I knew, without even looking, what No. 1 would be when they released the results.
Yep, there in first place, after 49 years, was “The Exorcist.”
It got 19% of all votes cast in the survey.
The story said, “The film is well-known for the mass hysteria it inspired across the country, from protests over its controversial subject matter to widespread reports of nausea and fainting in the audience. Its dramatic pacing and somewhat dated effects may seem quaint compared to some contemporary horror, but there’s no denying the power the film continues to have over those who see it for the first time.”
There will probably never again be a movie that creates as big a stir as “The Exorcist” did in 1973-74.
We’ve become so used to special effects these days that nothing will ever scare us that badly again.
“The Exorcist,” a tale about a demon-possessed girl, premiered on Dec. 26, 1973.
But it took more than two months for it to reach Owensboro.
It opened here on March 1, 1974, at the Malco Theatre downtown.
A week earlier, 85 people had signed a petition circulated by parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, asking the City Commission to ban the film in Owensboro.
They were told to view the movie first, then contact the commonwealth’s attorney if they thought it was obscene.
The church itself took no position on the movie.
But the petition served as publicity for the movie, making a lot of people more interested in seeing it.
On opening night, the line outside the Malco stretched a block and a half along Frederica and West Fourth streets.
The crowd was estimated at more than 200 people when the doors opened.
Some had been in line for more than an hour.
There had been reports across the country of people fainting during the movie.
And there were reports of people vomiting in the aisles, unable to make it to the restrooms in time.
It was one of the few times the Messenger-Inquirer sent reporters to interview people after a movie.
No one fainted in Owensboro that night, but people we interviewed said some took refuge in the restrooms during more intense scenes.
One person became ill, but he or she (the gender wasn’t identified) was said to have been sick before the movie.
Theater employees checked IDs at the door to make sure that no one under 18 entered the theater.
Can you imagine that type of reaction to anything today?
“The Exorcist” was the highest-grossing movie of the year.
It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won two — best sound and best adapted screenplay.
People who see it today can’t understand what the hysteria was all about.
Yes, it’s still intense.
But special effects have moved on.
We’ve seen grosser, more disturbing images on screen in the past 49 years.