Tuesday, September 12, 2023


*The Exorcist Legacy is available to purchase on hardback and Kindle.* 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic horror movie The Exorcist. I was eager to read The Exorcist Legacy: 50 Years of Fear by Nat Segaloff, a movie publicist, film critic, TV producer, college teacher, reporter, broadcaster, and, of course, author. In terms of The Exorcist, Sagaloff is no stranger; he served as one of the film's first publicists and wrote the highly regarded biography of the late William David Friedkin, who directed the film.

The book begins with a foreword, The Exorcist and Me, by John A. Russo (co-writer of Night of the Living Dead (1968) and co-wrote the story for Return of the Living Dead (1985)), and a preface titled The Secret Screening, where Sagaloff details the original critics screening on Christmas Day 1973, the day before The Exorcist hit theaters.

The first chapter is a condensed biography of The Exorcist author and screenplay writer William Peter Blatty and the film's director, William Friedkin— they crossed paths long before Blatty's novel. The second chapter covers the original case—the exorcism of Ronald Edwin Hunkeler—that inspired Blatty to write The Exorcist. Chapter three is about William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist novel, with a "sidebar" synopsis. The following four chapters cover the making and release of the 1973 film, along with more sidebars: a film synopsis, The Curse of the Exorcist, Karra's Death, The X-oricst, and Mrs. Warren's Profession. Chapter eight covers the film's other versions: the Special Edition (1998), The Version You've Never Seen (2000), and the Extended Director's Cut (2010); there's another sidebar, "The Versions are Legion."

Whether you want it or not—there are prequels and sequels to The Exorcist, and the book covers all of them. Chapters 9, 10, and 11 detail the many production problems with Exorcist II: The Hetric, Exorcist III (Legion), and Exorcist: The Beginning/Dominion. The sidebars in these chapters discuss the different versions of each film. Chapter 12 goes over the short-lived Exorcist television series with a synopsis sidebar. The thirteenth chapter gives us a brief look into the new sequel trilogy from director David Gorden Green.

Billy Goes to Hell is the title of Chapter 14, which details the William Friedkin-directed documentary The Devil and Father Amorth and features an on-camera exorcism performed by the late Father Gabriel Amorth. Chapter 15 and 16 discusses demon possessions and religion. The book ends with an Afterward by film critic Mark Kermode and an Appendix: Colloquy with William Peter Blatty —an interview Nat Sealoff had with Blatty while researching his 1990 biography of William Friedkin. Additionally, there are acknowledgments, a bibliography, photo captions & credits, endnotes, and an index at the back of the book.

I don't remember my exact age when I first saw The Exorcist, but I know it was the edited version that aired on TBS way back in the day (late 1980s?)—still, I was probably a bit too young. Nevertheless, that was my introduction to the film, and I loved it from the get-go and watched it whenever it aired. Later, I bought the 25th Anniversary "Special Edition" on VHS—I might still have it in storage somewhere. And, of course, I own it on DVD and Blu-ray. Like most fans, I don't particularly like The Heretic—though, after a recent rewatch, I didn't necessarily outright hate it. The prequels are a mess. I skipped over the television series, though I've heard good things. The Exorcist III, or Legion, is the only decent sequel. I have my fingers crossed for The Exorcist: Believer, but the godawful trailers aren't helping matters.

The Exorcist Legacy by Nat Sealoff is a fantastic representation of the entire franchise, not just The Exorcist. Even if the behind-the-scenes anecdotes aren't new, some readers may have never heard of them. The book was a page-turner for me, but I'm a little weird—I adore understanding every detail about my favorite movies—so I automatically absorbed every word.


As you may have predicted, I enjoyed reading The Exorcist Legacy: 50 Years of Fear. It's an excellent companion piece to William Peter Blatty's novel and William Friedkin's iconic picture. ╌★★★★★

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