"Exorcising My Demons" Book Review
Written by Eileen Dietz and Daniel Loubier
2013, 345 pages, Non-Fiction
Book released on March 18th, 2013
Eileen Dietz is an actress best known for her work in theatre and on TV’s General Hospital. Obsessive genre fans know her for films she was either edited out of (Constantine and Rob Zombie’s Halloween II) or more likely did not receive screen credit. It is unfortunate that this is the case, but Dietz has made the most of her situation over the years and has now penned a memoir reflecting on her career. The book begins with the disclaimer that due to the passage of time not every detail remains clear and that some information has been supplied by others. She also takes the time to apologize to anyone she may have mistreated over the years. This sets the tone that Dietz may be an unreliable narrator and certain elements will need to be taken with a grain of salt--more on this later.
Exorcising My Demons follows the standard formula for memoirs the world over with ample time spent covering the author’s childhood and upbringing. There are countless anecdotes regarding family and a desire for attention. Dietz is self-deprecating, frequently referring to herself as “a skinny, little, flat-chested, buck-toothed child from Queens” with dreams of being an actress. There is also much discussion regarding several “bad decisions” and a willful defiance of good advice over the years.
The main attraction to this book is the material covering the time spent working on The Exorcist and how her work went uncredited and led to her being blacklisted by Hollywood for a time. Dietz challenges the assertion that her screen time is limited to a series of brief subliminal flashes of a black-and-white faced demon known as “Captain Howdy”. She details her time on set as being a six-week adventure that had her doubling actress Linda Blair throughout the majority of the key set pieces including any stunts, projectile vomiting and crucifix masturbation.
When the film was released and became a tremendous success at the box office, Dietz claims to have zero problems about not receiving credit, until she learns that actress Mercedes McCambridge (All the King’s Men) has filed a lawsuit regarding her work voicing the demon. The Exorcist begins receiving numerous awards and Linda Blair wins a Golden Globe for her work and this is soon followed by ten Academy Award nominations. It is at this point that word leaks about Dietz’s involvement with the movie and questions arise concerning a potential cover-up.
The author closes this section of the book with the tale of being flown to Los Angeles where she is berated by director William Friedkin for attempting to sabotage his work. The story ends here, without closure. Dietz mentions later that she receives royalty checks for the work, but never discusses the resolution to the ordeal that effectively ended her career. Instead we move on to time spent working on television and a later return to horror films where she frequently ended up in deleted scenes. She now works in low-budget genre films and tours the convention circuit.
Exorcising My Demons is co-written by Daniel Loubier, who worked closely with the actress gathering the information and he does a fine job, but his hands are tied by her perspective. If she introduces the book with an apology and acknowledges that time has clouded some memories it would be nice if Loubier could provide a side-bar of sorts to present any differences of opinion. Given that so much time is spent discussing The Exorcist with claims of extensive involvement, it is strange how abruptly she ends the discussion.
Dietz doesn’t mention the current status of her relationships with Friedkin or actress Linda Blair. Coincidentally, the director has recently released his own memoir and I had the chance to ask him about this topic of screen credit. In his answer he speaks highly of Mercedes McCambridge, but dismisses Dietz as a lighting double for Blair who appears only as Captain Howdy for about 23 seconds on screen, essentially negating all of her claims.
This book tells a good story and I’m sure she’s a terrific lady, but there are too many leftover questions that leave her account of the main topic suspicious. I do not doubt her involvement with The Exorcist or that she got a bum rap in the process, but I don’t believe her to be an innocent victim of circumstance either.