The Exorcist: Extended Director’s Cut
by Jef Burnham
Now available on Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand from Warner Home Video.
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Just in time for Halloween, this latest release of The Exorcist offers fans not only the opportunity to check out this horror classic for the first time in full 1080p HD, but the chance to glimpse 10 minutes of additional footage, restored under the guidance of director William Friedkin himself. But was this footage restored for the benefit of the film or simply to make a quick buck?
The 2000 release of The Version You’ve Never Seen boasted a small fraction of the additional material found in the Director’s Cut, and although (or perhaps because) the changes to the film in 2000 were so minor, I found the version to have significant merit. The reinsertion of the spider-walk scene and a brief exchange between Merrin and Karras outside Regan’s room deepened both the horror and theological resonance of the film in ways that greatly advantaged the overall effect of the piece.
So, to see another extended version being released a mere 10 years later was somewhat perplexing and exciting all at once. If the additions on this go-around were up to par with those of The Version You’ve Never Seen, the release would be quite the Halloween treat. Unfortunately, much of the footage restored for the Director’s Cut had been correctly exorcised from the initial 1973 release. It amounts to little more than padding, unnecessarily extending certain sequences (the one leading up to the exorcism itself, in particular) to the detriment of the picture’s near flawless pacing. The most noticeable of additions in the Director’s Cut is also quite possibly the most unnecessary. The film now opens with a series of shots establishing the MacNeil house before we move on to Father Merrin’s archeological dig in the desert, as though the house itself were somehow more ominous than Merrin’s encounters with demonic iconography (which it isn’t).
As a result, even though the DVD release of the Director’s Cut includes an all-new commentary with Friedkin and digitally remastered picture, it simply is not worth the purchase. So if you already own the original Special Edition DVD or the Version You’ve Never Seen, stick with that. UNLESS your system is Blu-ray capable, in which case the full HD transfer of the original theatrical release included on the Blu-ray (which I admittedly have not had the opportunity to check out yet) should be pretty spectacular.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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