UNSPOOLED: Revisiting ‘The Exorcist’

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 11, 2000 — Seen any good Satanic-possession movies lately?

The granddaddy of all devil-in-me flicks, “The Exorcist,” is set to return to a handful of U.S. theaters next month in an all-new expanded and restored version that contains “more than one full reel of long-rumored, legendary footage, excised before the film’s original release,” according to Warner Bros.

The new version isn’t being billed as a “director’s cut,” but rather as an “author’s cut.” Director William Friedkin, who supervised the restoration, says this is the version that author William Peter Blatty (who wrote the screenplay, based on his novel) wanted to see back in 1973. Twenty-six years ago, Friedkin and the studio had other ideas. Now Friedkin‘s a convert.

“After viewing it a quarter of a century later I’ve come to agree with him,” Friedkin says in a statement. “The restored footage — plus one or two little surprises — makes the film more suspenseful, as well as spiritually deeper.”

The Exorcist” starred Linda Blair as the possessed, vomit-spewing, head-rotating little girl and Jason Miller as the demon-evicting priest. All were nominated for Academy Awards. Blatty won an Oscar for best screenplay adaptation. The film grossed $150 million domestically, en route to becoming the second-highest-earning film in history at that time, trailing only “The Godfather.” It also won a Golden Globe for best dramatic film.

The expanded version of “The Exorcist” initially will get a very limited release, beginning March 17 in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Austin, Texas; and Athens, Georgia. For more info, check out Warners’ all-new “Exorcist” Website at: www.theexorcist.net.

GOING ‘PSYCHO’?: Nobody (outside of some Sundancers) has seen it yet, but everybody already hates it. That’s how it seems for “American Psycho,” the new film version of Bret Easton Ellis’ infamous novel, starring Christian Bale. A Florida lawyer who represents the parents of three kids killed in a Kentucky school shooting is demanding that “Psycho” get an NC-17 rating. Lions Gate Entertainment already has vowed to trim the flick to qualify for an R, but that’s not good enough for the legal eagle. If it’s not branded NC-17, and an under-17 viewer is inspired to commit a copycat killing, the lawyer says he’ll sue both Lions Gate and the movie ratings board. The families represented by the attorney say their kids’ killers were inspired by an earlier Hollywood product — 1995’s “The Basketball Diaries.”

FIGHT FOR YOUR WRITE: A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit brought against Spike Lee by a man claiming he should have been given a co-author credit on the writer/director’s “Malcolm X” (1992). Jefri Aalmuhammed, the film’s Islamic technical consultant, sued Lee and Warner in 1995, alleging that his contributions were so important to the film that he should get a co-author credit. A federal court initially dismissed Aalmuhammed’s case in 1998.

KIDDIE KA-CHING! There’s a celebration going on in toyland, specifically at Mattel, which was awarded the coveted merchandising contract for the upcoming Harry Potter movies. The best-selling children’s books by J.K. Rowlings, about a magical orphan, are currently being developed into feature flicks by Warner Bros. The first film in the sure-thing franchise is “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” slated for a summer 2001 release and which Steven Spielberg is reportedly considering as his next project.