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The Exorcist III – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Exorcist-IIIThe Exorcist II: The Heretic proved that even the worst of sequels cannot effectively kill a franchise.  One of the most reviled follow ups of all time, the John Boorman film hardly sees a unironic form of praise anywhere across the criticism community.  But, it always finds its place in bizarre or worst sequel lists.  While it took some years to follow, a third film in the Exorcist lore came at the hands of its creator. William Peter Blatty adapted his book Legion, which he originally intended as an Exorcist follow up, to become this third film.  Said film ran into some head butting and famous reshoots, covering up a different original intention of the film that fans have been clamoring to see for years since its release.  Now, Scream Factory has put together a composite version from VHS dailies mixed with scenes from the theatrical version in this souped up collector’s edition of the Exorcist sequel that many are fond of.

 

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Film 

For more than fifteen years Police Lieutenant Kinderman has been haunted by the death of his friend Father Damien Karras. Now, on the 15th anniversary of the exorcism that claimed the priest’s life, Kinderman’s world is once again shattered when a boy is found decapitated and savagely crucified. It’s just the beginning of a nightmare series of bizarre religious murders.  The brutal murders bear the hallmarks of the infamous Gemini Killer… who died in the electric chair fifteen years ago. But when a psychopath claiming to be the Gemini Killer reveals intimate, gruesome details that only the true killer could possibly know, Kinderman is confronted with a horrifying truth that he cannot begin to explain… and that will shake him to his core.  

Before this new director’s cut debuted on this release, I was already a big fan of The Exorcist III.  I really like the theatrical cut.  So it will only be gravy and preaching to the converted.  This third Exorcist film takes a the perfect angle to follow up the original film and feels like the perfect companion to it.  Yes, there was a forced exorcism due to a studio mandate, but to me I had always felt like that was supposed to be there…and yeah…the film has Exorcist in the title, so you kinda expect one.  Its a haunting venture in similar and unique ways to the original film that features some all-time great scares and performances for horror.

Aside from a brief return from Jason Miller, this whole cast is brand new with two characters returning played by new actors.  However, the writing, acting and chemistry is so strong between George C. Scott and Ed Flanders is so strong that you feel like you are truly watching the exact same characters and actors from the original film.  There’s a sense of familiarity from both the written and spoken word that feels as if we have picked up right where we left off at the end of the first film.  With the focus being these two, there is a sense of warmth and humor in their scenes that weren’t in the original film that this sorta has over it.  Scott goes a bit too big in some moments, but overall he’s quite compelling.

The best performance in the film and one that severely is hacked in the theatrical cut is Brad Dourif.  This may be his career best (At least Top 3).  He’s fully committed to his insanity, multiple personalities and being taken over and possessed.  In the Legion cut of the film, there is even more of him (No Jason Miller, even though his credit carries over because of the use of theatrical footage).  In that version, Dourif absolutely tears through and impresses with multiple monologues that feature a range of compassion, rage and utter insanity.  Had the original cut stuck, and this was probably never going to happen due to this being a genre sequel, he ABSOLUTELY should have been a lock for an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor.  It also could have been a massive breakout role for him.  Now, you get to see what we missed in what was already an impressive and talked about (among horror fans) performance.

William Peter Blatty is no William Friedkin, but hell if he doesn’t have his own sense of style and flare.  The Exorcist is a freakin’ scary movie.  Every corner of this thing looms with a sense of fear.  Blatty brings a fearful sense of loneliness and haunts to every environment in this movie.  Especially that damn hospital.  A highlight also comes in the form of a dream sequence that randomly features Patrick Ewing, Samuel L. Jackson and Fabio (I’ll just mention Larry King has a cameo in this film as well).  The claim to fame on this movie also is that Blatty crafted one of the greatest jump scares in cinema history.  Its noted by artwork on the box, but that damn nurse with the surgical scissors gets me damn near every time.  And it was done au naturale too.  If there was one thing most horror fans could agree with on this film, its that moment right there.  But there are so many more moments that work as well.  This is a very scary movie that has a unique and adult feel to it.

