WARNING – the trailer linked below features intense flashing images. Viewer discretion advised.
Back in 1973 Warner Brothers were preparing to release their latest movie The Exorcist. A trailer was put together by the film’s editor Bud Smith and composer Lalo Schifrin was hired to create the accompanying music for it. The trailer that was created was never put into wide release and was not generally known about until a couple of years ago. Then in March 2018 Scott Derrickson (director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Sinister (2012) and Doctor Strange (2016)) tweeted a video of the trailer, and asked William Friedkin if he could authenticate it. Friedkin replied, saying he thought it was the best trailer ever made for the movie, but was kept back due to fears it was too disturbing.
In an interview for Score Magacine back in 2005, Schifrin said, “What happened is that the director, William Friedkin, hired me to write the music for the trailer, six minutes were recorded for the Warner’s edition of the trailer. The people who saw the trailer reacted against the film, because the scenes were heavy and frightening, so most of them went to the toilet to vomit. The trailer was terrific, but the mix of those frightening scenes and my music, which was also a very difficult and heavy score, scared the audiences away.”
The truth might be a little different. The trailer itself starts with the iconic shot of Father Merrin being dropped off at the MacNeil house, getting out of the cab and the famous poster image of Merrin silhouetted against the house. What comes next is an assault on the senses – a series of quick flashes of still images of Linda Blair as possessed Regan and Eileen Dietz as demon Pazuzu (a.k.a The Demon Face), accompanied by Schifrin’s moody and creepy score. The images are a mixture of stills from the movie and posed publicity shots, all in black and white.
Now, I’m not sure about rushing off to the toilet to vomit, but all the flashing images and lights certainly gave me a headache! It may be that the strobing was too much for audience members, and the line about the trailer being too disturbing or frightening was just to cover up people’s physical symptoms. Either way, it is certainly an effective piece of marketing, but it is also completely understandable why it was never widely released.
What do you think? Have a look below and let us know (unless you’re sensitive to very flashy things). We also talk more about the hysterical reaction the film received in 1973 and Lalo Schifin’s involvement in the movie in “The Extra-cist”, our latest post over on our Patreon page. You can also join us on Twitter @ManiacsHorror or on Facebook.