Dir: William Peter Blatty, 1990
This review is of the director’s cut, hence the different title.
Is this the film that we’ve waited 26 years for, or the biggest disappointment this year?
After the critical drubbing that was John Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic, another sequel to William Friedkin’s 1973 lauded masterpiece was the last thing on anybody’s mind.
A travesty from start to finish, Exorcist II was recut and refilmed in an attempt to salvage the multi million dollar mess.
Failing in every aspect, it was denounced by The Exorcist author Blatty and director Friedkin.
Originally, Blatty had no interest in writing a true sequel to his bestseller, but formed an idea for a film that would continue some of the characters from his ’73 bestseller and ignore the 1977 sequel.
After much wrangling with Warner Bros. and William Friedkin’s possible involvement, the film was scrapped and written as a book instead.
Legion was released in 1983 and focused Lieutenant Kinderman from Blatty’s shocking original.
In 1990, the writer was offered the opportunity to realise his abandoned script, and The Exorcist III became an actuality.
Kinderman (George C. Scott) is investigating a series of brutal murders, all bearing the hallmarks of a serial killer that took place many years before.
His investigations take him a mental hospital where Patient X (Brad Dourif) asserts that he was the “Gemini Killer” and is responsible for the recent spate.
Father Karras died seventeen years earlier, after the exorcism that took place at the MacNeil’s house.
The lieutenant surmises that Patient X is Karras and is possessed by the spirit of the Gemini Killer.
It’s up to Kinderman to work out how Patient X is able to commit the murders, who is helping him and how to stop it.
The theatrical release was made into more of a horror by the studio, Morgan Creek. Blatty’s version has elements of horror but is more of a supernatural thriller.
It’s a brilliant way to go with the film, as a straight forward horror could have been severely damaging to the original.
Brad Dourif breathes life into the role of Patient X, but does have a tendency to overact, occasionally, with his scenes opposite Scott.
A creepy character, Dourif tries a tad too hard to present that creepiness to the viewer and Blatty’s dialogue, once in a while, dips into the amateur pool.
Unintentional laughs aside, Legion is a very good thriller with a serious scare at one point.
George C. Scott plays the character of Kinderman vastly different to how Lee J. Cobb did in Friedkin’s film.
A large and important character in the book, the lieutenant’s role was diminished significantly for the movie and Cobb gave Kinderman a kindly and soft side.
Scott portrays the seasoned copper as an angry, short tempered man who isn’t averse to giving out the odd slap, now and again.
In keeping with the theme of exorcism, and Morgan Creek insisting on the film being called The Exorcist III, it was vital to the studip that an exorcism actually takes place, much to Blatty’s chagrin.
The theatrical cut ended with The exorcism of Karras, releasing the “Gemini Killer” from his body.
For this director’s cut, the ending is, somewhat, of an anti-climax.
The original trims made to the film, back in 1990, are thought to be lost. However, a VHS tape containing the rushes of Blatty’s cut, was located some twenty plus years later.
To assemble this version, a composite was made of the VHS tape and the theatrical version.
Although this allows us to see the director’s original intention, the tape is fairly degraded and in a different aspect ratio. These outtakes also lack post production work, notably the sound effects.
Dourif’s voice without the added demonic voice, misses out the eerie feel that is needed for the character.
To choose a definitive cut is, virtually, impossible, as both cuts contain and omit various important scenes that is vital to the success of the movie.
Morgan Creek’s 1990 version, saw the return of Jason Miller reprising his role of Father Damien Karras from The Exorcist. The director’s cut, leaves Miller out and places all the onus on Dourif’s shoulders.
Miller’s return as Karras adds an extra level of unease and chills that works in the film’s favour.
A fan edit by internet user Spicediver, recut the film to how it was first conceived it; removing the exorcism and molding it to resemble what Blatty was going for. It’s needs noting that Spicediver didn’t have any access to the lost footage and simply used the only available version at that time.
The edit was well received and may, possibly, have stoked the fire for an official director’s cut release.
The director’s cut of The Exorcist III is a great film and is everything a horror/thriller should be.
Maybe another fan edit, incorporating the newly found footage, could improve the film even more.
A solid movie.