Warner Brothers. "The Exorcist: The Sound of Silence." 1973, 2000. 10 May 2008 <http://theexorcist.warnerbros.com/cmp/silencebottom.html>.
This webpage offers the perspectives of many contributors to the soundtrack of The Exorcist. There are several instances of the unique mechanisms used to convey the unusual sound effects.
For example, Friedkin stresses the use of sonic contrast throughout the film. He wanted to use sound to match the extreme visual shifts onscreen, such as that between light versus dark. This creates a “startle effect”, where sound functions as a weapon that penetrates the audience with sudden assaultive effects, unpredictably followed by a surrounding quiet. Perfectly capturing this is the scene where the traumatizing noises of the x-ray machine suddenly disappear into thin air. The screen blacks out, making the moment much more intense.
In addition, many examples of diegetic sound exist throughout the film. In the opening scene, which displays countless workers digging in the rubble of the Iraqi desert, the sound of the axes hitting the rocks simultaneously occurs with the echoing sound that is produced. Apparently, Friedkin checked this scene over one hundred times in order to ensure its accuracy, in hopes of creating the most realistic soundspace possible.
Friedkin also perfected the voice of the demon. Initially, he tinkered with the combination of Blair’s voice and that of a male. However, the synthesized result sounded too fake. He resorted to calling an old friend—Mercedes McCambridge—in order to create a more convincing demonic tone. She went to great lengths to try and produce the most horrific noises; she chain smoked, swallowed raw eggs, and even tied herself to a chair, among other things. Eventually, her painful sounds were combined with frequencies of angry bees and slaughtered pigs to produce the relentless devil within Regan.
Overall, Buzz Knudson was responsible for bringing together all of these sounds and inserting them into a continuous flow. Hundreds of different sound experts were called in to contribute to even the smallest auditory effects. Artists would experiment with atonal beats using materials like crystal stemware, old leather wallets, and pencils. The track took over fifteen weeks to make, though most movies took around six weeks. Indeed, the film had brilliant sound engineering.
Part of the success of The Exorcist must be credited to the work of the sound production team. Sound functions as a storytelling element, becoming just as important as the visuals when it comes to horror filmmaking. Buzz Knudson pioneered the use of new ideas and technologies; he was able to blend in music with the background—never dominating a scene—yet subtly building up its intensity. His immense efforts were crucial in portraying the evil nature of the devil, certainly shocking audiences across the nation.
Shay, Don. "Dick Smith--50 Years in Make-up." Cinefex Jun 1995. <http://www.dicksmithmake-up.com/Cinefex_article.pdf>.
Cinefax is one of the first professional industry publications providing the latest information about physical and computer-generated image special effects. This particular issue was in commemoration of Dick Smith's fifty years in the TV and film arenas. Included in the spread were several interviews with his previous colleagues, dozens of photos displaying his work-in-action, year-by-year blurbs describing the details behind his most significant creations (1945-1995), and an in-depth interview with the artist himself.
Smith spoke about his beginnings in the make-up business, where he started off as an untrained yet passionate artist working long hours in his New York basement. He used any sort of material he could find in order to create astonishingly realistic molds and figures that were eventually used in many major productions. His dedication and drive are especially evident in what he still claims to be one of his best works, The Exorcist.
For this film, Smith had only three months to handle several types of challenges, ranging from demonic and old-age make-up to special effects make-up involving various technologies inspired by his own previous inventions. Most of his time went into the transformation of the innocent Regan into the frightening product of demonic possession. He used multiple appliances to mimic facial scratches and boils on her face; these became progressively worse by the use of other techniques as well. In continuation, he employed the use of “primitive bladder technology”, in which a condom was glued to the underside of a foam-latex appliance in a scene where Regan’s throat scarily swelled up (as if the demon was crawling down her throat). Smith also manufactured contact lenses of different colors and shapes—these were used in particular scenes in order to enhance the storyline. In one of the most memorable scenes involving her slithery, long tongue, the artist took a cast of Blair’s actual tongue and used special rubber to create eerie snake-like effects.
Smith claims that his most significant achievement in the film was something unnoticeable—the make up of forty five year old actor, Max von Sydow. He was given the role of the older priest, even though he looked the part of the younger, Father Karras. Smith was able to age him twenty five years by using appliance pieces and old-age stipple in a creative fashion. He also created several formulas to accommodate the set’s extreme weather changes, which went from the blazing hot Iraqi desert to the sub-freezing temperatures of the bedroom scenes.
All in all, Dick Smith’s contributions to The Exorcist changed the face of special effects and raised the expectations for films that were to follow. His work undeniably continues to influence the production of highly realistic effects. In fact, in the article, he claims that “even when the characters were fantastically weird, I always tried to make them believable…actors have to feel like they are the person they are portraying. I think my work has helped many to achieve that.” There is certainly no doubt that he was successful in transmitting this sentiment to audiences as well—instilling fear in millions of moviegoers.
