Review: The Exorcist III

Review: The Exorcist III (1990)

Director: William Peter Blatty

Writer: William Peter Blatty

Stars: George C. Scott, Brad Dourif, Ed Flanders

currently available on Amazon Proime (as of 10/30/19)

William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist III is supernaturally exhilarating, spellbinding its viewers in fascinated horror as it entrances them with incomparable dialog and some of the most intense performances ever captured on film.  The original novel The Exorcist, which was also written by Blatty, was transformed into a bona fide horror masterpiece by the sure hand of master director William Friedkin (The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A., Bug).  When Blatty took over the director’s chair to adapt its first true sequel (I am discountingThe Exorcist 2 which was a shameless cash grab disowned by Blatty), he touched the film with a passionate knowledge of self, missing from the coldly scientific perspective of Friedkin’s masterpiece.  This means that pain and evil each drip from the screen during The Exorcist III, making it no less horrifying and nearly as fascinating as 1972’s The Exorcist..

Whereas Friedkin filmed his experiment in horror like a police procedural, The Exorcist III(which is actually a police procedural) is filmed with an emotional lens, making its shadows deeper and its reality more pliable.  Characters transform their faces and voices, figures crawl quickly on the ceiling, and a crucified adolescent innocent floats up from a hole in the floor.  While all the horrific descriptions and depictions of violence might risk guiding viewers to look away, the film’s performances are absolutely riveting, especially the starring turn by George C. Scott.

The pain and the terror in Scott’s face is deeply meaningful, and the rage in his arms is captivating.  It is almost as if, in times of great emotional strife, Scott’s character Lt. William Kinderman loses control of his muscles as they spasm in pain.  But it is not only Scott’s performance that elevates the film, but also Ed Flanders’ portrayal of horror-hardened Priest Father Dyer that grounds the emotion of the film in wise empathy.  But it is Brad Dourif’s spellbinding showing as the malevolent Gemini Killer that makes the film intoxicating.

Unlike his magnificent showing in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as the suicidally bashful Billy Bibbit, Dourif’s turn in The Exorcist III shows us the self-assured face of evil.  Imprisoned, tormented, and unstoppable.  This film shows the monstrous nature of evil, forbidding its audience from looking away even for a second.  Though to my perspective this is not the staggering achievement the original The Exorcist was, this film is more emotionally tangible than its predecessor, and definitely as worthy of a watch this Halloween.

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Review: The Exorcist III

Movie Review: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Writer: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, (novel by) Peter George

Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden

Dr. Strangelove is brilliant satire, and while it deals with themes of apocalyptic importance, it never fails to be riotously funny.  In 1963, burgeoning auteur Stanley Kubrick won the rights to adapt “Red Alert,” a serious-as-hell paranoid fantasy about the beginning of a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia.  He and screenwriter Terry Southern struggled to adapt the novel, eventually coming to the decision that the events described in the novel were so terrifying that they could not be handled seriously.  So the two of them changed course, creating one of the most brilliantly hilarious pieces of political satire ever conceived.  In the film, an American base commander launches a surprise nuclear strike on many targets inside Russia, unwittingly triggering a Russian “doomsday devise” that could wipe out all life on Earth.  This film, brilliant as it is, could never have worked without the efforts of certified comedy genius Peter Sellers, who tackles three of the film’s central roles.

Using his native British accent, Sellers first plays group captain Lionel Mandrake, whose put-upon stammer provides the audience with its clearest surrogate.  This character is desperate, terrified, and absolutely professional.  Later in the film Sellers reappears as the eponymous Dr. Strangelove, using a ludicrous German accent and seemingly random vocal emphasis to portray the character’s madness.  His greatest performance of the film, however, comes in his portrayal of U.S. President Merton Muffley.  The sequence in which Muffley, on the verge of tears, explains the situation to Russian head Premeir Kissoff, is an absolute comedic masterpiece.  Though Sellers’ powerhouse performances dominate the film, three other brilliant and likewise hilarious performances are turned in by Sterling Hayden, George C. Scott, and Slim Pickens.

Slim Pickens plays T.J. “King” Kong, the American pilot ordered to attack Russia, and he fills the role with good-natured flair, portraying a man who, just by doing his job as well as he can, may end up destroying the world.  George C. Scott plays General “Buck” Turgidson, a towering buffoon who chews gum as if it owes him money.  Sterling Hayden’s performance as General Jack D. Ripper is hilariously stern and insane.  I’ve seen the film more times then I can recall, but I can never not guffaw when General Ripper speaks of “The international communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

Beyond these masterpieces of comic acting, Kubrick filles the screen with visual jokes as funny as any I’ve ever seen.  In the war room General Turgidson (Scott) sits in front of a binder labeled “World Targets in Megadeaths,” and as a large machine gun constantly fires, we see directly behind it a billboard that reads “Peace is our Profession.”  General Ripper pulling a gigantic machine gun out of his golf club satchel, and Kong (Pickens) describing the contents of his own survival pack (“…Two lipsticks, two pair of nylon stockings…”) all add to the comedically enhanced reality of the film.  Dr. Strangelove is satire at its highest form, saying important things about meaningful topics, and it makes me laugh every time I see it.

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Movie Review: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)