By Scott Michael Bosco
What are PEARLS? PEARLS are films when released weren't accepted by the public and resulted in financial disaster for the studio, and garnered a general negative reputation.
Despite this reaction these films have found their way to being accepted either in other countries, garnering awards, and a fan base.
These films are in their own way, are gems holding meanings, and a stature
becoming cult favorites. They are worth a second look now long disassociated from their original release publicity. Now they are gems, or PEARLS, rare finds.
My connection with this film goes back to knowing persons within WARNER BROS. NY publicity department prior to the film's theatrical release.
This connection allowed inside production info, and area shooting. Later, after the film's release I was sent an office reference copy of the screenplay. Later a letter of mine was forwarded to John Boorman, the director which opened several discussions. He was thrilled I understood the film so well where others seem not to.
I have seen all three versions of the film - the original theatrical edition, the second released edit, and the third edition that was released internationally, theatrically (complete with explaining prologue.
**"You're dying Merrin, Dying, and your hopes die with you."
Merrin hangs on to his last threads of life. His eyes are held on the demon.
**"Your little children-the holy ones-no one to help them now. I will take them, one by one."
Merrin struggles to his feet, as the Georgetwon bedroom gives way and changes into the Coptic church.
"Pride, Merrin! The pride and hubris of a heretic!"
Winds suddenly break into the Coptic church, and dust and dirt cling on to Merrin. Slowly he turns to stone. Merrin speaks.
"You will fail; all men will be joined with God."
As Merrin raises his hand to wipe away the dust, the face that is revealed is
Philip Lamont's. Pazuzu laughs as Lamont struggles to ward off the overwhelming force. The demon speaks.
"Are you holier than Merrin?"
The wind, whipping through the church erodes and eats into the rock. The ceiling
cracks, pillars crumble and fall around Lamont. Pazuzu's voice rips through the church.
"Fear not, Father Philip Lamont, you belong to me, and the devil takes care of his own."
"Spare me, spare me!"
* Denotes from the original screenplay, THE EXORCIST
** Denotes from the original screenplay, THE HERETIC
On June 17, 1977, Warner Brothers opened The Heretic nationwide. What started as high hopes soon turned into a financial failure. Why? Where did the fault lie? Or was it anyone's fault at all?
After the runaway success of The Exorcist, the creative people at Warner, Brothers put their talents at work and decided to make a sequel which would hopefully out profit its predecessor. At first, a very low budget project was thought of, using unused footage from the first film. But as different people came into view, the story changed, and grew in scale. William Goodhart was brought in to write the screenplay. His idea centered around Tei De Chardin theory of people sharing
one mind, and using this for.- either for good or evil. He believed that man and nature would eventually obtain
oneness with God; that man was an unfinished
being, that must either be surpassed or completed.
After the story was written, a director was chosen. Because of the complex running themes in the film, a director equally imaginative and talented had to be chosen. It was then decided that director John Boorman be brought into the project.
One of the many factors that attracted him was the relationships between good and evil, science and religion, real and the metaphysical.
Now that the people behind the film had been picked, casting was next. Linda Blair was to return in the role of Regan MacNeil. But problems arose. In the original screenplay, the story called for the character of Detective Kinderman; a character from the first film. The actor that played in this role, Lee. J. Cobb, died of a heart attack, and in doing so, left a gap in the story. It was then considered that the character of Sharon be written in to clear up the gap and fulfill the function of Lee J. Cobb, and also the absence of Regan's mother, Chris. (Ellen Byrstyn). It was already known that she was not to appear in the film.
"WARNER BROS. TAKES YOU A STEP BEYOND"
Pre-release Poster Design
Although John Boorman had great respect for William Goodhart and his work, changes were greatly needed in the script. So Boorman called in Rospo Pallenberg. One of the new scenes that was added centered on Regan's special power for goodness, and her struggle to keep it from evil. This was demonstrated in a scene in which she is lured out of her bed in a sleep walking state by the demon.
Then other problems having to do with casting arose. Jon Voight, originally chosen to play a new character, Father Philip Lamont, a priest sent by the Vatican to investigate the death of Father Merrin decided not to do it.
Among others considered for the role were Jack Nicholson, David Carradine, and a young New York actor, Chris Walken. At this point, the character called for a young actor, but because of the obvious casting problems an older actor was called on; Richard Burton came into view.
