Extremely controversial at the time of its release, THE EXORCIST kicked off intense debate among critics, community leaders, and even religious leaders--spurring the public, of course, to make it one of the most financially successful horror films ever made. Regan (Linda Blair), the 12-year-old daughter of a famous stage actress (Ellen Burstyn), begins to suffer unexplainable fits and bouts of bizarre behavior. The girl is brought to doctors, but examinations fail to pinpoint a physical or psychiatric ailment. Regan's condition grows worse, and she begins to transform physically, taking on an ugly, demonic appearance. In desperation, Regan's mother asks the help of a young priest, Father Karras (Jason Miller). Realizing that Regan is possessed by the Devil and knowing that his own faith is too weak for him to deal successfully with the problem himself, Karras turns to Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), an elderly priest who specializes in exorcisms. Based on William Peter Blatty's runaway best seller (which itself was based upon a reported exorcism in 1949) THE EXORCIST shrewdly exploits the fears and frustrations of parents while disturbing religious implications merely provide portentous window dressing. The film is an intense rollercoaster ride, a marvel of audience manipulation, with director William Friedkin pushing all the right buttons to make this a genre landmark. The movie balances its then-state-of-the-art special effects with good old-fashioned atmospheric horror to produce an excruciating--though shallow--two hours of dread and unease. It's too bad the film failed to get further inside its characters.