Color, 1990, 110 mins.

Directed by William Peter Blatty

Starring George C. Scott, Ed Flanders, Jason Miller, Scott Wilson, Nicol Williamson, Brad Dourif, Viveca Lindfors / Produced by Carter De Haven, Jr. / Music by Barry De Vorzon / Cinematography by Gerry Fisher

Format: DVD - Warner (MSRP $19.95)

Letterboxed (1.85:1) (16x9 enhanced) / Dolby Digital 5.1

A strange, strange little movie, Exorcist III found author William Peter Blatty returning to the director's chair following his cult favorite The Ninth Configuration, though the experience here was equally compromised by studio tampering. Adapting his more streamlined novel Legion and completely ignoring John Boorman's Exorcist II: The Heretic, Blatty demonstrated a sure hand with his material and, deep flaws aside, the film still retains a compellingly hypnotic power in many scenes.

Fifteen years after the exorcism of Regan MacNeill, Lieutenant Kinderman (George C. Scott) has continued to maintain a friendship with Father Dyer (Ed Flanders). Both men are vaguely haunted by their experience with Damien Karras (Jason Miller), the priest who gave up his own life to save the young Regan, but have moved on with their lives. However, Georgetown is now rocked by a series of perverse, religiouly oriented slayings which reveal an impish and devious killer at work. The circumstances of the crimes eerily parallel the modus operandi of the Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif), who died the same night as Regan's exorcism. Could the two be related? And what about the anonymous mental patient who at varying points seems to resemble both Karras and the Gemini Killer?

The reshooting and cutting of Exorcist III (titled The Exorcist III: Legion even in the trailers) was well publicized even before its release. Most of the problems centered around the finale, for which executives decided an exorcism had to be present in the film to justify the title. Thus, poor Nicol Williamson stumbles around and performs a very sticky exorcism for no apparent reason, leading to the incredibly abrupt final shot. Fortunately, many other sequences display Blatty at his best: the eerie opening sequence in a deserted church, the murder of a priest in a confessional, and best of all, the heart-stopping shock moment involving a nurse left alone at night. Scott's character is very oddly written (the "fish" scene is beyond description), but he does well under the circumstnaces. Star watchers will have fun spotting numerous bit parts by everyone from Samuel L. Jackson to Fabio (yes, that Fabio) in a very weird dream sequence in heaven, while horror buffs will enjoy seeing Zohra Lampert (Let's Scare Jessica to Death) as Mrs. Kinderman and the notoriously difficult Viveca Lindfors (Creepshow, A Bell from Hell) as a possessed agent of the devil.

Warner's basic DVD of this film is still more than many horror fans could have expected, given its relative obscurity in the shadow of the original film. The anamorphic transfer is far cleaner and smoother than the Fox VHS and laserdisc editions, with information added to the sides and a little trimmed from the top. The highly manipulative soundtrack really benefits from a good sound system, with demonic whispers and subliminal mutterings often flitting in the background of the most mundane scenes. The suggestive, memorable theatrical trailer is also included.

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