Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen (2000)
Warner Brothers Home Video | Review by Dan Taylor

The Exorcist starring Linda BlairWhen will we learn? Every time a studio foists one of these "never before seen" version on us it's almost always a letdown. Who can forget the STAR WARS: THE SPECIAL EDITION debacle from a few years ago? I paid good money and stood in line in the rain for bigger explosions and some cheesy scenes that were best left where they'd been since 1977 – the cutting room floor.

But, I'm always willing to take a chance, and when the expanded "never before seen" version of William Friedkin's superb horror thriller THE EXORCIST made its way to DVD, I was more than ready.

What's that they say about "fool me once, shame on me?"

Expanded by about 15 minutes THE EXORCIST: THE VERSION YOU'VE NEVER SEEN is really THE VERSION YOU DON'T NEED TO SEE. The alleged "strength" of the re-release lies in four key scenes: an elongated sequence in which Regan (Linda Blair) is put through an excruciating series of tests to help doctors determine why the hell she's peeing on the carpet and telling astronauts their gonna croak in space; a chat between Frs. Merrin and Karras after going down to the devil in the first attempt at exorcism; the infamous spider-walk scene; and, a tacked-on ending.

The first sequence is a testament to Friedkin's directing ability as we really feel Regan's pain as she's put through this battery of tests. It helps set up a medical explanation for her behavior and brings some support to a scene between Regan and her mother (Ellen Burstyn) later in the film. Big deal.

I'm gonna have to take the word of people that I talked to about the chat between Merrin (Max Von Sydow) and Karras (Jason Miller). Apparently, it's taken from the book and sets up a theological point that maybe it's the people around the girl that are the target, not the girl. Like I said, I'll take their word for it because the flick had put me to sleep by that point. I woke up right after that, but they assured me it wasn't worth going back to.

As for the "spider-walk," I'd have to say it was unnecesarry. It happens at the tail end of a conversation between Burstyn's character and her assistant. They're talking, Mom gasps and we see Regan trotting down the steps more "crab-like" than "spider-like," and some bloody goo seeps out her mouth. The effect is fast, certainly weird, and wouldn't be missed were it not for people talking about it for the last 27 years.

The ending, well, the less said about that the better. If you've seen the original film you know that as they're leaving, Fr. Dyer – a friend of Karras's – stops at the house. We get an idea that Regan has some memory of the sacrifice made by Karras because she sees Dyer's collar and hugs him. Burstyn gives him Merrin's medal found in the room, they drive off, he looks down the stairs, cue 'Tubular Bells.' Shudder.

Instead, there's an exchange back and forth of the medal like it's a hot potato, and then Dyer ends up chatting with Detective Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb), echoing an earlier conversation between Kinderman and Karras. And it's a dopey one about movies! Whether it was an attempt to add levity and make us forget about THE EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC I don't know, but it completely blows the spooked-out, walk across your tombstone power possessed (no pun intended) by the original.

Do yourself a favor and stick to the 1973 version. Move along people, there's nothing to see here.

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