'The Exorcist' turns 40 (and the pea soup stains still remain)

Published June 19, 2013

The movie The Exorcist isn't a product of the '80s. It was more of a demon of the '80s. The first time I saw it, I was 14 years old and my friends and I had somehow watched it late at night -- either on VHS or TV, the fear has fogged the exact details. Watching it after dark was mistake No. 1. Not turning it off after the first 15 minutes, and thus subjecting ourselves to nightmares that probably still have a toe-hold in a corner of our brains, that was our second mistake. The only thing I did right? Never watching it again.

The Exorcist is officially 40 years old today, having made its New York debut on June 19, 1973. The story of a young girl (played by Linda Blair) who is seemingly possessed by a demon is quite the quotable movie. Just not very quotable on a blog like this. "Your mother ...." yeah, you know the rest. (BTW, that vulgar line was changed to "Your mother still rots in hell" on TV versions. Still pretty upsetting.)

Here are five learned I didn't know about The Exorcist on its big birthday.

1. TRUE STORY: Yes, The Exorcist is based on a 1971 novel, which was based on a real-life exorcism. The entire story comes from diaries of the attending priest and involved a young boy in the late 1940s in Maryland. The ritual of exorcism was performed more than 30 times before the "demon" was released. Click here for the full story.

2. BIG WINNER: The Exorcist was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, unheard of for a horror film. It would win only two: best adapted screenplay and best sound mixing. It lost the best-picture award to The Sting.

3. COOL ROOM: It took four air conditioners to cool the bedroom to the necessary temperature of 30 to 40 degrees below zero. Once, with the added moisture of having an entire film crew in the room, it began snowing.

4. BOX OFFICE CHAMP: If adjusted for inflation, The Exorcist would be the top-grossing R-rated film of all time (and Warner Bros.'s highest grossing film of all time).

5. THE PEA SOUP: Yes, the "vomit" hurled at the priest in the movie is actually condensed pea soup. says it was the Anderson brand of soup, because the crew didn't like the consistency of Campbell's.