Note: Following this article's publication, it has been (supposedly)
confirmed that all original footage of Legion has been lost and/or
destroyed. Hopeful Legion enthusiasts remain skeptical.
Update: In an e-mail I
received from Mr. Blatty's wife on June 28, 2007, she was graciously able to confirm the
"My husband tells me that it
is Morgan Creek's claim that they have lost all the footage, including an
alternate opening scene in which Kinderman views the body of Karras in the
morgue, right after his fall down the steps. What a shame."
Sunday January 25, 2004
1990, Exorcist author William Peter Blatty wrote and directed a low-key
sequel for Morgan Creek based on his best-selling novel Legion which
featured neither special effects nor satanic exorcisms. Instead, the movie's
pyrotechnics came from a couple of terrifically tense but visually discreet
set-piece shocks, and from haunting exchanges between Oscar winner George C.
Scott and Brad Dourif as a policeman and asylum inmate respectively. In an
eerie prefiguring of [Paul] Schrader's bruising experiences [re:
Exorcist: The Beginning], Blatty's first cut was unfavorably
received by studio executives who demanded to know "what the hell this has
to do with The Exorcist?" Re-shoots were promptly ordered, with Dourif's
central performance being first dumped and then re-worked in abridged form;
new star Jason Miller was roped in to reprise his role of Father Karras from
the original Exorcist; the title was perfunctorily changed to The
Exorcist III; and thespian legend Nicol Williamson was enlisted to
perform a spectacular (if clearly ill-fitting) exorcism replete with fire,
lightning, explosions, levitation, a sea of snakes, and even face-ripping
dismemberment. All at a total cost of $4m. "I said that I don't do battle
scenes and I don't do exorcisms," Blatty told me at the time. "But after
seeing that first rough cut, they just said, 'That's it, there has to be an
exorcism.'" According to Brad Dourif: "We all felt really bad about it. But
Blatty tried to do his best under very difficult circumstances. And I
remember George C. Scott saying that the folks would only be satisfied if
Madonna came out and sang a song at the end!"
The same is
true of Blatty's original cut of Legion / The Exorcist III,
which I viewed in an unfinished version back in the early Nineties, and
which still haunts me to this day. "It was always meant to be a
psychological thriller, not a special-effects horror film," says Blatty, who
maintains a diplomatic silence on the comparisons between his own situation
and that facing [Paul] Schrader. "I can't comment on that," he says, "but I
can say that it would make me very happy indeed if some day people were able
to see my original version of Legion, which was rather different from the
one now in release as The Exorcist III."
the possibility of a special edition DVD may allow his first version of
Legion to see the light of day, providing film fans with the first true
sequel to The Exorcist.