The Exorcist III plays in the background as I type this. I had to just give it another watch to get me in the mood in case a director’s cut is actually coming sometime this year. I also wanted to post a follow-up to yesterday’s article about the possibility. It was pretty well-read, so I wanted to share a little more insight and speculation for those who are going to frequent this blog. On an unrelated note, I have noticed that the IMDB score for The Exorcist III is up to a 6.3 (respectable for a horror sequel in the 1990’s if you ask me). For years it hovered at around 5.9 but as people realized that this is a hidden gem more than a commercial flop, the rating climbs. I imagine if a new cut is released, the score will increase even more.
As for more insight into how director’s cuts work, I offered a little bit yesterday given my experience working with Gods and Generals several years ago. I blogged about it so much that Warner Brothers got in touch and offered me an editorial partnership, which included travelling to the premiere and interviewing almost everyone I wanted. I mention this phenomenal opportunity not to gloat, but to just offer that I have the experience in dealing with director’s cuts for our new readers here. Granted, I knew people close to the situation so it was a bit easier (and with less speculation), but I do want to get to the bottom of it on this blog.
The other director’s cut I have followed intimately (and again, know a few people involved) is the release of John Wayne’s 1960 film The Alamo (also known as the “roadshow” version). The situation there could be similar here, regarding how the cut film actually looks (due to storage and the care that went into it). Where has the footage been all this time? We don’t know and might never find out, but it becomes more complicated if the film’s cells themselves were not properly stored. I personally don’t care if the footage contains a few grains or even some popping in the sound, but from a production company standpoint, they will most likely not release a film if the cuts back and forth between old and new scenes show a highly visible difference. Case in point, The Alamo. The director’s cut was only ever released on VHS years ago. After years of refusal, MGM finally looked into it recently and determined the transfer would not be good enough for clearer, HD mediums. The cut footage had deteriorated so badly due to lackadaisical storage and the difference was outrageously bad on DVD and Blu Ray. VHS was the only medium where the quality difference was minimal, and even that you could notice the cut scenes slightly even if you had never seen it before. TCM shows the film every once in a while on TV in its entirety, and the result is the same as the VHS. They do not broadcast it in HD even on their HD channel due to that issue. Last I heard, they had a team of restoration artists and scientists looking at it, but I think it is currently on the back-burner once again as there is no way to make it economically feasible for the limited audience it would have. Not saying that is the case here. This movie has a lot going for it: not as old, not as much footage, wider audience who will pay whatever the asking price is. Just wanted to give it some additional perspective.
Let’s move to something more positive: what scenes were actually cut? According to IMDB and several corroborating fan-site articles, possible scenes removed that might still exist are: “1. Alternate opening scene in which Kinderman views the body of Karras in the morgue after his fall down the stairs in the ending of first movie, when Kinderman leaves the morgue, heart monitor shows signs of life from the body of Karras. 2. Aftermath of death scene of the first murdered priest where his dead body is shown holding his severed head while sitting. 3. Longer version of the scene where Kinderman talks with priest about the murders and when the demon face is shown on statue of the saint. Originally, unseen intruder decapitates the statue and places a knife in its hand. 4. Exhumation of Damien Karras’s body in Jesuit cemetery. Later it’s discovered that dead body is actually from Brother Fain, a Jesuit who was tending Karras’s body and who disappeared 15 years ago. Although this scene is deleted, parts of it are used in new ending where Patient X/Karras is buried. 5. Blatty’s original cut also didn’t have Jason Miller as Karras/Patient X in it and it had different isolation cell for scenes in which Kinderman talked with Patient X/Gemini killer. Some promotional photos show Patient X and Kinderman talking in original cell. 6. New exorcism ending that Blatty had to film also had small part deleted in which Karras/Patient X is morphing through many other faces. One theatrical trailer shows this deleted scene.”
This is just me speculating and wishfully thinking, but the best case scenario for this director’s cut would be to release it as an entirely different film. They can even just call it Exorcist: Legion if they want as to not confuse casual fans who do not know or care about the whole backstory. This would not be the first time something like this happened in the Exorcist saga. During the production of Exorcist: The Beginning (2004) the same studio again was frustrated at a supposed lack of violence, and again wanted a more commercial product than philosophical or metaphysical. The director Paul Schrader was fired and replaced with Renny Harlin, certain actors and characters were cut altogether, and new ones brought in. In an almost unheard of move, though, the next year the studio allowed Schrader to independently release the movie he had intended under the title of Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005). Actor Stellan Skarsgard therefore has the distinction of playing Father Merrin just as many times as Max Von Sydow. Will my idea actually happen? The amount of work would be the same, but Blatty gets what he wants and Morgan Creek finally gets to right a now 26-year-old wrong.