Thursday, October 27, 2016

THE EXORCIST III (1990) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Scream Factory 
Region Code: A
Rating: RI Unrated
Duration: 110 Minutes I 105 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: William Peter Blatty
Cast: Brad Dourif, Ed Flanders, George C. Scott, Jason Miller, Nicol Williamson, Scott Wilson

Synopsis: For more than fifteen years Police Lieutenant Kinderman (George C. Scott) has been haunted by the death of his friend Father Damien Karras. Now, on the 15th anniversary of the exorcism that claimed the priest’s life, Kinderman’s world is once again shattered when a boy is found decapitated and savagely crucified. It’s just the beginning of a nightmare series of bizarre religious murders. The brutal murders bear the hallmarks of the infamous Gemini Killer…who died in the electric chair fifteen years earlier. But when a psychopath claiming to be the Gemini Killer reveals intimate, gruesome details that only the true killer could possibly know, Kinderman is confronted with a horrifying truth that he cannot explain…and that will shake him to the core.

I clearly recall watching The Exorcist III for the first-time during an all-nite New Year's Eve movie marathon in the early 1990s with a group of stoned friends. We watched all-three movies in succession, the first film had always chilled me to the bone from a young age, the second made me wonder what the fuck, and the third was a nice return to form. In it we have actor legend George C. Scott (The Changeling) taking on the role of Detective Lt. Kinderman from the late Lee J. Cobb. It's been fifteen years since the events of The Exorcist and  Kinderman is on the trail of a murderer of a 12-year-old boy named Thomas Kintry whom he knew. Later a priest is found murdered in a confessional booth at a church, his head severed and placed in his lap. Next to die is Kinderman's friend, a priest named Father Dyer (Ed Flanders, Salem's Lot) whom is murdered after being hospitalized following a sudden illness. His murder and the two before exhibit the tell-tale signs of the Gemini Killer, a murderer sentenced to death seventeen years earlier. Either there's a copycat who is intimately aware of the original murders or there's something more supernatural happening, which is of course what is happening. 

The investigation leads Kinderman to a psychiatric ward where the nervous and chain-smoking Dr. Temple (Scott Wilson, formerly of The Walking Dead) relates the story of a catatonic man found wandering the streets years earlier. The man was committed and remained catatonic for years until just recently, now he has stirred, becoming more violent and claiming to be the Gemini Killer. Kinderman is clearly shocked to see that the man appears to be his friend Father Karras (Jason Miller, The Exorcist). During the session the man alternates in appearance between that of Karras and the Gemini killer, played with a wonderful and creepy intensity by Brad Dourif (Child's Play). During the conversation it is is revealed that the same demon who possessed young Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist has placed the soul of the executed Gemini Killer into the the body of the dying Father Karras as revenge for being cast out of Regan's body. Now locked up at the asylum he takes perverse pleasure in possessing the minds of the senile elderly inmates who carry-out his blasphemous and bloody murders.  

The story is well-written and feels personal, so creepy and nicely executed, the use of a pair of oversized surgical scissors to carry out the murders is inspired, even if the murders are not particularly gory with much of the carnage happening off screen. A kill I am very keen on happens at the hospital where a nurse falls victim to the killer covered in a sheet carrying the surgical scissors, the scene begins slow and takes a while to play out, with a frightening punchline, it is scary stuff! Later an elderly woman is sent to the home of Kinderman by the demon and his own daughter comes within inches of having her head snipped off, these scenes are scary and still work on repeat watches. 

Sure, the exorcism scene comes abruptly and for good reason, it was added on by the studio Morgan Creek who were not pleased with Blatty's original vision, and though it feels a bit over-the-top I do love it. Father Morning (Nicol Williamson, Venom) arrives from almost out of nowhere and performs the shock and awe exorcism with the fires of Hell emerging from the cracked concrete floor, with the priest's skin peeling-off during the soul-damning battle. I does feel like a bit of a detour from where the movie seemed to be heading but I loved it, and the scenes of Father Karras are a nice callback to the original movie. 

The Exorcist III is loaded with creepy atmosphere and menacing flourishes that still hold some impact today. Another stand-out visual worth mentioning is the surreal dream had by Lt. Kinderman who envisions a trip to Heaven complete with Angels attempting to communicate with Earth via ham-radio. If you pay close attention you will spot cameos from 90s beefcake Fabio and a young bearded Samuel L. Jackson! There are a number of oddball cameos in the movie, including former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and radio commentator Larry King as themselves, plus basketball great Patrick Ewing as an Angel of Death. 

Audio/Video: The Exorcist II arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a new 2K scan from the interpositive looking wonderful in every respect. There's a new depth and clarity to the image of the theatrical version not see on the The Exorcist: The Complete Anthology version we saw a few years back from Warner Bros. The grain is tighter, fine detail is plentiful and the image is crisper, and skin tones are a bit warmer. Scream Factory have done some great restoration work here, this is a solid upgrade. 

Audio on the theatrical cut includes both a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround remix or the more authentic sounding DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo presentation, both are solid options free of distortion, coming through crisp and clean. The surround option does have some nice atmospheric moments with the Barry DeVorzon score but I tend to prefer the stereo presentation this time around. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras we have a well-stuffed 2-disc edition loaded with some great extras. Disc one features the 110-minute theatrical cut. Also on disc one is a vintage featurette with Writer/Director William Peter Blatty, George C. Scott, Jason Miller, Ed Flanders, Grand L. Bush, Executive Producer James G. Robinson, Production Designer Leslie Dilley, Larry King And C. Everett Koop. The 7-minute EPK is loaded with scenes from the film and behind-the-scenes shots, as with all the extras this one is a bit spoilery so be aware. The first disc also includes 6-minutes of deleted scenes and bloopers,a deleted 3-minute prologue, trailers and TV spots, plus three image galleries with 166 images of behind-the-scenes, lobby cards, posters and still images. 

