Fear of God: 25 Years of the Exorcist
I've often talked, on the podcast, about my love of The Exorcist. This talk has then been censored out by producer Nick and I've frequently wondered why he refuses to accept its brilliance. This week I think I've worked it out and this revelation came in the form of the documentary Fear of God: 25 Years of the Exorcist which has been put up on iPlayer to celebrate the Halloween season.
The documentary was made in 1998 by Mark Kermode and Nick Freand Jones. According to an introduction from (an older) Mark Kermode this is the festival cut of the documentary and, simply put, it's wonderful.
One of the interviews in the documentary (and they've got basically anyone with any involvement in the production) is with the head of the BBFC at the time and this, although a small segment towards the end of the documentary, is incredibly interesting.
The banning of The Exorcist- all under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 that led to the Video Nasties debacle- was because the BBFC were concerned by the power of the film. They were aware that this was a brilliant film, but were afraid of what influence it would have on people, young people, watching it by themselves on VHS.
This, I believe, is Nick's issue with The Exorcist. He knows how powerful this film is and that if he were to watch it, it would instantly become his favourite horror film.
Mark Kermode's documentary is a fascinating insight into the film, full of descriptions of William Friedkin's extreme behaviour (firing guns to get reactions for the actors) and how the creative tension between him and William Peter Blatty led to such a great film.
One section between the two Williams is particularly interesting, when they (25 years later) work out how they could have got the infamous spider walk scene to work.
I'm not going to do a minute-by-minute on Fear of God, but the last section I want to highlight is the performance of Mercedes McCambridge as the voice of the demon. The extremes she went to in order to capture the performance are well documented, but to hear her (25 years later!) just break into the voice as if it were nothing was amazing. I think I could have watched her perform that voice for the entire documentary and been satisfied. It really is a technical masterclass and worth watching the documentary for that alone.
The rest of the documentary is just as interesting- Max von Sydow's pragmatism in the face of stories of curses and evil, the way they created the effects, the sound. If you even have a passing interesting in The Exorcist you should watch this documentary.