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Sunday, 4 March, 2001, 13:38 GMT
TV premiere for The Exorcist
Still from The Exorcist
The Exorcist was seen as a "video nasty" until last year
Controversial horror classic The Exorcist is to get its UK television premiere on Channel 4 on 17 March.

The film - dubbed "the scariest movie ever made" - is about the demonic possession of 12-year-old Regan MacNeil and a Jesuit priest's attempts to banish evil from her.

If you believe that the world is a dark and evil place, then The Exorcist will re-affirm that

William Friedkin
This will be the first time the film has been shown in full on UK television, though BBC Two screened several of the most graphic clips in a documentary to mark the film's 25th anniversary in 1998.

The Exorcist is based on the book by William Peter Blatty which is itself said to be based on actual events in Maryland in 1949.

Its release in the US in 1973 provoked outrage from American religious figures who protested at the "satanic" imagery.

The 1974 UK release of the William Friedkin movie starring Linda Blair was marred by reports of cinemagoers suffering fits, fainting and vomiting.

This reaction is put down to the ground-breaking special effects which gave the film an unprecedented air of reality.

Friedkin said of the film: "You take from The Exorcist what you bring to it.

"If you believe that the world is a dark and evil place, then The Exorcist will re-affirm that.

"But if you believe that there is a power for good in this world then that is what you will bring from the Exorcist."

Scene from The Exorcist
The exorcist arrives
The film was subsequently denied a release for home viewing in the UK because of concerns that it was too disturbing.

But in 1999 the uncut version of the film was granted an 18 certificate after the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) decided that the film no longer had the same impact as it did 25 years before.

At the time the BBFC said: "In the 1970s, incidents of hysteria involving young women led to some concern that the film might cause severe emotional problems, particularly among those who believed in the reality of demonic possession.

"It was with this concern in mind that the BBFC in the 1980s and early 1990s concluded that a video classification even with an 18 rating was inappropriate.

The move came after a successful 1998 cinema re-release of the film with no reports of "hysteria or audience disturbance".

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The scariest movie ever made?
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