The Exorcist III: Legion, as its called on this release, is an interesting venture to finally see this intended cut of Blatty’s film.  After seeing it, I’ll call it a draw between the versions as I said I was always a fan of the theatrical cut anyway.  The theatrical is a bit more popcorn friendly.  This Legion cut features a lot more personal and dramatic story.  There is a lot more dialogue and “talkie” scenes with a more personal, low key ending to the film.  And I’m not going to lie, I can totally understand and see where the studio suits were coming from in wanting something else from the finale of this film.  When I watched this cut, it ended and I was sort of like “Oh, that’s it”.  Not a bad thing, just being used to the big ending it previously had, this felt very minuscule in the most opposite direction there could be.  This cut is fine though, and highly enjoyable, especially if you’re a fan of the film who’s been seeking it for years.

William Peter Blatty’s directed sequel to The Exorcist is easily its best follow up and terrific horror film in it is own right.  A film that has aged very well and is one that is a constant source of reappraisal, yet it still feels so unseen and underground even though it has attachment to what is considered to be the greatest horror film ever made.  No, its not holding a candle to the original, but it doesn’t need to.  Its still heads and shoulders above other horror movies of that time and of the same subject matter.  Its a high recommend for me, and a film I always look forward to revisiting at this time of year.  I’ll take that forced exorcism any time of the year over James Earl Jones riding on the back of a fly any day.
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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Scream Factory brings Exorcist III to Blu-ray for the second time with a brand new 2K scan of the interpositive.  This image is immediately better than the previous release from Warner Bros.  That one looked sort of washed out and just not impressive.  This one features a much more full image, richer in color and detail.  Whereas the other one looked thin, this feels lively, thicker and full  The image doesn’t feel or look overly sharpened, with a bit of natural softness to it.  With the director’s cut, there are inserts from dailies that have a VHS source.  It hasn’t been cropped or reformatted either as it displays in 4×3.  They are what they are, and the darker the scene the lesser the image.  But, you can still make out what’s going on and its honestly better than nothing, and its commendable that they used what they could.

Depth:  Some solid dimensional work on here in this 2K scan.  Actors move smoothly and freely through their environments.  During the end sequence of the exorcism, there is a loose and freeness making the background feel a bit deeper with the characters floating in it.  Background imagery features some solid detail work.

Black Levels: Blacks look quite good on this new transfer.  They are rich and still manage to bring across solid detail.  Fuzzies on George C Scott’s jacket still manage to show.  During sequences in the loony wing, shadows and darkness look quite grisly.  You can still make out rain drops and such, impressively as well.  Patterns, fabrics and textures on dark clothing, surfaces and hair come through still.  No crushing was witnessed during the viewing for this review.

Color Reproduction:  Colors come on very bold and look really rich with a nice varied palette.  Many different hues and tints go good in this new transfer.  Blood looks very good as a bit of a stand out. Make up effects show good different colors and mixtures with every bit of the shades and tints of the coloring.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are now more lifelike looking and natural with a consistent appearance throughout. In medium and closeup shots unveil special effects makeup detail, sweat, spit, wrinkles, dried blood, stubble and many gruesome effects.

Noise/Artifacts:  There is a nice layer of grain on what looks to be an interpositive that has been kept in very good shape.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA (Theatrical Cut only), English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  The Exorcist III comes with the same track and mix that the previous edition had.  Really, the 2.0 track for this one is probably the best, even though the 5.1 is very solid.  There’s just not a huge 5.1 experience (Its effective, don’t get me wrong) that is aching to be blasting.  For the Legion cut of the film, the movie shifts to VHS dailies and the audio does take a bit of a shift.  But, surprisingly, the shift isn’t that big of one and the audio, while noticeably analog is clear and sharp while carrying a bit of a very faint hiss on it.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  The subwoofer is a good player when it comes to scoring hits and demonic rumblings.  Things crashing or breaking through walls and doorways are giving a little bit of bump.  Some of the music finds benefit as well. This is on the lighter end of pouncing but its not overbearing and plays well with the rest of the sound that it is mixed with.

Surround Sound Presentation:  On the theatrical cut, the haunting ambiance tip toes its way around the rear speakers, providing an extra bit of spook.  During some action bits, namely the exorcism in the finale, they get their own bits of unique audio with which to pounce.  Front channels accurately follow movements back and forth and down the stairs if you know what I mean.  Distances, loudness and the travelling of sound go in the correct volumes and directions.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp and clean.  George C. Scott’s harsh screaming in some parts really gets as close to you can without peaking.  The VHS footage’s audio actually finds itself in really good shape, not differing too much when it shifts over.

