "The Exorcist," went on to a distinguished career in monster makeup and special effects, highlighted by his work on "An American Werewolf in London," Michael Jackson's "Thriller," Eddie Murphy's "Nutty Professor" movies, and the three "Men in Black" films.

The film was nominated for 10 Oscars, including nods for Friedkin, Burstyn, Miller, and Blair, but it won just two: Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture.

The movie was booked at first in just 26 theaters across the country. Friedkin visited every single one of them before the film's release to insure that its lighting and sound quality were up to his standards.

In order to find the perfect background score for the movie, Friedkin sought out legendary movie composer Bernard Herrmann ("Psycho"), but they couldn't agree on what the score should sound like. He hired Lalo Schifrin ("Mission: Impossible") but didn't like the overly orchestral results and fired him. Friedkin finally found the minimalist sound he wanted when he stumbled across Mike Oldfield's recording "Tubular Bells." Once the piece became known as the "Exorcist" theme, "Tubular Bells" became the first million-selling record for Richard Branson's then-new Virgin Records label.

Music producer Jack Nitzsche made the eerie sounds over the opening credits by rubbing the rim of a wine goblet. He also placed a microphone by his girlfriend, who was sleeping face-down on a sofa, then ran across the room and jumped on her back, landing on his knees. Her shrieked reaction was used as the sound of Regan projectile-vomiting.

For the voice of the demon-possessed Regan, Friedkin hired veteran Oscar-winning actress Mercedes McCambridge. She had long since quit the drinking and smoking that had given her such a distinctively raspy voice, but she started up again for the sake of her performance. She would also drink raw eggs and have herself tied to a chair, so that she could feel the restraints Regan felt when she was bound to the bed. Friedkin claims that McCambridge insisted on doing the performance without credit so as not to take away from Blair's accomplishment, but when the film opened, McCambridge complained that she'd been denied credit and threatened to sue. Warner Bros. hastily spliced her name into the credit reel.

Friedkin denies that the production was cursed, but he catalogs a lot of freaky mishaps and tragedies that occurred during the production. An unexplained fire destroyed the entire MacNeil interior set except for Regan's bedroom. Jason Miller's toddler son (future "Lost Boys" star Jason Patric) was hit by a motorbike and hospitalized. Von Sydow's brother died, and he had to take time off to return to Stockholm for the funeral. Not mentioned by Friedkin: A scene where Chris is thrown against the wall gave Burstyn a permanent back injury. MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros (Father Karras's mother), whose characters die in the film, both died after production was complete but before the movie was released.

Friedkin insisted on shooting the prologue in Iraq, where Father Merrin finds the statue of the demon Pazuzu, on location in that country. Friedkin spent more than a month there, facing such obstacles as 130-degree weather, illnesses among the crew, a thwarted government coup, a curious tribe of actual devil-worshippers, and difficulties with the key prop, the statue, which was mistakenly shipped to Australia before finding its way to Baghdad.

Friedkin had a problem with von Sydow during the scene where Father Merrin commands the demon to leave "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit," at which point Regan's bedroom ceiling cracks open. Friedkin spent three days trying to get the line reading he wanted, going through nearly 20 fake ceilings in the process. Finally, von Sydow admitted that he had trouble with the words because he himself didn't believe in God. Friedkin asked how he'd been able to play Jesus so convincingly in "The Greatest Story Ever Told." Von Sydow replied that he'd played Jesus as a man, not a god. Friedkin suggested that he play Father Merrin as a man, and though he instantly thought that was a weak bit of direction, it worked on von Sydow, who went off by himself for an hour, returned, and delivered the line with the intensity Friedkin wanted.

To play Father Dyer, Father Karras's colleague, Friedkin cast an actual Jesuit priest, Father William O'Malley. But for an emotional scene at the end of the movie, Friedkin couldn't get the performance he wanted from the amateur actor. After 20 takes, Friedkin took Father O'Malley aside, told him he loved him, then slapped his face and pushed him to his knees. He got the take he wanted.