Ballon, Bruce, and Leszcz, Molyn. "Horror Films: Tales to Master Terror or Shapers of Trauma?." American Journal of Psychotherapy. 61.2 (2007). 11 May 2008 .
This scientific article discusses the phenomenon known as cinematic neurosis; it was written by and based on the clinical experiences of two psychiatrists. The authors review the literature regarding symptom presentation and case reports, as well as the possible etiology of the pathology, including trauma theory, narrative theory, and borderline personality organization theory as it relates to the structure of the typical horror film. Specifically, they focus on The Exorcist since it is a powerful example of an “invasion metamorphosis” narrative of the paranoid-horror film class. The ‘invasion’ involves the possession of an innocent young girl; the ‘metamorphosis’ involves her transformation into a demonic creature who threatens those around her, and the setting is the safe home. The storyline constantly deals with paranoid anxiety due to Regan’s dangerous and unpredictable behaviors, as well as depressive anxiety with the loss of a loved one (as experienced by the passing of Father Karras’ mother).
Ballon and Leszcz argue that throughout The Exorcist, an individual can relate to parts of the narrative that parallel their own life experiences. This can either carry levels of stress that will be mastered, or serve as a traumatic event that will be re-enacted until it is conquered. This “re-enactment” takes the form of cinematic neurosis, which is a culturally influenced disorder associated with the development of anxiety, somatic responses, dissociation, paranoia, panic attacks, and even psychotic symptoms after watching a film. In this case, the film stimulus overwhelms the coping threshold of the viewer, resulting in symptom presentation. (However, the factors that predict the onset of this condition include not only the viewing experience, but also one’s pre-existing vulnerabilities/personality traits.)
The authors posit that the characteristics of the movie itself enhance the identification process and its potentially traumatic impact. Graphic films, such as The Exorcist, can overwhelm ego boundaries with the help of the actors’ skill, music, and most importantly, the special effects and cinematography—all of which further enhance the narrative. The latter features capture and heighten the characters’ pain and suffering, relentlessly shocking the audience without warning. Furthermore, the psychiatrists write that the “film’s special effects sequences become central as the film reaches its climax”. Thus, it can be concluded that the presentation of cinematic neurosis is related to the quality and shock-factor of the cinematic techniques that accompany the narrative. The fact there have been several medically documented cases of this culturally shaped disorder is a testament to how effective the artistic team was in capturing people’s greatest fears and creating effects that were easy to believe—although unfortunately sometimes to the viewer’s detriment.
Klemesrud, Judy. "They wait hours--to be shocked." New York Times on the Web 27 Jan 1974.
University of Pennsylvania Library, Philadelphia 9 May 2008.
This is a NY Times article written about a month after The Exorcist was released in theatres. Klemesrud stood in a massively long line, interviewing ticketholders and employees at Manhattan’s Cinema I complex. She found out that previous moviegoers had not only vomited, but also hurriedly left, fainted, screamed, endured heart attacks—and one even reportedly had a miscarriage due to the horrific scenes.
Many people waited for up to twelve hours to be able to see how the impossible would be represented on screen. The crowds wanted to see flying objects, spinning heads, levitation, and not to mention the morbid scenes capturing blood, vomit, guts, and gore. Several fans wondered if parts of the book would actually be represented in the film—such as the taboo masturbation-with-the-cross incident and gratuitous language use, among other possibilities.
Some of the interviewees were seeing the movie for the third or fourth time. In fact, one reported feeling “contaminated” when they left the theatre, unable to get rid of the images and feelings aroused during previous views. Even though he had been having terrifying dreams ever since, he still wanted to see it again because of its extreme shock factor.
People leaving the theatre commented on how accurate the film was in comparison to the book, and remarked how “there’s nothing else like it”. Klemesrud goes on to quote a Chicago newspaper, which reported a psychiatric hospital admitting six people who had seen the film.
