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Tuesday, February 9, 1999 Published at 13:02 GMT


Exorcist finally possesses videos

Demonic possession: "Hysteria involving young women"

Controversial horror film The Exorcist is finally set for video release in the UK - 25 years after it first appeared in British cinemas.

The uncut version of the film has been granted an 18 certificate after the British Board of Film Classification decided that the film no longer had the same impact as it did a quarter-of-a century ago.

A statement by BBFC director Robert Duval confirmed that there was little evidence to suggest the film had caused "actual harm" to viewers.

[ image: The exorcist arrives]
The exorcist arrives
The 1974 British cinema release of what has been described as the most frightening film yet made was marred by reports of cinema-goers suffering fits, fainting and vomiting.

The film was subsequently denied a release for home viewing because of concerns that it was too disturbing.

The BBFC statement said: "The film was originally given an X certificate in 1974 and has been widely shown since then.

"In the 1970s, however, 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.

[ image: BBC Two: Showed the most graphic scenes]
BBC Two: Showed the most graphic scenes
"It was 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 BBFC acknowledged that the decision to grant the film a video certificate had been encouraged by the successful Warner Brothers cinema re-release of the film last year, with no reports of "hysteria or audience disturbance".

BBC Two also screened several of the most graphic clips in a documentary last year, although the full film has never been shown on British television.

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

It charts the demonic possession of a young girl called Regan and a Jesuit priest's attempts to exorcise her.

Its release in the US on Boxing Day 1973 provoked outrage from the American religious right, who objected to its use of "satanic" imagery.

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