While the exteriors for the film were shot in Georgetown, most of the shoot took place in Manhattan. The interior of the MacNeil house was a set built in a warehouse. The bedroom was its own set, built on top of a giant ball to create the pitching effect, with a hidden forklift attached to the bed to create the jumping bed effect, piano wires suspended from the ceiling for Regan's levitation, and refrigeration units that cooled the room to a frigid 30 degrees below zero for scenes showing the actors' breath.

One small but key role was the drunken beggar who accosts Father Karras in the subway -- and whose voice is later heard coming from Regan's mouth, as a demonic taunt. Friedkin's casting director found Vinny Russell, an actual New York barfly whose only known address was the White Rose Tavern. Friedkin says Russell was drunk and wearing his own clothes when they shot the scene, and was still drunk months later when they brought him back to the sound studio to re-record his one line. And that was the extent of Vinny Russell's film career.

To find Regan, the filmmakers auditioned more than a thousand girls before they met 12-year-old Linda Blair. Friedkin hired her once he was convinced that she was not only talented enough to handle the acting challenge, but well-adjusted enough to handle what would surely be a traumatic filmmaking experience for a young girl.

The model for Father Lankester Merrin was Gerald Lankester Harding, an acquaintance of Blatty's who was both priest and archaeologist; he'd been involved in the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Friedkin thought he bore a resemblance to Max von Sydow, who read the script and accepted the role immediately.

The model for Father Karras was Blatty himself, a Catholic undergoing a crisis of faith. The filmmakers signed Stacy Keach, but then they met Jason Miller, the playwright whose "That Championship Season" was about to win the Pulitzer Prize. Miller, who'd dropped out of a Catholic seminary before becoming an actor and playwright, insisted he should play the doubtful, tormented priest. He persuaded Friedkin to let him screen test with Burstyn. Friedkin was sold, and Warner Bros. was forced to buy Keach out of his contract.

The model for Chris MacNeil, Regan's film-actress mother, was Blatty's friend and "John Goldfarb" star, Shirley MacLaine. The actress expressed interest in starring in the movie, but Friedkin demurred, since she had just starred in the similar "The Possession of Joel Delaney." Audrey Hepburn was offered the role, but she didn't want to leave her home in Rome to film in America. Anne Bancroft wanted to play Chris, but she was pregnant and unavailable. Jane Fonda declined, in a profanely-worded telegram. Finally, Ellen Burstyn, then best known for her supporting role in "The Last Picture Show," insisted to Friedkin that she was right for the part. (Among other things, she was a lapsed Catholic and the mother of a teenager.) With persistence, she won the role.

Warner Bros. bought the film rights and offered it to several top directors, who all turned it down, including Stanley Kubrick, Arthur Penn, and Mike Nichols, who said he doubted he could find a 12-year-old girl who could carry the movie. Blatty, however, wanted the little-known Friedkin and threatened to announce during the author's upcoming appearance on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" that the studio wasn't letting him have the director he wanted. The studio may have relented anyway, but on the scheduled day of Blatty's "Tonight" visit, "The French Connection" opened and instantly turned Friedkin into a director in demand.

The real case that inspired William Peter Blatty's novel and screenplay was the 1949 exorcism of a 14-year-old boy, named in press accounts as "Roland Doe" or "Robbie Mannheim." The incident occurred in Washington, DC, while Blatty was a student at the city's Georgetown University. In his novel, he would change the boy to a girl, but he kept many of the reported details, including the D.C. setting, the levitating furniture, the strange words appearing on the child's body, and the guttural voice heard when the boy opened his mouth.

"The Exorcist" contained a number of special effects, engineered by makeup artist Dick Smith. In one scene from the film, Max von Sydow is actually wearing more makeup than the possessed girl (Linda Blair). This was because director Friedkin wanted some very detailed facial close-ups. When this film was made, von Sydow was 44, though he looked 74. Alan McKenzie stated in his book Hollywood Tricks of the Trade that the fact "that audiences didn't realize von Sydow was wearing makeup at all is a tribute to the skills of veteran makeup artist Dick Smith."