In considering this historical report, The Exorcist seems to have realistically transmitted a sense of fear and threat; so much so that it managed to provoke all of these reactions and predicaments among its viewers. It can be inferred that the cinematic techniques employed throughout the film played a large role in bringing about these truly terrifying sentiments. Had these special effects not been believable and successful in capturing people’s greatest fears, the film would not have been enjoying so much box office prosperity.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1997.E96 K476 1997
This small reader gives an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Exorcist. It includes details about disagreements between director Friedkin and producer Blatty, interviews with child star Linda Blair, rare photos shot on set, and background information on the methods used to manufacture the many subliminal images and special effects sequences. Written by film critic Mark Kermode, he gets at the bottom of many of the rumors and mysteries surrounding the film.Make-up artists, special-effects advisors, and the optical-effects team worked tireless hours in order to create shockingly realistic visuals that broke many cinematic boundaries. First off, it turns out that the entire MacNeil house was re-constructed from scratch in a New York studio. The real house in Georgetown was only used for exterior shots. Friedkin’s team constructed mock-ups of Regan’s bedroom, complete with false walls to promote the jerking of the bed, an air-vented window that would blow and billow on cue, and false ceilings that would allow Blair to levitate with the help of piano wires (previously rumored to have been possible by the use of a ‘magnetic field’). Furthermore, the entire room was encased in a refrigerator-like cocoon, which kept the temperature below freezing point in order to create visibly condensed breath.
Another salient special effect was Regan’s projectile vomiting. Make-up artist Dick Smith developed a plastic mouth harness that would pump split pea soup into Blair’s mouth, then out through a central nozzle. On other side of her face, the harness would be covered by heavy makeup, while the main feeder tube would lay underneath her hair. When in use, Regan could be seen vomiting large amounts of green matter from her mouth, in a supernatural--yet realistic way.
In addition, Regan had both a human-double (played by Eileen Dietz) and dummy-double. In the famous 360 degree head-turn sequence, the camera moves from Father Karras’ indifferent reaction, to the dummy, which is seen in a full face shot overlapped with the heavily made-up features of Eileen Dietz. Apparently, the optical effects team used a beam-splitter to match a live, glass reflection of Dietz speaking in demon-like make-up, over a head-shot of Blair’s life-size dummy, which remained stationary in contrast. This technique makes the viewer see the dummy ‘move’, which contrasts with the previous head-revolving shot. Thus, in a single image, Friedkin takes the film from the absurd to the awe-inspiring, thereby accomplishing horror when laughter could have easily replaced it.
These are only a few examples of the unconventional special effects employed in The Exorcist. With an approximate $12 million budget, and the ingenuity of a unique collective of artists, Friedkin was able to direct a film that blurred the line between illusion and reality, therefore successfully creating a true horror film.
The article details how many of the special effects/creatures were created for King Kong. By Conor Fitzpatrick
The article details how Wills O’Brien created certain special effects/creatures featured in King Kong. By Conor Fitzpatrick
tagged horror_film pfdoctype_newspapers_articles_&_reviews pffilmtitle_king_kong pfpeople_ernest_b_schoedsack pfpeople_fay_wray pfpeople_merian_c_cooper pfpeople_robert_armstrong pfpeople_wills_o'brien special_effects by wellske ...and 61 other people ...on 09-AUG-06
This article was published in the New York Times in May 1976. Thus, it was written and researched prior to George Lucas becoming famous primarily for his Star Wars projects. The first paragraph of the article states, "[he is] in the middle of shooting Star Wars, a 6.5 million dollar space adventure spectacular for Twentieth Century Fox." It is astounding to think that the original Star Wars was budgeted at 6.5 million. This article provides a view - at a moment in time - of the director of one of the industry's most successful movie concepts.
In the article, Lucas states that his intent following the success of American Graffiti was to retire. This is an interesting statement given Lucas' even greater success with Star Wars, post American Graffiti. Since American Graffiti, Lucas has gone on two make a two part trilogy of the Star Wars films (six films), becoming one of the most successful directors and producers of all time. George Lucas has earned millions from the Star Wars films and all their merchandising. As a result of the phenomenal Star Wars success George Lucas created his own production and special effects company on his own compound. It is amazing to think that midway through the first installment of Star Wars, Lucas was ready to throw in the towel.
I suppose it is admirable that George Lucas wanted to retire and do a lot of experimental work that no one would ever see. His love of film is for the sake of the art, not the business or the money. That is why he proclaims that he has no desire to make eighty films or any more "big studio pictures." All of this is admirable, but the bottom line is that he went on to make five more Star Wars movies.
After producing American Graffiti, which Lucas targeted to a sixteen year old audience, he made Star Wars, which he saw as "pure fun" and targeted a fourteen year old audience. He sought to produce a film of pure fantasy that audiences would enjoy at a relatively superficial level.
I believe that this article was used to generate publicity for Star Wars. The article gives a concise summary of the film and its characters. It provides a preview of the film with the intention of peaking the reader's interest and leading him to the theater. An inside look at the movie making process is another aspect of this article. It also provides insight into the mind of a developing filmmaker. In the aftermath of American Graffiti's success, people wanted understand the director and his thought process. They wanted to get closer to the source. This article accomplishes that for its readership and provides the insight that will bring people in to see the next George Lucas movie - Star Wars.
