I first saw “The Exorcist” when I was 13 and home alone. This, of course, was a mistake; by the time the iconic bars of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” were running over the credits, I knew I’d never sleep that night, or possibly ever again. But it was not the circumstances of my viewing that made this film so abjectly terrifying. Forty-five years after its release, the adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s 1971 eponymous novel remains the most frightening movie ever made, and not just because it features a tween whose head spins backward.
At the time of the book’s publication, it seemed unlikely to ever achieve a mass audience, let alone be adapted into the ninth highest grossing film of all time when adjusted for inflation. Until then, Blatty, who also authored the screenplay, had been best known as the comedy screenwriter who’d given us the Inspector Clouseau mystery, “A Shot in the Dark.” A devout Catholic, he’d fictionalized an account of a 1949 exorcism by a Jesuit priest, but even his fancy Hollywood credentials couldn’t save it from being sent back to the publisher in droves. Only when a mysterious set of flukes landed him on the Dick Cavett Show for a full 45 minutes did the “The Exorcist” catapult to the New York Times best-seller list, where it remained for 57 weeks. Continue Reading →