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STACY KEACH & SCOTT WILSON IN 'THE NINTH CONFIGURATION'

Good guy, Bad guys, and Linda Blatty YEAR OF RELEASE: 1980
Writer/Director William Peter Blatty, whose novel THE EXORCIST was made into a groundbreaking horror masterpiece by THE FRENCH CONNECTION Oscar-winner William Friedkin, takes personal, independent pride in his very own picture, THE NINTH CONFIGURATION...

Mostly because the critics deemed how insanely original it is since "Robert Loggia sings Al Jolson in blackface" and "Jason Miller rehearses HAMLET using dogs" and "Moses Gunn wears superhero spandex" or "a man dressed as a nun tries exorcising a soda machine" or "an image of the crucifixion on the moon," and on and on the weirdness goes but, in the reality of this surreal anti-war, existentialist vs religion fable — set inside a castle that serves as an insane asylum, there could have been even more nutty stuff... Anything goes in a story about human beings who are seemingly without logic or limits... And in that, NINTH is actually an extremely grounded vehicle...

Ninth Configuration Score: ****
Upon a wide-shot glance it's an esemble comedy, as if the members of MASH's 4077th practiced witchcraft on benzedrine, but there are really only two characters that actually matter. One is Scott Wilson, playing the same astronaut that Linda Blair warned was "gonna die up there" before she soaked the rug in THE EXORCIST, based on Blatty's famous novel (yet that is never mentioned)...

The Scott Wilson Glare
His Captain Billy Cutshaw is the type of 'Crazy like a Fox' character who can spout as much meaningful dialogue as is allowed to counter his rambling residual of meaningless gibberish, and he's nicely balanced by Stacy Keach's silent and seemingly non-troubled Col. Vincent Kane...

As the new psychologist inside the castle of war-weary loons, he's there to listen yet is just too perfect, somehow... As Billy puts it, foreshadowing BLADE RUNNER by a few years, "Too human to be human" (and here's a personal favorite line, "the essence of suicide is not collecting the insurance")...

There's probably not a more downright quotable motion picture ever made, despite Blatty, the writer, aiming words like sharpened arrows within this Gothic locale that could've used a little more suspense and intrigue to complete its dark, formidable canvas: this includes creature-statues right out of THE EXORCIST's Iraqi tomb-digging prologue. Leaving any kind of mainstream fare to a third-act sequence involving a popular cinematic device during the late 70's/early 80's: Rowdy bikers in a crowded tavern. Although the "bar-fight scene" is more DELIVERANCE-eerie than action-packed, and is part of an important twist that, had they used the source novel's title for this adaptation, would be a spoiler in itself, marring what really connects two polar opposites... the believer and the non-believer... into a labor-of-love cult film that seemed, by the screenplay alone, meant to be that and nothing else: Some movies haven't got a choice.
Director William Peter Blatty as a patient thinking he's a doctor just like Christopher Lloyd years later in The Dream Team
This scene epitomizes what the movie's mostly known for... ANIMAL HOUSE meets THE HOSPITAL w/ the lunacy, upfront... and misleading
Stacy Keach, Blatty EXORCIST III: LEGION co-star Ed Flanders and our buried lead Scott Wilson in The Ninth Configuration
Jason Miller played Father Merrin in The Exorcist and Blatty's pal Joe Spinell begged for a role in this, and got it
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