Onto disc two we have the re-assembly of Director William Peter Blatty's Legion cut of the movie running 105-minutes. The studio interfered with the final cut of the movie and demanded re-shoots, the theatrical cut is not Blatty's original vision, though I will say I love the theatrical version and always have. Unfortunately the original negatives of the original 'Legion' cut of the movie have been lost and what Scream Factory have done is to assemble what they could from Blatty's own VHS dailies of the movie. The end result is a somewhat distracting cut of the movie comprised of scenes from Scream Factory restoration of the theatrical version with hard-cut VHS footage, which is distracting to say the least. This is not truly a director's cut, a lot of original footage simply does not exist anymore so this is not a complete and true director's cut, this is a re assembly stitched together as best it could be with the existing elements, some of which are awful looking. 

Which is not to say I didn't love watching it, because this is quite a different experience with some notable differences including the fact that there's no exorcism scene in this version, actor Jason Miller does not appear in any of it as Father Karras. Brad Dourif gets a lot more screen time in this version and the ending is quite a bit different and more abrupt. It makes for an interesting watch but I cannot imagine this is gonna be anyone's preferred version of the movie. Having watched it I still love the theatrical cut, I think the studio made some good decisions when it came to the re shoots and some of that exorcism imagery is fantastic stuff. Despite its shortcoming it is great to finally have some version of the director's original version available for fans of the movie to watch. 

Extras on the second disc include an audio interview with director William Peter Blatty by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures, which is not so much a scene specific commentary as an interview edited to play along with the movie, which on one level is disappointing but they do cover some good ground. There are also over two-hours of brand new interview with Producer Carter DeHaven, Actors Clifford David, Tracy Thorne, and Brad Dourif, Production Assistant Kara Reidy, Production Designer Leslie Dilley, Assistant Designer Daren Dochterman and Illustrator Simon Murton, Composer Barry DeVorzon, Makeup Effects With Production Manager Ronald Colby, Editor Todd Ramsay, Effects Artists William Forsche, Mike Smithson, Brian Wade And Actor/Body Double Charles Powell! Loads of ground is covered, including a nice candid interview with Dourif who defends the original cut and speaking very pointedly about Jason Miller's alcoholism. There are also interviews with key players pertaining to the re-shoots, and it is great to hear their dissenting voices, some of whom feel that Blatty's version of the movie is unwatchable. 

The 2-disc release comes housed in a standard blue keepcase with a sleeve or reversible artwork featuring both the original theatrical poster art and a new illustration from artist Joel Robinson, which is also featured on the limited edition slipcover. 

Special Features: 
Disc One: The Exorcist III (Theatrical Cut) (110 is) HD 
- NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
- Vintage Featurette (7 Mins) HD 
- Deleted Scene/Alternate Takes/Bloopers (6 Mins) HD 
- Deleted Prologue (3 Mins) HD 
- Vintage Interviews (Featuring Behind-The-Scenes Footage) With Writer/Director William Peter Blatty, George C. Scott, Jason Miller, Ed Flanders, Grand L. Bush, Executive Producer James G. Robinson, Production Designer Leslie Dilley, Larry King And C. Everett Koop (39 Mins) 
- Theatrical Trailers (3 Mins) HD 
- TV Spots (2 Mins) HD 
- Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery (4 Mins) HD (44 Images) 
- Posters and Lobby Cards Photo Gallery (6 Mins) HD (70 Images) 
- Still Gallery (4 Mins) HD (50 Images) 

Disc Two: Legion (Original Director's Cut) (105 minutes) HD 
- NEW Audio Interview With Writer/Director William Peter Blatty moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures  (105 Mins) 
- NEW A "Wonderfull" Time – Interviews With Producer Carter DeHaven, Actors Clifford David And Tracy Thorne And Production Assistant Kara Reidy (25 Mins) HD 
- NEW Signs Of The Gemini – An Interview With Brad Dourif (18 Mins) HD 
- NEW The Devil In The Details – Interview With Production Designer Leslie Dilley, Assistant Designer Daren Dochterman And Illustrator Simon Murton(18 Mins) HD 
- NEW Music For A Padded Cell – An Interview With Composer Barry DeVorzon (18 Mins) HD 
- NEW All This Bleeding – A Look At The Re-shoot And Makeup Effects With Production Manager Ronald Colby, Editor Todd Ramsay, Effects Artists William Forsche, Mike Smithson, Brian Wade And Actor/Body Double Charles Powell (29 Mins) HD 

The Exorcist III has long been an undervalued entry in the Exorcist saga, I think its the only one worth watching after the original. The new Scream Factory 2-disc Blu-ray is a stunner top-notch A/V and some excellent extras. I do wish we had the true director's cut of the Legion version with a pristine HD presentation, but the re assembly is a nice extra and the theatrical cut looks fantastic. A very high recommend, this is a solid movie with some seriously creepy moments, if you haven't watched it you are missing out, if you're a fan already this release is overflowing with cool extras, this is essential stuff for horror fans