The Exorcist III Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Written and directed by William Peter Blatty
1990, 110 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on October 25th, 2016
George C. Scott as Kinderman
Brad Dourif as The Gemini Killer
Ed Flanders as Father Dyer
Jason Miller as Patient X
Nicol Williamson as Father Morning
Scott Wilson as Dr. Temple
Nancy Fish as Nurse Allerton
Fifteen years ago, Georgetown was caught in the grip of a maniac known only as the Gemini Killer. He was eventually captured and brought to justice with the help of Detective Lieutenant Bill Kinderman. Today is the anniversary of the execution of this madman, but the detective has deeper sorrows on his mind as it is also the date on which a dear friend, Father Damien Karras, fell to his death down a flight of stairs. Kinderman makes an annual point of spending this day with his friend Father Dyer. Also weighing on Kinderman is a current crop of religious murders that bear a familiar calling card that only the detective notices. When his friend is hospitalized, Kinderman crosses paths with the mysterious Patient X, and is immediately haunted by his appearance. X reveals private details about the Gemini killings to Kinderman and urges him to go to the press. Meanwhile, the current wave of murders is spiraling out of control as the bodies pile up both around the city and within the hospital.
William Peter Blatty shot to stardom with his best-selling novel The Exorcist that tells of two priests fighting for the soul of a young girl possessed by the Devil himself. The subsequent film version directed by William Friedkin went on to break box office records and is widely viewed as “the scariest movie ever made”. Inevitably a sequel was released without the input of Blatty or Friedkin and it predictably tanked as audiences laughed the premise off the screen. By this time, the author had moved on and was busy with his next novel The Ninth Configuration, an existential tale filled with theological dilemmas and complicated characters. He stepped behind the camera to direct the film adaptation and earned high marks and critical praise for his efforts. Blatty returned to horror for his next book Legion, a quiet companion piece to The Exorcist. When Hollywood came calling once again, he opted to direct the picture himself.
The Exorcist III is a complex tale of theological conflict using peripheral characters from the original film. Stepping into the role originated by the late Lee J. Cobb, George C. Scott (The Changeling) stars as Lt. Kinderman. He brings a wry sense of humor to the character, a welcome touch of levity in an otherwise deadly serious picture. Scott is in almost every scene and is only matched in strength by the powerhouse performance of Brad Dourif (Sonny Boy) as The Gemini Killer. Dourif is breathtaking as he effortlessly navigates a series of complicated monologues that question man’s nature and the power of faith. His screen time is split with actor Jason Miller (The Ninth Configuration), whose character (Patient X) shares a body with the Gemini. The two actors are intercut as Kinderman conducts his investigation. Ed Flanders (Salem’s Lot) is the voice of reason in an increasingly chaotic world as Father Dyer. He brings a calming presence to the film that is as necessary as the moments of humor he brings to his scenes with Scott.
Exorcist III ran into trouble when studio executives were unhappy with the finished product and ordered additional material be filmed to punch up the ending. Actor Nicol Williamson (Excalibur) was brought in as Father Morning, a priest who conveniently shows up in the last reel to perform an exorcism. Blatty has been famously disappointed by the changes forced upon him and fans of the film will be happy to know an edit of his Director’s Cut version is included as part of this release. Even with the new ending, Exorcist III is a pretty awesome film. It takes its time setting up the scares with deliberate pacing, but fans of richly-developed characters will be rewarded once the screws are properly tightened. Blatty’s script tackles much more than just a story of good vs. evil and slyly addresses many additional issues in a thoughtful way. If the original movie dealt with a child in peril, this one focuses on the elderly in a very disturbing manner. Audiences familiar with the movie undoubtedly remember a few key giant scares and I am happy to say they are every bit as effective today as they were in 1990.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Exorcist III receives a new 2K scan of the original film elements and the results are impressive. This new transfer is stronger than the previous Warner Brothers Blu-ray release, offering richer colors, deeper black levels and better contrast.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is primarily front-heavy, but this is a dialogue-driven film so the mix feels appropriate. There are some music and effects cues that utilize the rear channels, including the growl of an unseen demon. The lack of substantial bass is a bit disappointing but not really a sin.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
This is a two-disc set with the theatrical cut appearing on disc one and the director’s cut on disc two and special features appearing on both.
A collection of Vintage Interviews (39 minutes) are presented here, including William Peter Blatty, producer James Robinson, TV personality Larry King, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, and actors Ed Flanders and George C. Scott. Everyone appears excited to be working on the project and have nothing but nice things to say. King and Koop are an odd choice for inclusion here, but whatever--they both have blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos in the film.
The original EPK offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Exorcist III (aka The Exorcist 1990) with on-set footage and interviews with the cast and crew.
A deleted scene featuring a birthday clown is joined by a small collection of alternate takes and even a few bloopers (6 minutes) sourced from the original VHS dailies.
Missing from both versions is a deleted prologue (3 minutes) that shows Lt. Kinderman paying a visit to the morgue.
A collection of theatrical trailers (3 minutes) and TV spots (2 minutes) reveal the original ad campaign.
A trio of photo galleries showcases behind-the-scenes images (4 minutes), marketing (6 minutes) and promotional stills (4 minutes).
Gather ‘round boys and girls, Legion (105 minutes) is finally seeing the light of day – sort of. Blatty’s original cut has been reconstructed using VHS transfers of the original film dailies. The resulting dip in image quality is jarring, but if this is the only way to see it, I am more than willing to oblige. Long has the legend of studio interference cast a shadow over this title and this new edit goes a long way to restore viewers’ faith. Brad Dourif fans will be the most pleased as the actor takes center stage in a role he is no longer forced to share. The ending is less flashy, but more in keeping with the picture’s overall tone. Still not a perfect film, the introspective nature of the tale is followed to its logical conclusion.
Michael Felsher was granted the opportunity to conduct one of the final interviews with William Peter Blatty and the young filmmaker does not squander his time. The audio interview conducted is thoughtful and wide-ranging and infinitely informative. Blatty is in good spirits and more than chatty as he reflects on his career as both a writer and a director. The heart of the piece is Exorcist III, but the discussion covers a lot of additional ground. Don’t miss it.
Death Be Not Proud (105 minutes) is a five-part documentary that covers the production’s troubled history. There is a wealth of material here and some really good gets when it comes to interviews. Brad Dourif has a lot to say about his experience and is reason enough on its own to watch the piece.