This is part three or our series of blogs on the supernatural. As we have pointed out, Martin Oaks Cemetery is in Lewisville, Texas, some 15 miles south of Denton, Texas and approximately 20 miles from downtown Dallas, Texas. Our cemetery has been in existence since Civil War times.
The reason we began this series is because of the number of questions we get about supernatural events connected with the owning of an historic cemetery. To the disappointment of some, the answer is — none. We have a very quaint, dignified graveyard that serves as wonderful place to honor those who are interred.
But, like many, we enjoy a good ghost story, so for the last few days we have been recounting some of our favorites. We have focused on some past classics including Dracula by Bram Stoker and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Now it’s time to look at a few contemporary works.
The Exorcist, both the original novel by William Peter Blatty and the film it inspired, directed by William Friedkin, are classics. Normally staid film critic Stanley Kauffmann enthused about how scary the film was. Readers have purchased millions of copies of the book (over 13 million according to recent sources).
The property was a juggernaut, deservedly so. Based on an actual exorcism (apparently actual, some still argue about what was fiction and what was not) both book and film capture a number of enduring cultural themes the role of religious belief, the presence of evil in the world, and the context of family recovery.
Special effects in the film version undoubtedly provide a tent pole attraction: although these kinds of fireworks usually leave us cold, what Friedkin achieved in the time period of the ’70’s was remarkable.
For us, aside from a good yarn, the central pull of the film was the really fine acting from a very talented troupe.
Ellen Burstyn, who kicked around show business with a variety of different stage names, found herself in the 1970’s: this film, The Last Picture Show and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore established her as one of our finest.
Nominated for an Oscar for his Exorcist role, Jason Miller was both a playwright and an actor. That Championship Season is an exceptionally satisfying play: it’s unfortunate that he passed away at the age of 62 — audiences deserved more time to watch his talent develop.
The pivotal role, the one that makes everything come together, the character Father Merrin, was essayed by our finest living actor, Max Von Sydow. From his early days on stage and then on film (under the direction of Ingmar Bergman) gave this Swedish star the training he later used to such an advantage — at 88, he still does the occasional film.
Side note on Von Sydow: if you have ever seen the Bergman classic, The Seventh Seal, the compelling scenes where Max duels the character Death in a game of chess will stay with you for a movie going lifetime.
Filming locations for The Exorcist added both a cosmopolitan and yet sinister aspect to the production.
The architectural dig sequence was shot near Mosul, Iraq, a location that won’t be used for a feature film anytime soon — the horrible tragedies visited upon that area are unspeakable. In this movie, Iraq adds an air of authenticity you could not find in a domestic substitute spot. But again, Mosul has been the site of many battles throughout history and current conditions are consistent with this troubled past.
Washington, D.C. has seldom functioned more perfectly for any film. The house (greatly aided by a Hollywood treatment) and the infamous Georgetown steps (which exist as you see in the movie, just not quite so close to the home itself) are irreplaceable.
If you are looking for a good scare, one not marred by conventional horror film gimmicks, in our opinion, The Exorcist is hard to beat.
More to come in future blogs.