The Exorcist III

Friedkin’s masterpiece is laid in Georgetown and Northern Iraq, Boorman’s deals with the hysteria along the lines of The Wizard of Oz, Blatty’s in turn makes a return to the start for a tale of religious decapitations.

The image is compounded as the bloodless victims, counting in their number a pair of priests, are crowned with a statuary head of Jesus. A satire, then, of one-size-fits-all fundamentalism, the murders being inspired through Father Damien himself, possessed at Satan’s vengeful whim by the spirit of the Zodiac killer (called Gemini here), and played by two actors as in Bu˝uel (Jason Miller, Brad Dourif).

Blatty’s taste for copious observation is rivaled only by Richard Lester’s in Cuba, and similarly boggled the critical mind. It’s a rich inheritance of the movies, going back at least to the Thirties, with a heavenly affect as an institutionalized old lady is interviewed by Det. Kinderman (George C. Scott), is he the radio repairman? The invisible console she’s holding is a telephone, not a radio, she explains after a divagation (later, possessed, she crawls unobserved at quite a clip along the ceiling, and commits a murder).

A marked influence can be discerned from 2001: A Space Odyssey in a few details: Kinderman and another detective seen conversing silently outside Damien’s padded cell, viewed through the small window in the door, and later the sound of Father Morning (Nicol Williamson) walking across his silent room in the purview of invisible forces.

Ed Flanders as a priest and friend of Kinderman’s works with Scott to give a convincing picture of professional men in their off-hours (what does a priest in the hospital read but Women’s Wear Daily, especially one who shares with his friend the policeman a passion for It’s a Wonderful Life, that masterpiece of Frank Capra’s indwelt by the very spirit and indeed the title of Leo McCarey’s The Bells of St. Mary’s?).