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William Peter Blatty’s “Legion”: Novel and Film

The novel’s “Twins” motif was dropped in the film, but was prominent and even crucial to the book’s narrative. The novel presents a spiritual relationship between mass murderer James Vennamun and his beloved, but mentally-emotionally damaged, brother. The damaged brother dies, James becomes “the Gemini Killer,” then himself dies… then, through demonic intervention, he enters Karras’ resuscitated corpse. However, in an act of transcendent love, his dead brother searches for James and eventually finds him in Karras’ body. When contact is made, the “weaker” but saintly brother convinces James to end the killing spree, freeing him from the demon’s grip and from Karras’ body. Finally the “Twins” are once more restored to their prior unity in love – as they had been in their mortal lives.

The Twins theme is duplicated in Blatty’s cosmological myth of “the Angel.” We human beings turn out to be the Angel. Our origin was as two primoridal light-beings living with each other in loving unity. They are “One though Two”. They are both spirit-Twins, united in primal love. Then one of these radiant beings decides to live its own life, including pain and evil, as Creation. The Other tells its “Brother” about the burdens this will entail, yet we – the Divine Brother who desires Becoming – insist that we must seek our destiny in “Manifestation.” The Other agrees to this “Great Split,” saying that in the future both sphere and light-point will be once more united in love: “Hasten the day.” In becoming the manifest, created world, the primal divine light-point – we, human beings – have become the Angel seeking its divine origins who appears in Kinderman’s dreams.

We also function as the Creation-Upward-Groping to its godly origins, an idea which forms the essence of Father Lankester Merrin’s mystical vision in the original novel. The parallels to the Gemini/Vennamun case are obvious. The earthly twins’ life story duplicates the cosmic story of Sphere and Light-Point – both begin in love. One (James Vennamun) seeks its destiny in the material world.And of course, the term, “the Gemini Killer,” as James Vennamun is known, itself connotes twins. The other finally makes its own journey in order that both can once again be bound together in the unity they had before their “Great Split.”

Another “Twins” parallel is between Dr. Amfortas and his Double. At first taken as a hallucination, it soon becomes evident to Amfortas that his Double is his spiritual Twin – in this case, his “good” Angel in opposition to his egoic personality which is deeply implicated in the Gemini’s crime spree. While there is no explicit reunion of Amfortas with his Double-Twin, Blatty does supply implicit hints that all is not lost. The reader is left with the impression that, with a certain amount of penitential cleansing (perhaps in a Purgatorial or  “Bardo” state), Amfortas and his Good Twin may at last be reunited as some kind of “blessed spirit” in the next life.

Finally, there is the “Twins” configuration in the Kinderman/Father Dyer dyad. These two characters seem to be Blatty’s expression of an idealized “Twins” relationship, in contradistinction to the flawed dyads exemplified by the Gemini twins, and Amfortas and his Good Double. The Kinderman/Dyer “twinship” is is a shadowy, earthly example of the heavenly union-in-love brotherhood found in the “Pre-Great-Split” unity of Sphere and Light-Point prior to the world’s creation. There are probably several other “Twins” motifs present in Blatty’s novel. The examples in this articles are just the ones I’ve detected thus far – or, at least, imagined.

Points: Exorcist III: “Legion”

William Peter Blatty wrote a sequel to his smash success, The ExorcistLegion the novel went through several transformations for the film version, some of whose issues are addressed below.  The article is somewhat esoteric and will most appeal to Blatty fans and fans of this, the third Exorcist movie.

POINT ONE:  The Pazuzu Wind and blowing curtains in Regan’s room in the original Friedkin film. Of course there are no curtains in the Gemini’s cell. But there were plenty of visionary manifestations (crucified Karras rising up thru the lightning-cracked floor) and actual paranormal events (fire-blasted prayer book, priest and Kinderman thrown up against ceiling/wall). So lack of the Pazuzu Wind isn’t too significant. Also recall that the Pazuzu Wind is usually only a symbol of demonic presence,  not yet the full demonic manifestation. The curtains blowing in the first Exorcist movie may have been the Pazuzu Wind manifesting as a detached blast of the demon’s power just before Karras takes it out the window with him.

