Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

TMT: “There are no experts.”

This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. Returning to my theme for the month October, as a fan of monster and horror films since childhood, I thought to tie these memories within that genre. And I’ve waited to delve into this specific film for some time now. Especially, since a great deal of history lies in the attic with this one. Might as well have the candlelight flare at this very moment.

“Ego te absolvo in nomine Patris, et Filiii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.”


Theatre

The Rosecrans Drive-in:


Movie

Time

January 1974: just about every parent I know learned the following at sometime or another. Of course, way before I’d heard the quote, I only proved it true:

 There are three ways to get something done: do it yourself, employ someone, or forbid your children to do it.

When The Exorcist came to movie theaters, to say there was a monumental buzz surrounding it would be an understatement. Even as the economy swirled toward the drain into the worst recession in 40 years, “going to Hell in a hand basket” as it were, what were the downtrodden masses doing? Simply, getting the bejesus scared out of them. And all byway of William Friedkin’s adaptation of a William Peter Blatty novel.

Just about everyone in my mother’s family had read this book. Most of them went to see the movie or cringed in fear of it (especially given the news reports of people fainting in, or running screaming from, the movie theater — see the video clip below). The grandmother I still lived with as I attended college being one of the latter. Her and my mom’s younger sister, in fact, worried for my well-being after I said I wanted to see the picture.

They begged me not to go. You know what that guaranteed (see above as reference).

Not wanting to get into the extended lines that surrounded some of the theaters showing this, I opted for something familiar. The nearby Rosecrans Drive-in being that (the same place I saw The Godfather). I did, though, show up an hour earlier than usual in my trusty Toyota Corolla to get a good spot. Only to discover others there already with the same idea. I did have to talk the girlfriend I dated at the time into the late January Saturday evening affair, however. I can’t for the life of me recall if she ever forgave me.

The entire TMT series can be found here. If you’re interested how it’s put together, click here.

15 Responses to “TMT: “There are no experts.””

  1. Elizabeth A. White

    I never really got why the reactions to this film were so over-the-top. It’s a great film. It’s a scary film. And I suppose if you are Christian (especially Catholic) it could even be considered a disturbing film. But to cause people to throw up, flee the theater, or faint? I don’t get it. It’s a film…it’s not real. Take a step back, remember that, and you should be fine. :-/

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    • le0pard13

      Great comment, Elizabeth. Yes, in the context of today, there’s enough separation (between audience and movie) that you’d not get the reaction this one had in 1973. Blatty’s novel touched a nerve being (effectively) first with this in book form. And Friedkin just upped the ante with a really visceral (and psychologically keen) adaptation of the work (somewhat like attaching an electrode to that same nerve and juicing the viewer). I think, as well, given the number of copy cat films this generated in its wake also made it somewhat old hat decades later. Still, this one set the standard all others have tried to meet. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, my friend.

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      • Elizabeth A. White

        I suppose I’m *just* a tad too young to have been able to appreciate these event movies for what they were in the theater, as I didn’t see Jaws or The Exorcist until about a decade after their initial release. Already getting desensitized and jaded by then, perhaps?

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        • le0pard13

          Good point. By the time the 80s were in stride, Jaws and The Exorcist had been copied so many times in other movies. People were only too aware of what they were all about, even seeing them for the first time. Did you watch it at home (on VHS), or in a theater?

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      • le0pard13

        BTW, the Christian/Catholic angle is a considerable one. The act of exorcism, as mentioned in book/film, was a closeted ritual. That probably added to the reaction. Although, it’s different for different cultures. As the Swedish actor Max Von Sydow has said, this story never bothered him in the least. Von Sydow was raised as a Lutheran and later became an agnostic. In his Scandinavian culture, the Devil, was treated as caricature and not so much a threat, if I remember correctly (from the documentary associated with this film). Thanks, Elizabeth.

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  2. fernandorafael

    Fantastic post, as always, Mike! And great video. The Exorcist remains one of few horror movies I really love.

    My dad is about the same age as you and he remembers vividly when he went to see this one and how shocked he was. Granted, he’s a bit of a wuss when it comes to movies, but still.

    I can imagine (and now I further confirm it with the clip) how much of an impact this film had upon release.

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    • le0pard13

      Yeah, this one film was shocking then, and still has an impact today. Though there are more extreme cinema available, readily (see author Joe Maddrey’s look at one), The Exorcist can pack an emotional punch to this day.

      I’m as old as your dad?!? Oh, boy. I can still act like kid, though ;-). Many thanks, Fernando.

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  3. Dan

    I reading and seeing depictions of the buzz surrounding The Exorcist. It is probably my favorite movie of all time primarily because no other film has had an impact on me quite like this one. It is interesting seeing and hearing people’s reactions back when it was first released. However, while the marketing gurus might have used this to their advantage – ie. this is the scariest film ever made; I think a lot of the people who fainted or had other physical reactions were probably surprised more than anything at the film’s realism – particularly the hospital scenes which are excruciating.

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    • Dan

      …I should add: what a great idea to see it at a drive-in…at least you had a quick escape route! :)

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  4. The Focused Filmographer

    One of my favorite stories in the TMT series. I love how you tie it all together. I wonder if the gf ever did forgive you too. haha.

    I have yet to see this movie. I have avoided it all my life. ha

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    • le0pard13

      It’s worth seeing as I think it was an extraordinary film for that year and the time. It has an emotional, psychological core beyond the horror aspect. But, I understand it’s not a genre that’s going to draw everyone. Thank so very much for the kind words, T. It means a lot to me.

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