Blu-ray Review: Exorcist III (Collector’s Edition)

Contrary to what critics say, The Exorcist II: The Heretic is not one of the worst films ever. It’s only 75% of the worst film ever. The flashback to Father Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow) in Africa having to exorcise a young boy should have been expanded out to the whole film. But the producers had to bring back Linda Blair and throw in an over the top foolish modern angle. The clunky move to create a sequel when one wasn’t necessary diminished the impact and legacy of The Exorcist for a time. One person who was horrified by the sequel was William Peter Blatty, the writer of the original book and producer/screenwriter of the movie. This was his baby and studio executives had her possessed by a horrible script. He set about reclaiming The Exorcist. In 1983, Blatty’s novel Dominion was published. It brought back Lieutenant Kinderman, a minor character who knew Father Karras in the original. A few years later, Blatty was given the chance to adapt his book to the screen not only as writer, but director. However the studio had to meddle in the production and forced Blatty to amp up elements. The Exorcist III: Collector’s Edition now gives Blatty a chance to show his original intention along with the theatrical cut.

A crew rows down a river in Georgetown as several helicopters begin to search the water. Nearby at a boathouse the police surround a covered body. Lt. William F. Kinderman (Patton‘s George C. Scott) arrives on the crime scene for what is a horrific murder. The body has been nailed to oars in a cross patter and beheaded. He senses this has something to do with the Gemini Killer which people swear was killed. Kinderman’s detectives aren’t happy at bringing back a notorious serial killer, but the boss won’t take any guff. This is anniversary of Father Karras (Jason Miller) and Kinderman goes to see It’s A Wonderful Life with Father Dyer (St. Elsewhere‘s Ed Flanders). They were both friends with Karras. After the film, they talk of their pal and the cop discusses the morning’s homicide victim. The next victim of the decapitation murderer is a priest taking confession. Later Father Dyer ends up in the hospital for a mild health issue. Kinderman drops by to cheer up his pal. The next day, Kinderman has to report to the hospital for business. Turns out someone has killed Father Dryer by bleeding him out and cutting off his head. Kinderman feels that the serial killer is working out of the hospital. He has the place locked down. He investigates the part of the hospital that houses patients that are dealing with senility and other mental illness requires patients to be kept secured. While peeking through the door of a padded room, Kinderman swears he sees a familiar face. Can this be the key to discovering the real killer?

The film had a bit of a controversy when the producers took away the film from Blatty after his cut. They did quite a few new scenes to jazz up the Satanic angle. The good news is that after nearly three decades, viewers have a chance to see what Blatty intended to put on the screen which was closer to his novel Dominion. Unfortunately, not all the missing footage from Blatty’s version could be found on 35mm. The Director’s Cut features scenes transferred off a videotape made during post-production. This allows viewers a chance to grasp what was edited away since the resolution drops and aspect ratio turns full frame. The first big difference between two cuts is that Father Paul Morning (Nicol Williamson) is missing from Blatty’s version of events. Father Paul is so awkwardly forced into the movie that he’s like a CGI character inserted into a special edition Star Wars scene. Raymond Burr looked like an original cast member of Godzilla compared to this priest. But it’s easy to see why the producers and studio executives created Father Paul. They demanded Exorcist in the title yet Blatty’s cut has no exorcist on the screen. The second big difference is the confrontation between Kinderman and the mystery patient. The director’s cut features a lot more Brad Dourif with just a touch of Jason Miller. The producers wanted more Miller since they were selling a sequel. Their final battle is harsh and quick in Blatty’s cut. The producers go overboard in special effects and theatrics. Blatty’s version sticks to a harsh meeting. A lot of Brad Dourif’s best moments are restored including all the footage shot on the East Coast version of the cell. Fans of Dourif shall be elated.

Blatty created Dominion/Exorcist III to be the real sequel to his masterpiece. Now he finally gets a chance to show what he did. Blatty’s version sticks to the world he created and doesn’t become a massive Broadway spectacular tribute to facing off with Satan. George C. Scott’s character is true to himself when he goes too far at the end.

Either cut of Exorcist III is much better than Exorcist II: The Heretic. Everything referenced here is back to the original movie which is must see viewing. The greatest trick Blatty ever pulled was convincing the world that Exorcist II: The Heretic didn’t exist.

The videos is 1.85:1. The transfer on the theatrical version is sharp. The Director’s cut mixes the new transfer with videotape of the missing scenes. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD MA so you can have the creepy possession sounds wrapped around your entertainment room. There’s also a 2.0 DTS-HD MA of the original audio mix. The movie is subtitled.

Vintage Featurette (7:13) reminds us that the original Exorcist was a massive hit. Sets up up for III without a single mention of II.

Deleted Scene/Alternate Takes/Bloopers (5:44) includes a clown birthday scene, the murder weapon in the confessional, “ghost killer” in the hospital and a flub.

Deleted Prologue (2:44) is high contrast footage of the staircase from The Exorcist and checking to see if someone is truly dead. .

Vintage Interviews (38:35) includes time with writer/Director William Peter Blatty, George C. Scott, Jason Miller, Ed Flanders, Grand L. Bush, Executive Producer James G. Robinson, Production Designer Leslie Dilley, Larry King And C. Everett Koop. Larry King looks so youthful. Blatty is being interviewed in front of the movie studio in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Theatrical Trailers (3:10) takes up back 17 years to the fears of the original.

TV Spots (2:25) lets us know the creator is back with a new terror. They do give away a major plot point.

Photo Galleries includes Behind-the-Scenes photos, posters, lobby cards and stills.

Audio Interview With Writer/Director William Peter Blatty runs over the movie footage. This isn’t screen specific.

A “Wonderfull” Time (24:30) interviews With Producer Carter DeHaven, Actors Clifford David And Tracy Thorne And Production Assistant Kara Reidy, They discuss the impact of the original film. A lot of the people who worked behind the scenes on III weren’t old enough to see it in a theater.

Signs Of The Gemini (17:42) sits down with Brad Dourif. He tells all about how Jason Miller had become a full alcoholic who couldn’t remember his lines which is why he was brought in for the body shifting character. He breaks down how after initial production, the studio made Blatty change the ending. He has fond memories of George C. Scott.

The Devil In The Details (18:03) goes to the look with Production Designer Leslie Dilley, Assistant Designer Daren Dochterman And Illustrator Simon Murton. Dilley had worked on James Cameron’s The Abyss. They talk about creating a Satanic cell.

Music For A Padded Cell (15:06) breaks down the score with Composer Barry DeVorzon

All This Bleeding (28:49) goes into the Re-shoot And Makeup Effects With Production Manager Ronald Colby, Editor Todd Ramsay, Effects Artists William Forsche, Mike Smithson, Brian Wade and Actor/Body Double Charles Powell. The big argument was that Blatty didn’t have an exorcism in his original cut.

Scream Factory presents Exorcist III: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: William Peter Blatty. Screenplay by: William Peter Blatty. Starring: George C. Scott, Brad Dourif, Jason Miller. Running Time: 109 minutes. Rated: R. Released: October 25, 2016.

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