POINT TWO: I think that in Legion – the movie, not the book – Karras’  possession works like this: 1) Karras takes Pazuzu out the window with him at the end of The Exorcist. 2) The demon is defeated regarding its primary goal – killing Regan. 3) The demon is infuriated by this defeat, and while he is still inside Karras’ body – though his power to control Karras is severely attenuated – he pulls in Vennamun’s soul and inserts it into Karras’ dying body. 4) Karras momentarily “dies” but his soul stays in his body. He immediately regains a helpless consciousness, knowing that he is still in his body, but now he shares it not with Pazuzu, but with Vennamun’s redirected soul.  5) The demon now has a hold on Vennamun’s soul which is now incarnated in Karras’ body. The demon has now left Karras’ body and no longer has direct control of Karras – in fact, the demon doesn’t need it, because his “son, the Gemini” perfectly executes the demon’s will.  6) This state of affairs continues until the crisis occurs – the intervention of Fr. Morning as exorcist – like Fr, Lankester Merrin before him pursuing an ancient enemy, namely Pazuzu, and only secondarily the pipsqueak Vennamun.  7) By the time Morning enters the cell, the demon has taken over – the demon must protect “my son the Gemini.” Demonic big guns are required to fight an exorcist – puny little Vennamun/the Gemini is only granted the relatively small power of possessing only whom Pazuzu permits, and is limited to killing victims whose names contain the letter “K.” For a real exorcistic showdown, the demon himself must come to the Gemini’s rescue.  8) From the time Morning appears, the Gemini is not heard from and has no dialogue. This means that he has been put on the back burner (pun intended) so the demon itself can battle Morning.  9) So, at the end of Legion, Karras was not simultaneously possessed by the Gemini and the demon. It was only the demon at the end – in fact near the climax the demon says the famous Blatty phrase, “There is only one.”

POINT THREE: Kinderman and the “English spoken in reverse”  tape from the original novel and film.  I don’t think Kinderman was unduly moved by this as evidence of the supernatural.  The university president mentions it only in passing, and Kinderman’s dialogue does not pursue the matter. (Chances are Kinderman already knows about it but is just picking the president’s brain.) Nor would Kinderman necessarily think the reverse language was proof of genuine possession – any more than Karras did. Blatty assures the reader that the Church accepts paranormal, brain-related super-feats as possibly just natural paranormal phenomena, temporarily unexplained. So potentially it was an indicator in both Karras’ and Kinderman’s minds of genuine possession, but inasmuch as it may also have been mere paranormalia, it would not necessarily constitute proof of such.

How was Pazuzu able to do this? First, we don’t know what capacities talented demons might have, and we don’t know how they work their dark mechanisms. Second, we still don’t know if it was Pazuzu who was doing it – if we take the “naturally-accelerated brain skills” argument seriously. Again, it’s a case of maybe the demon was doing it, or maybe it was just Regan’s ailing-but-accelerated neurology that was causing her to speak so unusually.

POINT FOUR: The question of the expelled demon’s location after leaving Karras at the end of Legion. Since Kinderman’s bullets finally, utterly killed Karras’ body, and especially since the final head shot this time definitely killed his brain, the assumption would be that the demon (and Vennamun) were finally returned to Outer Darkness, that place “Over there, on the other side where theycan be so cruel” – i.e., Hell. There was now zero possibility of either Pazuzu or Vennamun tormenting Karras further. We are strongly led to assume that all’s right in the world and that Pazuzu’s temporary reign of terror has come to a satisfying (for us, not for him!) close. The bad guys are in “jail” (Hell) – where they belonged in the first place until they “escaped”. Where the demon went is ultimately a secret known only to its creator, William Peter Blatty.

Blatty could have had the demon jump into Kinderman… or come back in some other guise in some future novel. We can’t tell where the demon went either from Blatty’s Legion novel or from his Legion film. We can only hope that the liberated Karras was right when he told Kinderman, “We’ve won. Kill me now, Bill…”  This was written as a “happy” ending – Karras was finally free of both Vennamun and Pazuzu. He finally went to heaven – which destiny he was cheated out of fifteen years before at the bottom of that long flight of stairs leading down to M Street. To have Pazuzu repossess anyone would put a sappy, cliched horror movie ending on the story – like those old 1950s horror movies that, after presenting an “all is well” conclusion, proceed to flash “THE END”  – followed by the irritating question mark: “THE END…??”  Thankfully Blatty avoided those kinds of cheap stereotypes in his cinematic re-telling of the Legion story.