The Exorcist Untold (2023) – Review
By Sarah Morgan
I’ve got a confession to make – I’m not a big fan of The Exorcist. In fact, I can’t see what all the fuss is about. The only bit that really makes me uncomfortable is when Reagan has a spinal tap early on in the proceedings.
However, before anyone suggests I should have my horror movie fan club membership revoked for saying such sacrilegious things, I do consider the story behind the making of the film to be fascinating. As a result, I found this documentary – released to mark the movie’s 50th anniversary – rather engrossing, although many of the topics it covers are already widely known.
“A true-life case”
It begins by profiling William Peter Blatty, who penned the source novel before going on to win the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for his script. He appears to have been a fascinating character in his own right, one who started out in public relations before winning a heap of money on Groucho Marx’s quiz show You Bet Your Life while, bizarrely, pretending to be an Arabian prince.
The cash allowed him to give up his day job and concentrate on writing full-time. He had some success in comedy, working with director Blake Edwards on various scripts, but it was The Exorcist that made his fortune; he based it on a true-life case he heard about while studying at Georgetown University.
But, as we learn here, its genesis was not an easy one. The documentary then follows the film’s production, including Blatty’s work as its producer and determination to secure William Friedkin as director – something made easier when the latter won an Oscar for The French Connection.
“Intriguing insider information”
We also learn about casting decisions, location work and what happened after the film was released. There’s even footage of someone fainting in a cinema’s foyer, so the legends about such behaviour are true (incidentally, my mum was pregnant during the film’s original UK release, and because of its notoriety, decided against going to see it in case it brought on premature labour).
Industry experts, critics and crew members offer their opinions, while Blatty’s wife Julie has some intriguing insider information. There are also archive interviews with both Blatty and Friedkin. Sadly, apart from contemporary footage, surviving members of the cast are not featured, so there’s nothing from Linda Blair or Ellen Burstyn, which is a bit of a shame.
Despite that, The Exorcist Untold is a fascinating programme. One that you really don’t need to be a fan of the film to enjoy.
‘The Exorcist Untold’ is available on DVD and digital platforms now