No Friedkin Way

I’ve got a case of good new/bad news for horror fans. The good news is that William Friedkin’s classic frightfest ‘The Exorcist’ is coming to Blu-ray in October, and will also have a special theatrical event in late September. The bad news? The theatrical screening will only be the recut extended version that nobody likes. There’s also a very strong chance that Friedkin will dick around with the movie’s colors the same way that he desecrated ‘The French Connection’ recently.

Forgotten what I’m talking about already, have you? Last year, Fox released ‘The French Connection’ on Blu-ray with a new video transfer personally supervised by William Friedkin. Unfortunately, Friedkin, who lost his marbles sometime in the mid-’80s and apparently no longer knows anything at all about motion picture photography or home video, decided to completely revise the movie’s color scheme. What he did is strip out all the colors – turning it into a black & white movie – and then digitally colorized it again with really garish hues. The entire picture is now tinted purple. It looks absolutely hideous.

Of course, Friedkin claimed that this was what he always wanted the movie to look like. To which the film’s cinematographer Owen Roizman called him out as a liar. A war of words between the two ensued.

Why is this relevant here? In interviews to promote that Blu-ray, Friedkin declared how enthusiastic he was to do the same to all his movies, and even said that ‘The Exorcist’ was in the works.

Now, that was more than a year ago, and there was a considerable backlash against that ‘French Connection’ Blu-ray. The later Blu-ray edition of ‘To Live and Die in L.A.‘ (also approved by Friedkin) looks perfectly fine. So it’s possible that the director eventually came to his senses. We won’t know for sure until the ‘Exorcist’ Blu-ray is released on October 5th.

That is, unless we attend the one-night-only theatrical screening on September 30th being held by Fathom Events. Tickets go on sale to the general public on August 27th. This should give an advanced peek at whether or how much Friedkin has messed up the movie.

On the one hand, it might be kind of cool to see ‘The Exorcist’ on the big screen. I never have. (I skipped its re-released in 2000.) Sadly, even if Friedkin decided to leave well enough alone this time and not ruin all the colors, the Fathom screening will be only the so-called “Extended Director’s Cut,” previously known as ‘The Version You’ve Never Seen’. Or, as I like to call it, ‘The Version You Never Wanted to See Because It Sucks’. You know, it’s the one where the director pulled a George Lucas and edited a bunch of useless deleted scenes (including an absolutely terrible alternate ending) into the movie and threw in some stupid-looking CGI effects.

I don’t know of anyone who likes the extended version as much as the original 1973 theatrical cut. Even Friedkin himself used to admit that the original cut was better. He only made the extended version at the behest of the studio and of author William Peter Blatty. But, as I mentioned earlier, Friedkin has lost his marbles. Recently, he’s been claiming that he’s “come around” and now prefers the longer version (which is why it can now be called a “director’s cut”).

Thankfully, the Blu-ray will offer both versions. I have my fingers crossed that (at the very least) the theatrical cut will have a reasonable color scheme as well. I couldn’t care less what Friedkin does to “The Version I Don’t Ever Want to See Again.” So I’ll be skipping that theatrical event.

7 comments

  1. well i have to agree with you on this one. while i am in favor of directors cuts , I’m not in favor of adding scenes to make a few bucks more and thats what they did ten years ago. like you i didn’t see the 2000 cut. this is one movie i want to see on blu.and i hope that the powers that be at WB doesn’t decide to put that crappy as time goes by song at the beginning of the movie. i love the song , just not at the beginning of every movie.

  2. Tony Smith

    I hate the “extended” cut too. I hope he doesn’t ruin this, it’s one of my favourite films and used to scare the shit out of me.

  3. Roger

    Owen Roizman helped with the new transfer so that Friedkin didn’t mess it up.

    Also, this article is a little bit late because the trailer for the Blu-ray has been out for a couple of weeks now with footage from the new master, and it looks perfect.

  4. Joe B

    Now, I LIKE much of the “extended cut” if it is indeed the “version you’ve never seen.” Not all the additions, true. But the “spider walk” is indeed startling.
    And the “Catholic” nature of the film gets more attention in this version. Perhaps one would have to have been terrified by “religious” teacers (male and female) as a child– like I was– to relate to it.
    But I need to see both versions again so I’m delighted both will be on the blu-ray.

  5. EM

    First of all: I think Josh’s title for this article is hilarious.

    I think it’s interesting that we’re having a rash of announcements about forthcoming Blu-rays that raise concerns about filmmakers mucking up their own films (for those of you just tuning in, “Aliens” and the “Star Wars” hexalogy have also been subject to these concerns). There may be some meat for a forthcoming roundtable question—perhaps something like, “What is the *best* film revision you’ve seen?”

  6. Me

    The “version that nobody likes “, why in the world you make a statement like that ? Millions have seen the Exorcist, MILLIONS, I can hardly understand how you can claim that NOBODY liked it. Talked to millions of people lately have you, bet that took some time ? I truly enjoyed this version, feel that it is the better version,and I am really glad to see that this is the version being released on blu-ray, but then, I’m just a nobody ! Sounds like you missed your calling.

  7. EM

    Last week at my job there was a little event that reminded me of certain picture-quality revision debates, particularly the one in this blog thread and the current discussion about digital grain reduction in an “Aliens” blog thread. I won’t bore you with the details of the event in question; basically, my boss was unable to see some text appearing in a graphic scanned from an ID card’s hologram, whereas I could read it perfectly, and I had to bite my tongue to keep from suggesting that the difference in perceptions was due to my boss’ eyes’ being twenty years older than mine.

    It’s no shocker, really, that over the years, a director might change his mind about what should or should not be in one of his movies. But particularly in the arena of picture quality, I wonder if degradation of eyesight is ever a significant factor in film revisionism, whether on the part of directors or on that of others. I don’t think I’ve ever run into a discussion examining such a possibility; yet it seems like a natural, particularly when a director revisits a work’s picture quality decades after the fact.

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