Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has officially announced the addition of The Exorcist: 40th Anniversary Edition to their upcoming slate of Blu-ray releases. The film was directed by William Friedkin and is based on the novel by William Peter Blatty. The classic horror film starred Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair, Jason Miller, and Lee J. Cobb. The new Anniversary Edition will be available in stores beginning on October 8th and will include the film’s Extended Director’s Cut and Theatrical Version, and offers two new featurettes — “Beyond Comprehension: William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist” and “Talk of the Devil” — as well as an excerpt from Friedkin’s book, “The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir.”
The Exorcist tells the now-famous story of a girl’s demonic possession, and a gripping fight between good and evil. Linda Blair, in a breakout role, plays Regan, a young girl who starts to exhibit strange, arcane behavior. Her mother (Burstyn) calls upon a priest, Father Karras (Miller) to investigate. But Karras, who has a spiritual crisis of his own, is suddenly confronted with the unimaginable evil of Regan’s possession. Father Lankester Merrin (Von Sydow), an archeologist-priest, is called to help, and a horrific battle for her soul begins.
When The Exorcist was first released in 1973, viewers were frightened out of their wits, and literally out of their seats. A true cinema landmark, the theological thriller is one of the top ten box-office performers of all time, earned ten Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture) and won two Oscars, for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound. Subsequently, the film went on to become a multi-million dollar franchise. Directed by Friedkin (Oscar-winner for The French Connection) and written by William Peter Blatty, the film is based on Blatty’s best-selling novel, which sold nearly 13 million copies domestically and was the #1 book on the New York Times Best Seller List for 57 weeks, 17 of them at #1.
Regarding the Extended Director’s Cut, Friedkin says, “After my final cut of the original The Exorcist, I took out 12 more minutes before we actually released it in theatres. Years later, Bill Blatty asked if I’d consider reviewing some of that rejected footage (which he always felt should have remained) with an eye towards putting it into a new version. Bill gave me the best piece of material I’ve ever received and because of that and because the film had such a major reputation over some 25 years, I agreed to revisit all these scenes. When I saw them, I came to realize that Bill was, in fact, right. With technical advances, scenes that didn’t work then could now be fixed with CGI and there were others that I thought strengthened the spiritual aspect of the film. Warner agreed and released a whole new theatrical print in 2000 which we called The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen. And I now agree with Blatty that this is the best and most complete version.”
Friedkin’s new book, “The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir,” recently published by HarperCollins, extensively discusses the background and casting of The Exorcist. The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films will honor Friedkin this month with their Lifetime Achievement Award for his continually influential work in genre entertainment at this year’s Saturn Awards. In August, Friedkin will receive the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 70th Venice International Film Festival, where he will present the restored version of Warner Bros.’ Sorcerer. And Friedkin and author Blatty will attend a special 40th Anniversary screening of their film at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. on October 30. The film will also have an exclusive theatrical engagement October 31 through November 7th at the AMC Georgetown.
Tech specs for the 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray have yet to be revealed. Extras include:
New Special Features
- Beyond Comprehension: William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist: 40 years after his novel was published, The Exorcist author, screenwriter and producer returns to where it all began. First stop is a cabin/guest house in the hills of Encino, California, where Blatty wrote the novel. The author visits the place for the first time in 40 years and shares not only memories of writing the book, but also discusses how it inspired him. We then meet Blatty in two key and iconic locations; Georgetown University where the film was shot, and at the now-famous Exorcist steps. Throughout, Blatty reads from his novel, including an excerpt from a chilling newly published passage.
- Talk of the Devil: While at Georgetown University, William Peter Blatty heard about a true case of possession from Father Eugene Gallagher. At the time the film came out, the priest talked at length about exorcism, the true story and about Blatty; this footage is now available for the first time in many years. It is as revealing as it is shocking.
Other Special Features
- Introduction by William Friedkin
- Two Audio Commentaries with William Friedkin
- Audio Commentary with William Peter Blatty
- The Fear of God: 25 Years of the Exorcist (1998 BBC Documentary)
- Raising Hell: Filming The Exorcist
- The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now
- Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of The Exorcist
- Interviews: The Original Cut, Stairway to Heaven, The Final Reckoning
- Sketches & Storyboards
- Original Ending
- Radio Spots
- TV Spots