“Mr. Blatty made his movie, and we’re not happy with it”
William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist III, a film that has grown into cult status as a true sequel to the original 1973 masterpiece was a troubled production which ended up being a very different movie than its writer/director intended. All of that changed when Scream Factory commissioned a newly constructed “Director’s Cut” that tried to reintegrate many alternate scenes that were cut after studio heads at Morgan Creek saw Blatty’s original cut.
For the uninitiated here is a little background on The Exorcist III: Hot off the heels of the author’s original novel being turned into one of cinema’s defining blockbuster phenomenon, Blatty set out to write a spiritual sequel as a way to cleanse any problems he had with William Friedkin’s original movie, as well as the universally panned sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic. Blatty wrote the book Legion (and the new Director’s cut restores the film’s original title to just that), which follows Det. William Kinderman (played by the legendary George C. Scott), a character from the original Exorcist (played by another legend, Lee J. Cobb), trying to solve a series of new murders that may have a connection to an exorcism (and serial killer) from years ago. Morgan Creek, the studio producing the film ultimately stepped in after Blatty turned in a more theological thriller in the vein of a murder-mystery. A murder mystery filled with evil, but never explicitly displaying it visually. So out came the last third of the film and a $4 million dollar re-shoot was demanded, one complete with an explosive, special-effects-laden exorcism scene and the addition of a priest.
Among a certain sub-section of horror fans this theatrical version of The Exorcist III was all they’ve known; the one they made a cult film; one reevaluated over the years, with still one of the best jump scares of all time. The film not only has George C. Scott but even more memorable performance by Brad Dourif as the imprisoned, possessed serial murderer, the Gemini killer. It was always the notion that this director’s cut was collecting dust somewhere; never to be seen by fans or the public at large, like some kind of Magnificent Ambersons‘ horror oddity.
Turns out in the version you find in Scream Factory’s Blu-ray utilized old VHS prints of original production copies and constructed it as close to Blatty’s original as they could. What we get is definitely a tonally different kind of film, much less showy, and delivering an ending closer to Blatty’s original intentions, but one that many will state is rather anti-climatic. That would be an incredible injustice to say the film’s newly constructed print is a letdown but it does come as a small disappointment to many when they see the diminished quality of the re-inserted shots on the Director’s Cut disc. The difference in the 2K master with the VHS (full-frame) inserts are incredibly drastic. It does restore a lot of Brad Dourif’s original (and what he, and many, consider his better) performance, and keeps out all bits of an exorcism angle and ferocious nightmare imagery.
The original theatrical cut plays with a 2K master and will deliver an excellent presentation for home viewing so rest assured that it’s a treasure of a package for not only fans of this truly scary and successful sequel, but horror fans at large. It’s a great addition to your media library and comes complete with a newly designed cover artwork. Viewers may have to take a grain of salt while watching the Director’s Cut for the first time, this still comes with a slew of fascinating supplemental material and a fine digital transfer of the original cut, with commentary by William Peter Blatty.
Scream Factory’s team producer Cliff MacMillan has gone on record saying that Blatty was very happy with this version of The Exorcist III, so in the end the film “Mr. Blatty made” finally gets to see the light of day, just shortly before the famed author passed away in January 2017.
You may find yourself watching both versions with equal fervor as they really do satisfy two different moods. It really depends on what you’re in the mood for High Horror or theological mystery.
Images: Shout Factory, Warner Bros., Morgan Creek