The Exorcist




The Exorcist was released into theaters on December 26th, 1973. Filming locations include New York, NY, Washington D.C. and Hatra and Mosul, Iraq. It was directed by William Friedkin. Personally, I think this movie is flawless. Friedkin set out to make a genuine, authentic film and the end result depicted just that. Largely due to his attention to detail and accepting nothing less than everyone's very best effort who worked on the film in their respective roles, in front of and behind the camera. It's pretty well known that he used some rather unorthodox methods while making the film, in order to get the most authentic performances as possible from some of the actors. A few of which include, physically slapping William O'Malley after roughly fifteen takes, during the scene where he's reading Father Karras his last rites and firing off guns in order to get authentically scared reactions from some of the other cast members during certain scenes. The film is based on William Peter Blatty's novel of the same name, which was published in June of 1971. The novel was based on an actual case of demonic possession and exorcism he had heard about when he was still a student at Georgetown University in 1950. The alleged case had taken place one year earlier, to a thirteen year old boy, for the most part in a house on Roanoke Dr. in St. Louis, Mo. In 2011, an updated 40th anniversary edition was re-published featuring new and revised material by Blatty. Sadly, Blatty died on January 12th, 2017 due to multiple myeloma. He was 89 years old. Special make-up effects were done by industry legend, Dick Smith. He not only did a magnificent job transforming a super-pretty thirteen year old Linda Blair into a believable demon, but he did an equally impressive job turning forty-four year old Max Von Sydow into a seventy-two year old man for his role as Father Lankester Merrin. Smith worked on a plethora of acclaimed films in the 70's and 80's. Some of which include Amadeus, The Deer Hunter, The Godfather 1 & 2 and Taxi Driver. Sadly, he too died, on July 30th, 2014. He was 92 years old.

The films antagonist was ancient Mesopotamian demon, Pazuzu, king of the demons of the wind. Also the demon of the southwest wind, known for bringing famine during dry seasons and locust during rainy seasons. The films sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic delves deeper into the demons' origins. The 360 degree head-spinning dummy used in the film is on display in the Behind the Screen Exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, NY. The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards in 1974, winning two, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound Mixing. It was also nominated for seven Golden Globes that same year, winning four. It was added to the National Film Registry in 2010. Lalo Schifrin was originally hired to score the film but his early recordings weren't to William Friedkin's liking so he was promptly fired. Instead, the score was comprised from various sources. The most well known being Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. The film also features the song Ramblin' Man by The Allman Brothers Band, which plays in the scene where Father Karras and Reverend Bermingham are talking inside the bar. To this day, whenever I hear that song I always think of this film. The films first DVD release was on December 1st, 1998 as the 25th anniversary box set.

The following are some of the locations from the film that I haven't had a chance to visit yet. Regan's hospital scenes were filmed inside Bellevue Hospital located at 462 1st Ave. New York, NY. 10016. The arteriogram scene was shot at the New York University Medical Center located at 550 1st Ave. New York, NY 10016. Paul Bateson, the bearded assistant in the scene, was an actual x-ray technician at the hospital. In 1979, he was convicted for the murder of a film critic and sentenced to twenty years in prison. The language lab scene was filmed in a room in the basement of Keating Hall on Fordham University's Bronx campus. To the best of my knowledge, the Iraq scenes were filmed in two cities. The first being Mosul, for the scenes of Father Merrin appearing in the heavily populated areas such as the outdoor cafe and the underground market. The second being the ancient city of Hatra, which lies about sixty-eight miles southwest of Mosul. This was the location of the expedition dig as well as the face-off scene between Father Merrin and the Pazuzu statue. Other than local police officers on site to guard the ancient temple ruins, it's been more or less deserted for nearly two-thousand years. In 2014, ISIS seized control of the area and threatened to destroy the ruins. On April 26th, 2017, it was recaptured by pro-Iraq government Popular Mobilization Forces. While most of the statues were destroyed, the majority of the temple was still in tact. Due to it's significance in the film, as well as it's historical importance, this is one location that I would love to visit at some point. Perhaps one day...when the chances of being apprehended and be-headed are much lesser. One filming location from The Exorcist that has seemed to elude fans over the years, is the quick shot of the Barringer Clinic and Foundation exterior. If anyone has any info on this location, please feel free to share.


MacNeil house3600 Prospect St. NW Washington, D.C. 20007

The 2,808 square foot home was built in 1950. It was last sold in 2003, for just over two-million dollars. Production added a false wing to the house for filming. That way it would be more believable for the scene where Father Karras leaped out of Regan's bedroom window and fell down the flight of stairs to his death. The house interiors, as well as a few other small scenes like the statue desecration scene inside the church were filmed at the old Ceco Studios, also known as Movietone Studio, located at 460 W. 54th St. in New York City. The refrigerated bedroom set was cooled with four special air conditioners and temperatures would plunge well below freezing. This was done so the actors breathes could be seen on screen, as there was no CGI back then. On one occasion, the air was so saturated with moisture that it resulted in a thin layer of snow falling on the set before the crew arrived one morning. Also, at one point, the set caught on fire when no one was there, delaying production for six weeks. The famous scene where Father Merrin arrives at the MacNeil residence was partially inspired by a 1954 painting William Friedkin had seen called "Empire of Light" by Rene Magritte. That was the very first scene that Max Von Sydow shot for the film.


