Sunday Matinee: William Peter Blatty

Writer William Peter Blatty passed away on January 12 this year at the age of 89. Blatty’s biggest acclaim was his novel and the subsequent movie adaptation The Exorcist.

Before Blatty became successful with The Exorcist he started out writing comedic novels John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (1963),I, Billy Shakespeare (1965) and Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane (1966). Blatty also starting writing screenplays. His first The Man from the Diners’ Club starred Danny Kaye would lead him to working with writer/director Blake Edwards.

Edwards was bringing brought in on a movie adaptation of a Broadway play that was supposed to star Peter Sellers. Sellers didn’t like the director or the script so Edwards was brought in. Edwards and Sellers had just made the successful The Pink Panther and Edwards figured he could rewrite the screenplay turning it into an Inspector Clouseau movie. Edwards brought in Blatty to help with the script. The result was one of the best of the Clouseau movies and it started a working relationship with Edwards that saw Blatty write screenplays for several of Edwards movies, What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (1966), Gunn (1967 – an adaptation of Edwards famed Peter Gunn TV series), and Darling Lili (1970).

After all that Blatty wrote The Exorcist and it was a huge hit. After Blatty adapted his Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane into a movie that Blatty also directed retitled The Ninth Configuration. It’s an underrated but excellent movie about Colonel Kane (Stacy Keach) who arrives at an insane asylum for soldiers to take over the treatment of the patients and becomes focused on a patient Billy Cutshaw (Scott Wilson). The movie is really good.

Blatty wrote a sequel to The Exorcist called Legion which was published in 1983. In 1990 Blatty directed a film adaptation which was called The Exorcist III. Blatty ignored the crappy sequel that Warner made and this movie was more of a direct sequel. Morgan Creek produced the film and demanded changes on Blatty’s final cut. While Blatty was happy with the final version he always wanted his original cut to be released. Unfortunately Morgan Creek lost most of the footage. Last year Shout Factory tried to recreate Blatty’s cut and released it as a second disc on their new Blu-ray of the film using scenes from a VHS tape of the dailies to recreate the cut. It’s not quite the same but with the original footage lost there’s not much else that can be done.

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