The rumors may have begun as early as 1990 when The Exorcist III immediately struggled at the box office and with critics. There was a superior cut called Legion somewhere out there, writer-director William Peter Blatty’s ultimate vision. As the years turned to more than two decades, fans anxiously waited. All they had were some screenshots, a few fleeting seconds in one of the early trailers which included footage not in the theatrical cut, and stories from people who had seen the script to ponder “what should have been”. It’s now 2016, and we have the cut of Legion. While it still seems a bit incomplete, we cannot be surprised. In an almost unprecedented move, Shout! Factory did what it could, using whatever footage they could find, and put it together in a way that the story would still make sense. Whether you like the finished product or not, after 26 years of waiting, their effort was more than commendable. While this does in fact bring about an end to the wondering, it also marks the end of an era: we may never again have a search for a “lost cut” of a feature film of this magnitude.
This might be the coziest horror movie you will ever see. The House That Dripped Blood takes place in the English countryside, in a beautiful cottage. It is an anthology film, with four different stories presented. Each have two things in common: the house in question and the untimely and bizarre fates of the person who purchased it. Though the title is literally dripping with images of gore and all sorts of violence, there is remarkably little blood on screen, if any. What we have here is an exercise in film marketing. Director John Duffell was even opposed to the title because it does not reflect the actual product. The film relies on terrific acting and a good story rather than gore to entertain. In fact, the film was originally passed with a grade acceptable for all audiences. The studio requested an X rating to give it a more violent allure. It is a similar situation to the film I previously reviewed: Horror Hotel (1960).
The haunted tours at the Strauss Mansion Museum this year were different. No script, no actors, no jump-scares or cheap thrills. Instead, we wanted to let our real ghosts do the talking. Myself along with other members of Ghosts on the Coast led five tours per night the last two weekends, approximately 45 minutes each. We started on the third floor in the Tower Room before working our way into the basement. Along the way, we told ghost stories and experiences which occurred in the museum over the years, reviewed evidence, and conducted SB-7 Spirit Box sessions to attempt to communicate with the ghosts. To say these were a success would be an understatement. We sold out every tour days in advance, and everyone appeared to leave happy. During the introduction at the beginning of the tour, I would mention how there are no guarantees of paranormal activity—that nothing was staged and sometimes we do not get anything no matter how hard we look. I also mentioned how I would rather we do these tours and find nothing than have someone hiding in a closet banging on the wall trying to scare people. I think they “got it” after that message. This was as close to a real paranormal investigation as we could make it, given the size of the groups and time constraints. But there were some experiences.
They did the best they could with what they had. Like many people, I had been waiting many years to see William Peter Blatty’s vision of Legion put to film. We knew that if the footage was ever found, it would be of a lower quality because it had been sitting in storage over the years. We also knew the ending would be a subtle one, the antithesis to the special effects bonanza the studio made him tack on in what became The Exorcist III. Yet if you read the forums, you will see people are complaining about those two things. To me, judging and reviewing Legion is actually a bit of a tricky task. The question that comes into the equation is do we judge it in comparison to The Exorcist III or as a standalone film that still seems incomplete because of the way that extra footage was handled? The latter gives those disappointed a chance to still wonder about “what might have been” and the former can claim the studio was right in demanding changes.
One was subdued, regal, and spoke with a careful distinction—hypnotic. The other took over the screen with rage, and a violent tenacity that had not yet been seen for the character. For that reason, comparing Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee in their iconic roles as Count Dracula is like comparing apples and oranges. You can have your favorite of the two, but you can’t really say who was better. They were made in different times, and are a product of that. Lugosi’s 1931 portrayal was in an eerie black and white, with censorship rules at the time forbidding the bloodlust that such a film required. His Dracula was stately. A man carefully hiding something, perhaps just a tad eccentric to throw his potential victims off. He’s a gentleman. Lee, on the other hand, is erratic. He buzzes in and out of scenes. He rarely speaks at all, which further adds to his mystique. 1958 also allowed for more on-screen blood which paired well with his visible bloodthirstiness.
I blogged about this in January when Morgan Creek had sent a series of cryptic tweets regarding the possibility of a long-awaited director’s cut of The Exorcist III. I followed the story for a few more months and then it appeared that all was for nothing. You could imagine my surprise this morning when I saw Shout! Factory’s release being advertised. It totally slipped my mind. People had already pre-ordered, and if they did, they would have it today. I just placed my order now, so it won’t be coming for a few days, but I am so excited. The Exorcist III is one of my favorite films. It has been much maligned over the years, but mainly because of the studio’s interference with writer-director William Peter Blatty’s vision. That vision will be included in this new release.
It’s a shame that so many British horror movies had to be released with a different, catchier title here in the United States to make them more box office friendly. That was actually the norm. For some reason, The City of the Dead was too abstract, and so it became Horror Hotel for us folks here in the “colonies”. I don’t know, the name just cheapens it a little bit. Yes, there is a hotel (more like a small village inn) and there is plenty of horror, but aside from just being the place that hosts the victims, this movie has little to do with a hotel. Christopher Lee plays a college professor who teaches a course on witchcraft. One of his best students (Venetia Stevenson) is captivated by his classes and requests a suggestion for where she can continue her field work outside of class. He tells her to visit Whitewood, site of a witch hysteria in the 1600’s and the place he was born.