Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA, 1973. Warner Bros., Hoya Productions. Screenplay by William Peter Blatty, based on his novel. Cinematography by Owen Roizman. Produced by William Peter Blatty. Music by Jack Nitzsche. Production Design by Bill Malley. Costume Design by Joseph Fretwell III. Film Editing by Norman Gay, Evan A. Lottman.
Ellen Burstyn plays a single mother and movie star whose stay in Washington while filming her latest project is interrupted by her daughter coming down with strange symptoms of psychological disturbance. WRONG! She’s possessed by a demon, and mom has to get a priest to come and exorcise it before things get worse (if that’s even possible). Most of the fearfulness of this film arises from the unknown, as it offers no easy reasons or explanations for what’s going on. The back story of Father Karras (Jason Miller), the priest who examines the little girl, adds a lot of strength to the excellent script by William Peter Blatty (based on his own novel). Linda Blair is a holy terror as the unfortunate victim, while director William Friedkin gives the film an atmosphere that is always frightening but never contrived. The sound design is revolutionary for its time, still very impressive today, and the film started off the craze for gory horror films that overtook the box office charts of the next few decades. It’s also one of the earliest films to feature such multitudinous usage of the F-word (The Godfather, a year before, being another one).
Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Sound
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Actress (Ellen Burstyn); Best Supporting Actor (Jason Miller); Best Supporting Actress (Linda Blair); Best Director (William Friedkin); Best Cinematography; Best Art Direction; Best Film Editing
Golden Globe Awards: Best Picture-Drama; Best Supporting Actress (Linda Blair); Best Director (William Friedkin); Best Screenplay
Nominations: Best Actress-Drama (Ellen Burstyn); Best Supporting Actor (Max von Sydow); Most Promising Newcomer-Female (Linda Blair)