George Lucas’s Revenge of the Sith ain’t the only controversial prequel about a guy going over to the Dark Side directed by a former darling of 1970s cinema that opens this weekend!
This is the film that was shelved when the studio decided not only to send it back for reshoots, but to remake it virtually from scratch; that other version, directed by Renny Harlin (whose own Mindhunters, produced three years ago and released just last week, was sitting on a shelf of its own while all this happened), was released last summer as Exorcist: The Beginning (my review).
It is interesting to note that both The Exorcist (1973; my review) and Star Wars (1977) were released only a few years apart, and both were enormously popular in their day; indeed, it is quite possible that each film was, in the time immediately following its release, the top-grossing film ever made (the data presented here for all films released up to 1973 is sullied by the fact that The Exorcist and 1939’s Gone with the Wind have both had theatrical re-issues since then). For its part, Box Office Mojo currently ranks both films in the all-time top ten, once figures are adjusted for inflation, with Star Wars at #2 and The Exorcist at #9 (and thus ahead of all the Star Wars sequels and prequels).
Each film in its own way raised interesting questions about the place of spirituality in an increasingly mechanized world. Alas, when it came to follow-up films, their fortunes were very different. The Exorcist has now had two sequels and two prequels (and even one of the sequels had flashback material that is kind of prequel-ish), and all of them were disappointments, for one reason or another. Whereas Star Wars has had two sequels and three prequels and has been more successful commercially and even, I would argue, artistically; at the very least, there has been greater consistency. Although there is also something to be said for the “noble failure” of at least some of the Exorcist movies.
FWIW, while preparing to review last summer’s prequel, I made some comments about the differences between the Exorcist novel and film here, some comments about Exorcist II: The Heretic here, and some comments about The Exorcist III here.