Because of this change, the screenplay changed, yet again another new character was the role of Dr. Gene Tuskin, the psychiatrist that Regan MacNeil is seeing after her ordeal in Georgetown. Originally the team up was Jon Voight, the priest (Lamont), and Chris Sarandon (Tuskin). But since Voight was out, the idea of the team up was discontinued. Others that were considered were David Carradine and George Segal. Another rewrite, and the character of the psychiatrist was changed to a woman. Two suggestions for the role were Jane Fonda or Ann Margaret, but Boorman decided on Louise Fletcher. ("One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest) After a long talk with Max Von Sydow, Boorman convinced him to reappear in the role he played in the first film, Father Merrin.
As with every film, "The Heretic" met with many pe-production problems. But we can not say this had anything to do with the finished print, since it will always be a mystery how the original concept would have been. The following overview of the film is based on the original print, when the film first opened,
during its first week run.
In Barrio, South America, Father Philip Lamont walks toward his destination. He has been assigned by the Vatican to preform an exorcism. The one in need, a girl, is held by six women as the exorcism begins. The girl speaks:**"Why me? I heal the sick."
Suddenly she breaks loose and begins to overthrow rows of candles, which cartwheel across the room. Lamont stares in horror as the girl regains control of herself, only to find she has become a human torch.
It is after this that Lamont is asks to speak with Cardinal Jaros (Paul Heinreid). Jaros explains that since Father Merrin's death, three years ago, the church is up in arms about his teaching and theories. He goes on to say that Merrin's writings have been impounded. It seems, that Merrin believed that the power of evil threatened to overthrow the power of God. And it is even believed that he may have even been a satanist. Because of this, Lamont will go and trace the facts concerning the exorcism in Washington.
In New York, Regan MacNeil, now seventeen, is seeing psychiatrist Jean Tuskin; and lives with her mother's secretary, Sharon. Even though it is four years later, Regan is troubled by dreams. Because of Regan's strong will, Dr. Tuskin introduces a new method to Regan's therapy. It will require the use of the "Synchroniser". This scientific instrument is used in the technique of synchronised hypnosis. It allows both patient and doctor to "mind-lock" at the same wave length; while in a trance. During Dr. Tuskin's meeting with Father Lamont, she tells him about Regan's problems. She believes that Regan suffered a severe trauma, and that the exorcism made the problem worse. She also feels, that Regan is repressing guilt over the three people (Father Merrin, Father Karras, and Burke Denning) that died during the course of the exorcism - this is what she believes to be the cause of her dreams.
The next day the three take part in a Synchronizer session - Regan and Dr. Tuskin are hypnotized and slowly their minds become one. Then something goes wrong, causing Dr. Tuskin's heart to fibulate. Regan comes out of the trance, but Dr. Tuskin does not. Father Lamont is brought down, taking the place of Regan and tries to bring Dr. Tuskin back. Their minds link and become one.
He sees what she sees. The lab through Lamont's eyes begins to disappear. In its place Regan's Georgetown bedroom materializes on the night of the exorcism. He then becomes a witness to Father Merrin's death. As the vision continues, Merrin dies, and Dr. Tuskin is brought out of her trance. Because of Lamont's suggestion, during her trance, Dr. Tuskin does not remember what happened.
The session ends, and Regan leaves the office, while Father Lamont. discusses What happened with Dr. Tuskin. Outside, Regan draws a picture for Lamont, while waiting for Sharon. Dr. Tuskin keeps a watchful eye on Regan, satisfied that Regan is apparently unaffected by the session. After their discussion Tuskin leaves Lamont to do her rounds. Liz, Dr. Tuskin's secretary, approaches she is carrying drawings. She hands one to Lamont. The drawing is himself, but there are bright red flames coming from his head and shoulders. Transfixed by the drawing, by some inner revelation he breaks away after Tuskin. After catching up to her, he stops at a conspicuous door, Tuskin follows him down the service stairs. There, a small smouldering fire has started in some trash. Tuskin runs for the phone, as Lamont finds a crutch and starts to beat the fire. As Tuskin turns away from the phone for a moment, the flames leap up and grow behind Lamont; resembling Regan's drawing.
That night, Regan's sleep is interrupted. She begins to sleepwalk, as visions of an African landscape unfold. There she becomes a witness to Father Merrin's past. Merrin watches horrified as a crowd of people lead a young boy out into a field, towards a swam of locusts. Echoing the boy's movements, Regan steps out of bed, and walks out on to her terrace. A flurry of locusts attacks the boy, he falls. At this point, Regan is perilously perched at the edge of the balcony. She wakes up and fights to control her balance but wins.