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Extras 

The Exorcist III – Collector’s Edition is a 2-Blu-ray Disc set that features reversible cover art displaying the original poster design.  The first disc contains the theatrical cut of the film and disc 2 houses the Director’s cut which is a composite of scenes from the theatrical cut and a VHS of dailies.

Disc 1

Vintage Featurette (SD, 7:13) – Feels like a press kit making of featuring narration with on set footage with interviews from Blatty and Scott.

Photo Galleries

  • Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery (HD, 3:37) 
  • Posters & Lobby Cards Photo Gallery (HD, 5:45) 
  • Still Gallery (HD, 4:07) 

Trailers (SD, 3:10) – Includes a teaser with “Legion” as the subtitle.

TV Spots (SD, 2:25) 

Deleted Scene, Alternate Takes and Bloopers (SD/HD, 5:44) – A “Happy Birthday” singing to a kid with a creepy clown, an alternative scene for the confessional kill, some alternate angles on the big jump scare moment, and bloopers.

Deleted Prologue (HD, 2:44)

Vintage Interviews (SD/HD, 38:35) – Full interview segments from the Vintage Featurette that includes Blatty, George C Scott, Ed Flanders, Grand L Bush, Jason Miller producer James Robinson, Larry King and a few others.  Those are all standard definition, but there are stills and footage from the film thrown in that are in HD.

Disc 2

Audio Interview With Director/Writer William Peter Blatty – This plays over the film like a commentary, and it is full length.  Michael Felscher sits down with the author/director and goes over the production of the third film as well as covering the first film, books, faith and more with the topics.

Death, Be Not Proud: The Making of “The Exorcist III” – A 5-part making of documentary from Red Shirt pictures.  It starts with a kind of general retrospective (“Wonderfull” Time) and then leads on into more individualized and expansion interviews with different key people in the production.

  • A “Wonderfull” Time (HD, 24:30) – This is the full group of people, with production designers, producers, Brad Dourif and a couple other actors (Tracy Thorne, Clifford David).  They all discuss The Exorcist, their thoughts on The Heretic (Dourif’s blunt opinion is HILARIOUS) and their work on the film.
  • Signs of the Gemini (HD, 17:42) – One person interview with Brad Dourif on his role in the film.  He goes over a bit of his process as well. Dourif is true, honest and discusses Jason Miller, the reshoots and how he’s disappointed that the original cut of the film wasn’t the final one.
  • The Devil in the Details (HD, 18:03) – The production designers and those who helped bring the film’s look to life go over their experiences with their personal work on the film. Funny to find out at one time when some of them were brought on, the film was being called “The Exorcist: 15 Years Later”.  If only we could have had The Exorcist E20.  It also touches on some visual effects shots (Lady crawling on the ceiling), too.
  • Music For a Padded Cell (HD, 15:16) – An interview with the film’s composer Barry DeVorzon. He speaks of Blatty trying to give him the opportunity to score the original Exorcist but being shot down by Friedkin.  The composer takes a look back at the soundscapes he came up with for the film and also touches a little on the headbutting with Blatty and the studios and how it affected him.
  • All This Bleeding (HD, 28:49) – Everyone involved with the reshoots of the ending, including Jason Miller’s body double, the editor and second unit production tell the story of the studio demanding this change and what it was like to shoot it.  Unlike previously on this documentary, these guys are very positive about this portion of the film.

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Summary 

The Exorcist III isn’t just a terrific follow up to The Exorcist, its a solid horror film standing by itself.  One of the best horror films of the 1990s even.  For years, fans like myself have been waiting to just get some solid bonus material on a release as well as a peak at the long sought after director’s cut.  Now, here we are, pinching ourselves that this has finally happened.  It looks and sounds great, and this Legion director’s cut is an interesting piece of history to get to see.  Fans are going to love this release.  It feels special and its nice to see this sort of forgotten sequel finally get its due.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “The Exorcist III – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Jacob

    How substantial is the difference between the director’s cut and theatrical version? Like, what percentage is VHS dailies (eg, “new material”) if you had to put a number on it? Reading the reviews it’s hard to tell if we are talking about just a handful of scenes or the majority of the picture.

  2. Brandon Peters

    A lot of it is the final act, which is very substantial. There are also many scenes with Brad Dourif (Jason Miller is absent).

    There are also little dialogue bits (More movie banter between Kinderman and Dyer) and scene extensions that don’t really add much overall but are fun to have.