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New ‘Exorcist’ Gets Limited Release

March 18, 2000

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) _ More than 25 years after the horror movie classic ``The Exorcist″ won Academy and Golden Globe awards, a new version of the film was released Friday in three college towns as a preview to its national release later this year.

``The Exorcist _ The Version You’ve Never Seen″ will terrify a new generation of moviegoers here and in Austin, Texas, and Ann Arbor, Mich., with a full reel of material restored to director William Friedkin’s 1973 version.

``I saw it once when I was young and I really liked it. It scared the hell out of me,″ Isiah McPherson, 21, said while waiting to buy tickets for himself and his girlfriend, Dana Stephens.

Based on the best-selling novel by William Peter Blatty, the film graphically depicts the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl (Linda Blair) and the efforts by a priest (Max von Sydow) to exorcise her demons.

``I’m very scared,″ Stephens said. ``In fact, I’ve been trying to get him to let me out of this.″

Oddly enough, Blatty said Friday that scaring movie-goers was not his original intention.

``When I wrote the novel and also when I wrote the screenplay, frightening people was not my primary intention. It was the furthest thing from my mind,″ he told Atlanta radio station WSTR. ``I meant it as a supernatural detective story and a psychological thriller.″

Many of those waiting to see the movie at the Beechwood Stadium 11 theater Friday afternoon weren’t even born when the film was first released.

Among the new scenes is an eerie depiction of the girl, Regan, ``spider walking″ down a flight of stairs upside down and chasing two other characters, one of the few scenes that drew gasps from the audience.

An elaborate scene that required a contortionist stuntwoman held aloft by a deep-sea fishing pole was left out of the film originally, Friedkin said, because he feared audiences would not accept something so bizarre at the beginning of the film.

``This is the version that the author first saw and has always wanted,″ Friedkin said recently. ``The restored new footage _ plus one or two little surprises _ make the film more suspenseful, as well as spiritually deeper.″

The film’s most famous scene, showing Regan’s head spinning 180 degrees and projectile vomiting, originally astounded viewers but drew laughs at Friday’s showing.

``I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be,″ said Amanda Janilus, 27, who attended Friday’s screening but had never seen the original.

Blatty said he first saw the unedited version of the movie with many of the scenes restored in this new release.

``It took my breath away,″ he said. ``I thought it was just incredible.″

Blatty said he and Friedkin have debated since the movie’s release whether some scenes cut for length should have been restored.

Eight months ago, after watching some of the outtakes, Friedken finally admitted the lost scenes improved the movie.

``As we left the building, on the Burbank lot, he laughed and said ‘Bill, after 26 years I am finally understanding what you were trying to do with this movie,’ ″ Blatty said.

The original film was a critical and a commercial success, winning awards on at least two continents and becoming the second biggest money-maker in American cinematic history, after the 1972 classic ``The Godfather.″

Blatty won an Oscar for the screenplay and the film was awarded a Golden Globe for best picture in 1974.

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