After Warner Home Videoís superb DVD release to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of THE EXORCIST, I didnít think that they would be revisiting the title so soon. However, it may be due to the 25th Anniversary video release of the film that director William Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty decided to offer THE EXORCIST: THE VERSION YOUíVE NEVER SEEN ($25) to fans of this landmark horror film. The 25th Anniversary release documented some changes that Blatty had wanted made to Friedkinís theatrical cut of the film. Obviously, time has made Friedkin agreeable to those changes, as well as giving the director himself to make some additional modifications to the film itself.
THE EXORCIST: THE VERSION YOUíVE NEVER SEEN is 11 minutes longer than the original theatrical cut and includes a number of very good scenes that flesh out the characters even further, as well as adding important details to the escalating horror. This new cut of the film also incorporates the legendary "spider walk" sequence that was only available as a supplement on the 25th Anniversary DVD. There are also a few new digital effects added to the film, but they really donít change the impact of Friedkinís original vision. A detailed analysis of the original cut of THE EXORCIST is available as part of the review for the 25th Anniversary Edition DVD.
For those of you who may have never experienced this horror masterpiece, THE EXORCIST tells a fictionalized story of demonic possession that writer William Peter Blatty based on an actual exorcism that occurred in 1949. In writing his novel and screenplay, Blatty reshaped the actual events, however THE EXORCIST remains the most realistic and genuinely frightening depiction of true evil that has ever appeared on a motion picture screen. THE EXORCIST tells the story of a pre-teen girl named Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), who begins to exhibit strange behavior that the doctors attribute to an undefined neurological disorder or some form of mental illness. Unfortunately, the doctors are unable to determine the cause of Reganís malady, even after a battery of invasive tests. Perplexed, the doctors suggest to Reganís mother (Ellen Burstyn) that she should investigate having a ritual exorcism perform on Regan, since the doctors feel that it may be the only thing capable of curing the girl of the psychological demons that plague her. Desperate to save her daughter, Chris contacts Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), who is a psychologist, in addition to being a cleric. As a man of science, as well as being a man of God, Father Karras is naturally skeptical about a genuine case of demonic possession. However, after examining all the evidence, including Regan, Father Karras become convinced that an exorcism is necessary to save the girl. Since Karras has never performed an exorcism, church superiors send the experienced Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) to lead the exorcism. The cast of THE EXORCIST also features Lee J. Cobb as police Lt. William Kinderman and Mercedes McCambridge as the voice of the demon.
Warner Home Video brings THE EXORCIST: THE VERSION YOUíVE NEVER SEEN to DVD in a terrific looking wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. THE EXORCIST: THE VERSION YOUíVE NEVER SEEN is framed at 1.78:1 and all of the compositions appear correctly balanced. Occasional film grain can be seen in the same places where it was present in previous releases of THE EXORCIST. However, the film grain isnít quite as noticeable in this presentation, as it was in the past. The image on the DVD is usually quite sharp and well defined; although there a few shots that appear a tad soft. Color reproduction is excellent for a film from 1973, with the majority of the hues on this DVD appearing rich and vibrant. Flesh tones look natural, plus the warm oranges and cold blues are especially well rendered by the new transfer. There are no signs of chromatic distortion on the DVD, nor do the more intense hues display any traces of smearing. Digital compression artifacts are well concealed by first rate DVD authoring.
The true highlight of the DVD is the new Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that was created for the filmís theatrical reissue. This new soundtrack has been designed for 6.1 EX playback and takes advantage of a rear center channel, for those with compatible systems. The mix is aggressive and highly direction, with a whole lot of activity in the rear soundstage, as well as the front. Some new sound effects have been incorporated into the mix and these enhancements are very effective. Additional directionality has been implemented on older sonic elements, with these changes working well to bring the track close to the level of todayís sound mixes. Dialogue reproduction is very crisp and uniform, even though a lot of dubbing was required to add the voice of the demon to the filmís original soundtrack. Frequency response is somewhat shy of new recordings and I did notice a slight bit of distortion in one piece of music mixed into the rear channels. The bass channel is fairly strong for a film over a quarter of a century old. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles.
The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras (note: the 25th Anniversary DVD contains a wealth of supplements, which are not offered on this disc). Director William Friedkin has recorded a new running audio commentary for THE EXORCIST: THE VERSION YOUíVE NEVER SEEN, however his interesting and insightful talk never sheds any light as to why he finally made the changes to the film the author Blatty had wanted. Other extras include a cast listing, four TV spots, two radio spots, two theatrical trailers and various production notes.
THE EXORCIST remains one of the most significant horror movies of all time and this motion picture belongs in the library of every genre fan. However, I am not in a position to say that THE EXORCIST: THE VERSION YOUíVE NEVER SEEN is better than the original theatrical cut of the film. Therefore, I am recommending that fans supplement the wonderful 25th Anniversary DVD release of THE EXORCIST with THE VERSION YOUíVE NEVER SEEN. Both DVDs come highly recommended.
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