In Washington, Sharon meets with Father Lamont. They go to the Georgetown house and they talk about the exorcism and Father Merrin. Father Lamont prays for the soul of Merrin in Regan's bedroom, the room he died in.
In the second Synchronizer session, Regan and Father Lamont are linked. Through their vision they are transported back almost 40 years. Back to Father Merrin's first encounter with the Demon Pazuzu. We find that this young African boy has special powers. Powers that heal. Father Merrin believes that that is why the boy became possessed.
** "Does the great goodness draw evil upon itself?"
The exorcism of the boy is a success. And the demon flees. Lamount speaks. **"
Merrin defeated you."
**"No, I could claim Kokumo even now...I'll show you power. Come. Fly the teeth of the wind. Share my wings."
Suddenly they are transported, flying over African landscapes. Then coming to a mud city, they swoop through it's gates, and whirl between its ancient buildings. Coming to one, where a single man stands. With a sudden grimace
he opens his mouth. A screaming leopard leaps out. Regan and Father Lamont are brought out of the trance. Tuskin ushers Regan out, and into the reception area. She turns to Lamont and speaks to him about the trance. He tells her
of the boy, the demon, and the possibility of finding that boy, who is a man now, in the need of helping Regan.
Outside the office, Regan speaks to an autistic girl. In suprise, the girl answers back, shocking everyone. Regan has healed the girl.
Back in the Vatican, Father Lamont meets with Cardinal Jaros. He tells of the visions, of the boy and Merrin. Jaros explains that he was only to investigate the exorcisms of Father Merrin, not to step into his shoes. Lamont
tells of Regan, and how the meeting with this African man, whose name is Kokumo may save Regan. But Jaros holds his ground. Lamont turns on Jaros.
""What is our church becoming? A conspiracy against God?! Merrin looked evil in the face, he recognized it; everywhere; and named it; and struggled against it, alone to the end. And we deny him... Why? Because he was showing us the way to the Kingdom of Christ on earth...and that's something--deep in our hearts--we have given up hope on..What you really believe is that the world is incurably sick...lost...and that is a betrayal of our sacred mission. And in the eyes of the world, what are we? Just social workers, and bad ones at that. Telling people to be nice to each other, and in the name of Jesus Christ!"
In Africa, Lamont reaches the rock church. It is, as it was shown to him. There he questions the monk about Father Merrin. They tell him about a monk who fell to his death helping Father Merrin, while climbing up the cliff to the church. They also tell him that the body was never found. Lamont points to a clump of sloping rocks. When reaching the bottom, Lamont shows them that in a deep cleft lies a skeleton and shreads of a monks robe. When asked to explain how he knows, he tells them of the trance and the flight with the demon. A young monk that acted as a translator stops and stares in disbelief. Suddenly the crowd starts to throw stones. Lamont runs and tries to reach his jeep, but he is struck.
In New York, during a school play, Regan dances on stage, when suddenly she is struck with a violent pain. She falters and begins to fall off the stage.
Lamont is dodging a downpour of stones, but reaches the jeep. Regan's pain subsides but not before she is placed under sedation by Dr. Tuskin.
During Lamont's venture in Africa, he comes across a mission center. There Lamont asks the aid of a nun how to find the city in which Kokumo lives. He is introduced to a man called Edwards (played by Ned Beatty) Lamont offers no clue that he is a priest. Edwards looks him over shrewdly, and agrees to bring him to the city in question - Jepti.
Once there, Lamont weaves through the narrow streets. Exhausted, Lamont wanders aimlessly, searching but without avail. In frustration he calls out and reaches Regan. The "mind link" is touched. Suddenly he is walking down a long stone corridor. Lamont stops at the end and confronts a middle aged black man, sitting on a low thrown. His face is painted to resemble a flying
insect, and two antennae protrude from his head dress. Between him and this figure is a pool of water, filled with up-pointed nails. Lamont asks him how to help Regan but Kokumo asks which one. Lamont is confused.
**"Which one would you help? The one possessed by Pazuzu, or the one held by Father Merrin? Pazuzu has brushed you with his wings. You called on Pazuzu to reach me. You have lost faithin your God. You do not believe."
