Great Scene: “The Exorcist”

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This being Halloween week, I’ve been celebrating the horror genre each day in Daily Dialogue, so it makes sense to continue the trend with our Great Scene today — from the 1973 movie The Exorcist. Adapted for the screen by William Peter Blatty from his best-selling novel and directed by William Friedkin, the movie grossed an astonishing $441M in worldwide B.O. receipts.

Safe to say, it became a cultural phenomenon. And speaking personally, when I saw it in a theater in Virginia Beach over the Christmas holidays, I remember being absolutely mesmerized by the story — and scared stupid.

There are a number of memorable moments in the movie, but since I was a theology student, I suppose it makes sense the scene I recall with the most clarity is this one: Where Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) and Father Karras (Jason Miller) work double duty in the rite of exorcism upon Regan (Linda Blair), the poor girl who is possessed by a demon.

Here is the scene taken from what purports to be the shooting script:

Here is the movie version of the scene:

We often talk about the importance of conflict in our stories. Hard to imagine a more compelling conflict than between two very human priests, their Holy Water, and exorcism liturgy versus a demon and the power of Satan.

How about you? Do you remember the first time you saw The Exorcist?

[Originally posted October 30, 2009]

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