I WAS just getting out of diapers at the time, but the early 1970s were, I am told, a period of intense spiritual sensitivity. Certainly, popular culture bears that out. In 1973, Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar, two popular musicals based on the life of Jesus, hit the big screen. But the film that caught the country’s attention that year looked not to the Prince of Peace, but to the Prince of Darkness, for its inspiration.
The Exorcist was a huge box-office hit, raking in a then-unheard-of $165 million; once inflation is taken into account, some estimates place it among the 20 most successful films of all time, right up there with old Disney cartoons, Star Wars movies and Gone with the Wind. The film won an Academy Award for its script, which William Peter Blatty adapted from his novel; it was, in turn, inspired by a supposedly true incident.