This article, by Clive Thompson, argues that the new film, Star Wars Revelations, a forty minute $20,000 budget film made by Star Wars fans, is better than any film made by George Lucas. Thompson's view is that, despite the impressive size of Lucas' budget for the Star Wars franchise or his aptitude for special effects, the creative minds of the fans turn out a better product time after time. Star Wars Revelations is just one example.
Lucas is no longer making new Star Wars films for his ravenous fans to enjoy. As a result, the numerous fans around the world have taken to making their own sequels/prequels. These fans are doing more than just filling the void; they are doing a better job than the Star Wars creator. The special effects are comparable to those developed by George Lucas. Additionally, these are not small films only accessible to a relatively small audience. It is estimated that in one week, one million people will see Star Wars Revelations - without any promotion or marketing effort. The widespread success of the film is based solely on the devotion of the Star Wars fans and the widespread reach of the internet.
Lucas has always encouraged fan produced films. However, he has stipulated one condition: these fan filmmakers cannot attempt to make a profit from their creations based on Lucas' genius idea. While films such as Star Wars Revolutions are widely circulated and astonishingly high-tech, there are still two major problems with all fan films - the second rate scriptwriting and acting. Thus, even with all of the success of fan films, there will always be an opening for George Lucas to return with one of his professionally made additions to the Star Wars series. Some might suggest that the fan films are better than the authentic Star Wars. However, with two significant problems plaguing fan films, fans can attempt to fill the void, but their productions will never compare to those of the irreplaceable George Lucas.
The Star Wars empire that George Lucas created has millions of fans anxiously awaiting Lucas' next move. What lies in store for the shaky future of Star Wars? An article published in Variety in April 2005, attempts to answer this question.
George Lucas currently has plans for two television series. The first is a three dimensional, animated half hour that would make use of the new CGI animation facility in Singapore. The second is a spin-off live action series. It will center around some of the supporting characters from each of the original Star Wars films. While both of these are interesting concepts, don't expect to see them on television next year. Neither idea is close to production nor does either have a network on which to broadcast. Some networks, such as Sci Fi, USA and the Cartoon Network have expressed interest in Lucas's ideas; however, nothing is close to being finalized.
This article is extremely significant when considering the next move of the successful Star Wars franchise whose fans are constantly demanding new material. George Lucas is one of the most influential filmmakers of our time. Every decision he makes impacts a wide array of people throughout the entire industry. As such, his ideas will likely be imitated and repeated for many years to come. Furthermore, Star Wars is a money making machine. Over the past thirty years, Lucas has built an empire from his six films, making a huge profit not only from the films themselves, but also through product tie-ins, endorsements and copyrights. George Lucas has created a billion dollar industry out of Star Wars. If Lucas' plan to continue the saga on television is successful it will be revolutionary, generating even more money in the transition from big screen to small. This business move will serve as a blueprint for future filmmakers.
In recent years, the sequel genre has become one of - if not the - only successful type of film. Interesting original story lines have become increasingly unique in an environment where risk-taking can mean financial suicide. Thus, the safe and profitable route is to capitalize on already established films. George Lucas has done this arguably better than anyone else. With the move to television, Lucas will attempt to make another valuable addition to the Star Wars empire. Successful or not, the Star Wars tradition will live on forever in the phenomenally successful films.
When George Lucas made the original Star Wars, Epidsode IV-A New Hope, he could not begin to imagine the impact that his film would have. Six Star Wars films and almost thirty years later, the original film has been named the best movie of all time by British film fans. (The entire list of rankings can be seen on the BBC's website.) Star Wars received more than a third of all of the votes in a survey conducted by the British Sky Premiere Channel, landing it in the number one spot.
This poll was taken just prior to the release of The Phantom Menace, the second Star Wars movie. Participants in the survey had the release of the next Star Wars adventure on the top of their minds (as it was released shortly after this poll was taken). Undoubdetly, this had some influence on the survey's results. While no one can detract from the astounding creativity that produced the film's empire, there is also no doubt that this list is missing several influential and key filmmakers. One of the commentators in the article expressed his surprise at some of the titles which appear on the list. This top 100 is uniquely different from many other film polls. Nonetheless, it is a definite representation of those films deemed significant by current film devotees. Star Wars has been viewed and enjoyed by an astounding number of people across generation lines. This fact helped to land it in the number one spot. Furthermore, Star Wars is known for having some of the most devoted and fanatical fans of any film. Therefore, it is no surprise that is would appear in the number one spot of a survey.
We certainly do not need a survey to prove the popularity and influence that George Lucas has had on both the film industry and his fans. However, the article and the "Best Film" designation verify the fact that there are millions of people all over the world who have seen Star Wars and feel that it is a most significant film.