Streaming Film Review: “Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on ‘The Exorcist'”

  • LEAP OF FAITH:  WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ON “THE EXORCIST”
  • Starring:  William Friedkin
  • Directed by: Alexandre O. Philippe
  • Rated:  Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 44 mins
  • Exhibit A Pictures

What is a perfect film?  To me, it is a film that, when you’ve watched it and absorbed what you’ve seen, you can’t find any fault with it.  Not a false note, not a frame you would change.  Perfect films are rare and the list is short.  “Citizen Kane…”  “The Godfather…”  “Chinatown…” and the most terrifying film I’ve seen in my 60 years on Earth, William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist.”  The new documentary, “Leap of Faith: William Friendkin on ‘The Exorcist’,” which airs exclusively beginning November 19 on the Shudder streaming service, takes you on an amazing journey into the making of the film, with the film’s director as your tour guide.

In Mr. Friedkin’s opinion, the majority of religious-themed films from Hollywood  were “sappy.”  Films like “The Ten Commandments”  and “King of Kings” treated God as being “magic.”  To Friedkin, only the 1955 Dutch film “Ordet” really approached religion – the mystery of faith” – in a truthful way.  Friedkin also believe it was fate that put together all of the pieces that became “The Exorcist.” 

We learn how he came to read the novel and how he worked with the book’s author, William Peter Blatty, to bring the book he wrote to the screen.  Friedkin remarks that Blatty’s script for the film omitted key parts in the novel that Friedkin felt were essential to the story.  Friedkin also reveals that several directors, including Stanley Kubrick and Arthur Penn, turned the film down before he was offered the job.  And while I knew that several actors, including Roy Scheider, had begged for the pivotal role of Father Damien Karras, Stacy Keach was actually hired for the part until Jason Miller pleaded with Friedkin for a chance to test for the role.  As much as I love Stacy Keach, when you watch “The Exorcist” now can you see anyone else in the role of Father Karras? 

Director Friedkin confers on-set with Jason Miller and Ellen Burstyn.

“Leap of Faith” contains some amazing archival footage, including footage featuring a possessed Linda Blair speaking with her own voice.  It’s disturbing enough  to hear a 12-year old girl utter the vile dialogue in the gravelly voice of a demon but when you hear those words uttered in Blair’s own soft voice it’s downright chilling.

As “Leap of Faith” progresses you can’t help but think that this is what it must be like to have Da Vinci describe how he created the Mona Lisa.  Nothing is left unmentioned, including a discussion on the many conclusions that moviegoers and critics have drawn from the ending of the film.  To Friedkin, the ending is the film’s only flaw, one he feels he did not fully explain.  Flaw?  Not in my mind.  It’s perfect!

“The Exorcist” 40th Anniversary Extended Director’s Cut Blu-ray Streets October 8th

THE EXORCIST CELEBRATES 40THANNIVERSARY OCTOBER 8

Blu-ray Includes the Extended Director’s Cut, Theatrical Version  with New Special Features and Premiums

Burbank, Calif. June 20, 2013 – When The Exorcist was first released in 1973, viewers were frightened out of their wits – and literally out of their seats. Now Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Academy Award® winning director William Friedkin’s suspense masterpiece that haunted and intrigued the world, with a new Blu-ray release featuring the Extended Director’s Cut and Theatrical Version with new special features and premiums ($49.99 SRP). Available October 8, just ahead of Halloween, this 40th Anniversary Edition will include 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.

A true cinema landmark, the theological thriller is one of the top ten box-office performers of all time.* The Exorcist took 10 Academy Award® nominations[i], including Best Picture, and won two Oscars®[ii], for Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as winning for Best Sound. Subsequently, the film went on to become a multi-million dollar franchise. Directed by Friedkin (Oscar®-winner for The French Connection – Directing 1971) and written by William Peter Blatty, the film is based on his 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 initial cut, I took out 12 more minutes before we released it in theatres. Years later, Bill Blatty asked if I’d review some of that rejected footage (which he always felt should have remained) with an eye towards putting it back in a new version. In so doing I believe we strengthened the spiritual aspect of the film.”

Celebrated for his directorial role in this seminal film, Friedkin is still very much in the limelight. His 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.

Synopsis

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 (Ellen Burstyn, Oscarâ-winner for Best Actress Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) calls upon a priest, Father Karras (Jason 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 (Max Von Sydow), an archeologist-priest, is called to help, and a horrific battle for her soul begins.

Special Features:

  • Beyond Comprehension: William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist (NEW) 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 Exorciststeps. Throughout, Blatty reads from his novel, including an excerpt from a chilling newly published passage.
  • Talk of the Devil (NEW) – 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.
  • Two Commentaries by William Friedkin
  • Commentary by William Peter Blatty
  • Introduction by William Friedkin
  • 1998 BBC Documentary “The Fear of God: 25 Years of the Exorcist”
  • Raising Hell: Filming the Exorcist Set footage produced and photographed by Owen Roizman, camera and makeup tests, and interviews with director William Friedkin, actress Linda Blair, author/screenwriter/producer William Peter Blatty and Owen Roizman.
  • The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now — Featuring a tour of the iconic locations where the film was shot.
  • Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of The Exorcist — with director William Friedkin and author/screenwriter/producer William Peter Blatty discussing the different versions of the film and featuring outtakes from the film.
  • Original Ending
  • Interviews

o   The Original Cut

o   Stairway to Heaven

o   The Final Reckoning

  • Sketches & Storyboards
  • Radio Spots
  • TV Spots
  • Trailers

Premium:

Excerpt of The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir

 The Exorcist 40th Anniversary Extended Director’s Cut Blu-ray™

Street Date: October 8, 2013

Order Due Date: September 3, 2013

Rated R

Run Time: 132min (Extended Director’s Cut)

122 (Theatrical Version)

Pricing: $49.99 SRP