Barbara Steele remembers how the 1973 horror masterpiece The Exorcist affected her
It’s pointless for us to over-rhapsodize about William Freidkin‘s landmark 1973 horror film The Exorcist. The first filmed adaptation of William Peter Blatty‘s harrowing novel shocked the world upon release and then later, upon network television screenings in the latter part of the decade, where kids too young to see it, saw it, wrecking the cozy confines of their family homes.
Over four decades later, The Exorcist continues to fascinate, inspire and terrify. It’s a character piece, a cerebral and challenging theological work and its shocks are still feral and nightmarish. And while it’s a given that the movie has affected almost everyone who has seen it, it’s amazing to consider the impact the film has had on other icons of horror, artists known for their work in the genre and yet, when it comes down to it, are just as vulnerable and receptive to horror movies as the great, unwashed masses are. In this ongoing series, we will speak with some of our horror heroes and get them to tell us about the first time they saw The Exorcist and how it affected them…
Barbara Steele is the undisputed Queen of Gothic horror. The British actor – who famously danced for Fellini in his masterwork 8 1/2 – and producer is best known for her spate of period piece shockers out of Italy’s Golden age in the 1960’s, films like Mario Bava’s Black Sunday, Antonio Margheriti’s Castle of Blood and many, many more. Later, she appeared in film like David Cronenberg’s Shivers and Joe Dante’s Piranha and she won an Emmy for her work as a producer on Dan Curtis’ War and Remembrance.
But Barbara is also a lover of cinema and the arts. And when she first saw The Exorcist, it had a visceral and intellectual – and potentially romantic – affect on her.
“This film knocked me out completely,” Barbara told us today.
“I believed every second of it. The voice of Linda Blair by way of Mercedes McCambridge and the 180 degree turning of her head. I was awash with Catholic terror. Then I got a massive crush on the actor that played the priest, Jason Miller. I managed to contact him for an interview, pretending I worked for Rolling Stone. Then two months after it opened, William Peter Blatty moved into a house just down the beach from us that looked like a Nazi prison camp with vast lights sweeping over the dark sea every night and some sort of watch tower. If I was him I would have moved straight into the Vatican and never left it…”
Keep reading this page for more anecdotes from legends of horror about what is perhaps the scariest horror movie of all time: The Exorcist!