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Wednesday, October 17, 2007


The same gang caught "The Exorcist" (1973) at the same theater over the weekend.

I'm so glad we did. The print was sweet and the movie came alive. Max Von Sydow trembling in the Iraq winds ... Ellen Burstyn chain-smoking and cursing a blue streak ... Jason Miller wrestling with his fading faith and dying mother ... Lee J. Cobb working his old-school magic ... Linda Blair projectile-vomiting ...

Nearly all of the special effects still hold their own in the post-CGI age. (Only the head-spinning now looks cheezy.) The nasty profanity still shocks, even though much of it has indelibly entered our vernacular. ("Your mother darns socks in hell," anyone?)

But I had to ask an "Exorcist"-obsessed colleague to explain a few things.

Q: Did Von Sydow's Father Merrin bring the Devil back with him from Iraq?

A: First of all, it wasn't "the" Devil -- it was Pazuza (not to be confused with Luciana Paluzzi, the smokin' Italian actress). Secondly, Merrin wasn't re-awakening Paluzzi, er, Pazuza in Iraq; he was reading the signs that Pazuza was returning to again do battle with him. (Hence, the reference to Merrin's earlier exorcism in Africa.)

Q: Why did Miller's Father Karras turn into a monster briefly? Did he kill Pazuza by jumping out the window?

A: Pazuza jumped from the body of Linda Blair's Regan into that of Karras, hence his monsterization. As Karras jumped out the window, Pazuza jumped ship. My colleague said the "last rites" scene at the end was very important, because it showed that Elvis had left the building.

Q: Why didn't someone trim Lee J. Cobb's ear hair? Don't they have makeup people on set?

A: The ear hair, however distracting, was part of Cobb's characterization of a curmudgeonly old detective.

I thought it was funny how Cobb's Detective Kinderman was a movie buff, throwing around movie stars' names. (Kinderman mentions John Garfield, Sal Mineo, Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball and Groucho Marx.) I was half expecting him to mention his real-life self. You can almost hear Kinderman say, "You remind me of Lee J. Cobb from 'On the Waterfront.'"


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