This Blu-ray release transfers both the original theatrical cut and the 2000 never before seen cut into 1080p for the first time. For a film from the 1970s, the look is impressive in HD. While wide shots contain noise, many close-ups and medium shots are pristine. Dirt and damage has been cleaned up almost completely. Details pop in things like fabrics. For the most part more details emerge in the brighter lit scenes. The picture problems are fleeting. Black levels are a bit inconsistent and some shots are soft.
As for the sound, the extended cut is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 surround and the original cut is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. The soundscape was intended to mix the bombastic with moments of eerie silence. The LFE emphasizes the unearthly sound moments from furniture flying across the room and the unnatural voices that possess Regan. The 360 experience is nice as unsettling sounds emerge from the rear speakers than sweep across the room like an apparition. Like the picture transfer, most of the problems with canned or hollow sounds are most likely a result of the aging originals.
Between the two discs, the release is filled with wonderful extras that paint and interesting portrait of the changing opinions of the film from its filmmakers. The original cut features a 1998 documentary titled “The Fear of God” about the making of the film. Many of the details about the production are in the 30-minute featurette “Raising Hell: Filming the Exorcist” featured on the extended cut disc. But there are key differences, which are so interesting. In the older doc and interviews with director William Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty, Friedkin comes off as an intense, often difficult, filmmaker, who would provoke his actors in order to get the exact shot he wanted. Friedkin and Blatty debate many of the cuts made that were later added back in for the extended cut. In “Fear of God” and interviews, Friedkin defends his cuts from the point of view of a filmmaker and interpreter, but Blatty never buys it. However, in the other featurette “Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of The Exorcist,” Friedkin seems to backtrack and explains the extended cut as Blatty’s cut and admits it took years for him to not take the project so personally.
The best part of “Raising Hell” is the great behind-the-scenes footage of how many of the classic special effects were done on the set. Both docs are very frank about the difficult material and stunts that the actors, especially 12-year-old Linda Blair, had to endure. The extended disc also contains the featurette “The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now,” which looks at the iconic locations.
Both versions of the film feature commentaries from Friedkin and the original cut also features one from Blatty. They have many of the details revealed in the featurettes and doc, but Friedkin goes more into depth regarding his filmic decisions, while Blatty brings his religious perspective to the material. The Friedkin commentary on the extended cut is far superior to that featured on the theatrical cut, which was originally done for the film’s DVD release.
Both discs are filled with trailers, radio and TV spots. Additionally, the original cut has sketches and storyboards.
The extended cut is also available for download on iTunes.