All "Now" pictures taken in 2019.








The Exorcist steps - Prospect St. NW and 36th St. NW Washington, D.C. 20007

The seventy-five steps were constructed in 1895. On October 30th, 2015 a plaque was added near the bottom of the steps recognizing their importance in film history.


All "Now" pictures taken in 2019.







Me sitting near the base of the steps.



Georgetown University - 3700 O St. NW Washington, D.C. 20057

Georgetown University was founded in 1789 as Georgetown College. It's the oldest Catholic and Jesuit-affiliated institution of higher education in the United States. The filming of the "movie within a movie" took place in front of historic Healy Hall. A number of scenes were also filmed inside of Healy Hall. The flagship building of the university was built in 1879 and designed by architects Paul J. Pelz and John L. Smithmeyer. They also designed the Library of Congress located in Washington D.C. Healy Hall was added as a National Historic Landmark on December 23rd, 1987. Scenes from The Exorcist III were also filmed at Healy Hall.


Healy Hall

All "Now" pictures taken in 2019.







Dahlgren Chapel

The chapel was constructed in 1893 and is located in Dahlgren Quadrangle.


All "Now" pictures taken in 2019.





Track

Today the track is known as Kehoe Field, an all-weather playing surface on the roof of Yates Field House. It's also the home to the field hockey team. Although the track is now covered, you can still partially see the Astronomical Observatory, also known as Heyden Observatory, bordering it's south side. After Father Karras and Lt. Kinderman meet, they talk until they reach Father Karras' dorm building, back at Dahlgren Quadrangle.


All "Now" pictures taken in 2019.






Chris walks home - 1440 36th St. NW Washington, D.C. 20007

She is first shown walking east on P St. NW and then turns right onto 36th St. NW. The connected set of houses she walks by were built in 1900. 


All "Now" pictures taken in 2019.



Church Chris walks past - 3116 O St. NW Washington, D.C. 20007
(Christ Episcopal Church)

The church was established in 1817.


2013

2019


Subway station - W. 33rd St. and 7th Ave. New York, NY. 10001


2015


Damian's mother's apartment - 424 W. 48th St. New York, NY. 10036

As you can tell from the comparison pictures, New York City looks much different than it did when the film was made. Not only has it been cleaned up to an extent, but so many buildings have been remodeled that it's kind of mind-blowing. The entrance has been sealed and replaced with windows. Also, the street has foliage, as it had not one tree in the 70's.


All "Now" pictures taken in 2019.



Psychiatric hospital - Roosevelt Island, New York, NY. 10044
(Goldwater Hospital)

The hospital was constructed in 1939. It closed on December 31st, 2013 and was demolished the following year. Cornell Tech now partially sits where the hospital once stood. As of 2019, the other portion of the land it stood on had yet to be developed. 


The following comparison picture was taken by Charles Giraudet, shortly before the hospital's demolition.

A vintage picture of the hospital taken from the Queensboro Bridge, looking south.

What the area looks like in 2019, looking north.


Bar where Damian and Reverend Bermingham talk1226 36th St. SW Washington, D.C. 20007
(The Tombs)

The Tombs was founded in 1962, named after a mention in T.S. Eliot's poem "Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town". It's literally across the street from the MacNeil house. I highly recommend stopping by this place if you're in the area, they have delicious food and a good atmosphere. Scenes from The Exorcist III and St. Elmo's Fire were also filmed here.


2019


Chris and Father Karras meet - Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath bridge


2019


14 comments:

  1. Those stairs are creepy !

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  2. I am fairly certain that the Prospect St. house had a substantial false front built for filming. I was inside it ~20 years ago, and the interior both looks old enough to have been extant at the time of filming, and bears no resemblance to the interiors in the film (which I'm assuming were shot in-studio).

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    Replies
    1. I hope so, it looks disappointing now!

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  3. These pictures are amazing!

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  4. Thank you so much for posting there, I'm making another pilgrimage in a few days to these areas and you just saved me a lot of work. I went decades ago to the stairs, pre-internet days, and found some locations with photocopied maps & sheer luck.

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  5. This house, this town, every place, every character and everything in this film was right on the spot to create the perfect ambiance for such a movie. It looks like a house I could live next to. The mood that was set in the movie was, to me, the best of its kind and will never be surpassed. So credible in each and every scene. A masterpiece.

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  6. i wonder where the Mercedes is now?

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