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The Exorcist(1973)

The horror film phenomenon that inspired four sequels, a TV series and innumerable nightmares started out as a 1971 novel by William Peter Blatty. Originally known as a comic writer who wrote the novel John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! and scripts for Blake Edwards, Blatty went serious when he turned to the 1949 exorcism of a teen only referred to as Roland Doe for inspiration. When Warner Bros. bought the film rights, the author not only signed on to adapt his novel, but pushed the studio to hire director William Friedkin on the strength of his Oscar-winning work on The French Connection (1971). Under Friedkin’s guidance, the tale of an actress (Ellen Burstyn) whose daughter (Linda Blair) exhibits strange behavior that can only be explained as demonic possession became one of the most chilling movies ever made. At the time, horror was considered a niche market, so Warner Bros. only released the film in 26 theaters. As word of people fainting and growing ill at screenings spread, the film took off at the box office. It also began picking up solid reviews and recognition, leading to 10 Oscar nominations, including the first Best Picture nomination ever given to a horror film. Blatty won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, while Robert Knudson and Christopher Newman picked up awards for Best Sound. (d. William Friedkin, 122m, Digital)

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