Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Friday, October 30, 1998 Published at 00:44 GMT


The scariest movie ever made?

Most of the action is restricted to Regan's bedroom

The 'scariest movie ever made' was released onto cinema screens on 31 October 1973 and on Saturday, in celebration of its 25th birthday, it is unleashed again.

The Exorcist, a film about the possession of 12-year-old Regan MacNeil and the eponymous exorcist's attempts to banish evil from her, has been banned from video in Britain for the last 14 years.

[ image: The Exorcist prepares himself]
The Exorcist prepares himself
The British Board of Film Classification under its director of 23 years, James Ferman, did not say it was a bad film.

On the contrary Mr Ferman says: "It's that it is a very good film - one of the most powerful films ever made, and its that power that is a problem on video."

But Mr Ferman is retiring and Andreas Whittam Smith, the BBFC president, has said: "If The Exorcist is re-submitted for a video certificate, then we will have to reassess the situation."

Mark Kermode's Radio 1 feature: 'The film that changed my life'
With many new examiners in the BBFC, and arguments that the film has dated, it is thought the annivesary re-release may prompt Warner Brothers to re-submit the film - and finally the film may get a small screen certificate.

Scotland gets it first

The film has been on release in Scotland since June. But do Scottish audiences think it stands the test of time?

These are comments made by those who have recently seen the film:

"I thought it was psychologically disturbing - the effects haven't dated at all."

[ image: Regan after possession]
Regan after possession
"It leaves you thinking about it for a few days after. It was too much"

"I was terrified by the thought of what was happening, and the thought of what was going to happen. There were lots of peple losing controls of their stomachs!"

"I find this quite hard to talk about. My boyfriend gave me tickets to see it for my 18th birthday. It was so disturbing that I'm now in counselling and I've split up with my boyfriend".

What the papers said

The film went on release in Britain in March 1974. Critical comment was varied.

[ image: Mother and disturbed daughter struggle]
Mother and disturbed daughter struggle
Derek Malcolm, reviewing it for the Guardian, said: "As a horror film pure and simple, I suppose it is an expert job."

But he went on to say: "Its ugly, threatening surface betrays no more real depth than 'I was a teenage werewolf'. If the film is a religious experience, I'm glad I'm an agnostic."

But with other ecstatic views, it seems the critics either loved or hated it.

Exorcist film 'led to girl's murder'

Harder, and more chilling, news was to be found elsewhere in the press.

The Sun's headline, as seen above, was part of their coverage, mirrored in the broadsheets, of the case in October 1975 of a 17-year-old Nicholas Bell who murdered a nine-year-old girl.

He claimed to have started having nightmares about Satan and mutilated birds after having seen the film.

Elsewhere, just a couple of months after the film came out a Daily Telegraph headline read 'Man jailed after 'Exorcist' attack'.

Then later in 1974 papers reported on the death of 16-year-old John Power who died of a fit after seeing the film. An inquest was ordered, and he was found to have died of natural causes.

  • Read BBFC James Ferman's arguments against letting the film onto a small screen.

  • Check out the BBC Movies The Exorcist site - a special feature deconstructing every aspect of the the movie - hear interviews with everyone involved in the film.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Entertainment Contents

TV and Radio
New Media

Relevant Stories

30 Oct 98 | Entertainment
Ferman: 'The power of religion is there'

15 Jun 98 | Entertainment
The Exorcist returns

Internet Links

BBC Movies - Special Feature

Warner Brothers US dvd info - including trailer

Internet Movie Database


Radio 1

US priest discusses exorcism

The Jesuits

Text of an exorcism

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.