Lamont rejects Kokumo's statement. He claims that he does believe. Kokumo tells him that it is true, he must prove it. He must cross over the nails. Trembling with terror he moves on to the nails, but is impaled. Sending
the nails thrashing deep into his foot, and coming out of the top. He screams and falls, face down on the needle sharp nails, only to find himself landing in the entrance hall of a modern building. He looks up and sees the same
face of the black man, but this one is dressed conventionally. Lamont restates what has happened. Then he learned that this is the real Kokumo. Kokumo
leads Lamont into the building. It is a laboratory filled with large cages which are filled with locusts. As Kokumo leads him around the lab, they speak of Merrin and Regan and Pazuzu.
In New York, Regan has been taken from the school to the Child Psychiatry Research unit, where Dr. Tuskin's office is. She shakily gets to her feet, changes her clothes, then leaves. Father Lamont flies back to New York and there meets Regan. The two of them go to a hotel near Times Square. In the hotel, Regan and Lamont use the Synchroniser she has taken from Dr. Tuskin's office. The two sit and place the Alpha bands around their heads. Their minds lock. The room around begins to fade, and in its place: Regan's bedroom in Georgetown. Four years ago during the climax of the exorcism.
**"You're dying, Merrin, dying, and your hopes die with you."
Merrin speaks to Lamont and Regan
""Not only Kokumo, but others like him began to appear in the world. I found these people where I could; and tried to protect them against evil. So Satan has sent Pazuzu to destroy this goodness. Philip, you must take my place.... She's precious, and I entrust her to you...."
The mind link is broken. Father Lamont gets up and walks out of the room. Regan follows him. By now both Sharon and Dr. Tuskin know of Regan's disappearance. They wait in Dr. Tuskin's office for some word. Regan calls from Penn station telling them what has happened, and her destination... the house.
Regan and Father Lamont go by Amtrak, while Sharon and Dr. Tuskin go by plane. Once reaching the house, Father Lamont jumps the Iron gate, leaving Regan behind. Now inside the house Lamont approaches the door to Regan's room. He opens the door. A swarm of locust explodes in his face. At that moment Regan gets into the house; she covers her ears from the roaring sound.
A car passes the taxi carrying Sharon and Dr. Tuskin and spits road gravel up against the windshield. The taxi driver loses control sending the car hutrling towards the house. The taxi smashes through the gate, and comes to
a standstill just outside the door.
Regan reaches the top of the stairs and finds Father Lamont. He points towards her room. She gets up and walks to the door, opens it and sees herself sitting on the bed in a horrifying state of demonic possession.
Sharon walks away from the cab unharmed and blocks the entrance to the house. Dr. Tuskin tries to get by her, but can't, at Sharon's feet is a pool of gas spreads from the wreck. Above.. the head light of the car, dangling from its wires. She steps on the light causing an explosion.
Upstairs, Father Lamont comes to his fcct and is beating Regan.
Suddenly he remembers the words of Kokumo, and the demon loses control of him. He makes his way towards the "other" Regan on the bed. Lamont grabs the demon by the neck as is screams
A huge locust swarm flies over Washington. The swarm makes its way towards the house. It rushes at the bedroom window, which implodes, ripping frams and masonry. The walls crack and begin to fall, as a vent in the floor opens under Regan. Lamon't hand plunges deep into the demon's chest and pulls out a black heart. The house continues to collapse as Regan falls through the floor and lands on the stairs below. Regan repeats young Kokumo's action(in the field) by swinging her arm. (Kokumo had a bullroarer). She begins to rotate, her body seemingly suspended in space. Around her the swarm subsides, then dissapear. Around her the house is in ruins. Lamont crosses the street, going over to Sharon and Tuskin. There, he gives Sharon her last rites. Lamont turns toward the house.
**"The tine has come; now we are saved and made strong. An enemy of the human race is subdued."
Lamont and Tuskin move towards the house to meet Regan, yet they keep their distance. She is now reverent. Tuskin breaks down, Lamont draws closer to her. Tuskin speaks to Regan.
**"Regan, I'm sorry....I was so blind....I understand now...
but the world...the world won't... not yet... so much evil, Father protect her... go now.."
Now as Lamont and Regan edge away, people come out of their houses. Tuskin stares at the fading images of Regan and Lamont while the strobe effects from police and fire vehicles washes over her image.
** Denotes from the original screenplay.
Final Theatrical Release Poster Design
All visuals are original B&W 8x10s