The Exorcist Legacy: 50 Years of Fear

Citadel. Jul. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9780806541945. $28. FILM
While The Exorcist assailed audiences with pea soup and profanity, those aren’t the reasons why it became a horror classic. The 1973 film, and the franchise it launched, offer an accessible meditation on the nature of good and evil. Journalist/producer Segaloff (More Fire! The Building of “The Towering Inferno”) explores this theme as he deftly guides the reader through The Exorcist’s cinematographic and literary legacy. Informed by extensive research and exclusive interviews, the book documents the origin of the film—from the “true” case that inspired William Peter Blatty, one of Hollywood’s leading comedy writers, to write the novel and later adapt it to film. Segaloff also touches on the drama behind the drama: the film’s allegedly cursed production, the battle over the final cut, and speculation over which infamous scenes featured 13-year-old Linda Blair or her adult stunt double. Segaloff extends his analysis to Blatty’s related novels, movie sequels, and the short-lived television series, ending with a look at the new Exorcist trilogy that’s currently in production.
VERDICT Segaloff’s incisive writing untangles Hollywood myths about the horror classic without damaging its mystique. His access to those at the heart of The Exorcist’s production offers new revelations, even for longtime fans.
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