“Tatort” from Vienna: exorcism and pea soup

“Tatort” from Vienna
Exorcism and Pea Soup

By Ingo Scheel

At the latest when Natalie’s voice sounded as if she were “singing” in a death metal band in “Tatort” the night before, the reference penny dropped: The guttural vulgar grunt comes from William Friedkin’s classic film “The Exorcist”, in which Starring: Linda Blair. Here are ten hellish facts about the controversial 1973 classic.

1. When Linda Blair first started one of those devilish tirades in her role as the devil-possessed Regan McNeil, her counterpart, Max von Sydow aka Father Lenkin, was so shocked that he promptly forgot his line.

2. So that the then 13-year-old could vomit convincingly, she was given the vegetable dish that she detested like the devil hates holy water: pea soup.

3. Among the young actresses who auditioned for the role of Regan were Laura Dern and Melanie Griffith, and Sharon Stone was briefly considered a contender for the part.

4. Linda Blair’s mother has a small cameo role – as a nurse.

5. At its US premiere on December 26, 1973, cinema audiences were at times so upset that ambulances had to be called. Spectators became hysterical, others lost consciousness.

6. The shooting was overshadowed by some strange occurrences. The Pazuzu statue was first shipped to Hong Kong before arriving at the film location in Iraq. Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn, who played her mother, suffered injuries, some of them serious. When a bird got lost in a fuse box, there was a short circuit and the entire set burned down – only the room where the drastic exorcism scenes were to be filmed remained undamaged.

7. Not only Linda Blair, but also Max von Sydow had to go into makeup every day of shooting. While Blair was trimmed to be creepy, Sydow had to be made visually older. It took her about two hours each time, and about twice as long for him.

8. The film’s score includes some so-called “musique concrètes” and experimental classical music, including by Harry Bee and George Crumb. William Friedkin was the first director to use music by the Pole Kryzsztof Penderecki in a horror film, and his “Polymorphia” was later used by greats like Stanley Kubrick (“Shining”) and David Lynch (“Inland Empire”).

9. “The Exorcist” was nominated for ten Oscars, including being the first horror film in the main category “Best Picture”. There were only two in the end, author William Blatty was awarded for the best screenplay, there was another statuette for the best sound. Linda Blair’s nomination became controversial when it emerged that the particularly intense scenes were shot with her double Eileen Dietz, also dubbed by Mercedes McCambridge.

10. “Entertainment Weekly” and “Maxim” voted “The Exorcist” the “Scariest Movie of All Time.”