Death Line director Gary Sherman remembers how the 1973 horror masterpiece The Exorcist affected him
It’s pointless for us to over-rhapsodize about William Friedkin‘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…
Chicago-born director Gary Sherman hit horror paydirt with his first feature, the cerebral British shocker Death Line, a film that pre-dated The Exorcist by a year and matches it for stomach churning special FX frissons. Sherman would later go on to helm such genre classics as Dead and Buried, Vice Squad and Poltergeist III. But in regards to Friedkin’s masterpiece, Sherman was ingrained in the industry when The Exorcist was in production and has an interesting story to share about its impact on iconic director Stanley Kubrick.
“Since it was released a year after Death Line, I have to admit that I am old enough to have seen it first run in London.” Sherman told us.
“But I also have to admit, that my curiosity to see it was as much because of the stories I had heard about its production than it was to see the result. Stanley Kubrick was shooting Barry Lyndon at the same time as Bill Friedkin was shooting The Exorcist. I had the great pleasure of meeting Kubrick due to having several mutual friends including some crewmembers. John Alcott, the DP on Barry Lyndon and who later shot Vice Squad for me, were friends as well as Tony and Joe Tieger, brothers who worked as prop masters. They went on to Barry Lyndon after doing Death Line. Anyway, I had heard constant stories from them about Kubrick constantly bitching about how Warner Bros was so worried about his budget but they were “throwing money” at some “kid” who was making “some (various expletives) horror movie.” I must also admit, that as much as I was in awe of Kubrick, when I saw both films I thoroughly understood why WB was “throwing money” at The Exorcist and was worried about Barry Lyndon. Loved The Exorcist and quickly forgot Barry Lyndon!”
Stay tuned for more reflections on The Exorcist from some of horror’s most interesting architects…