The Ninth Configuration

The Ninth Configuration

(William Peter Blatty, 1980)

Rating: 4/5

Reviewed by Dave Lancaster

: Catch 22 meets Shutter Island, William Peter Blatty's The Ninth Configuration is as deranged and as brilliant as that mash-up promises.

William Peter Blatty first found fame as a novelist - he had a knack for fantastical plotlines that were underpinned by a deeply rooted appreciation of how the human condition operates under intense pressure. His characters are forever tested to physical and psychological extremes.

He broke into the mainstream with his novel The Exorcist which was hailed as one of the greatest horror stories ever written. When Hollywood came calling he had already amassed considerable power in the industry and became the sole producer of the film adapation and wrote the script from his own novel in the process racking up Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Writing (the latter of which he won). Suddenly an Oscar winner with the backing of audiences, critics and studios alike, he took to making his own films as a triple threat writer, producer, director - one of which was the underrated Exorcist III and the other was The Ninth Configuration, his adaptation of his own novel Twinkle Twinkle Killer Kane.

The Ninth Configuration is a daring look at insanity in a military asylym amid the walls of a gothic castle just outside of Washington State. Blatty's script won the Golden Globe but somehow his roaming, probing and inventive direction of both performances and visuals was overlooked for even a nomination.

When a newcomer to the asylum arrives, it isn't clear whether Colonel Kane (an intense Stacey Keach) is psychiatrist or a Vietnam burnout who belongs with the shellshocked patients all the way up to its incredible conclusion. Supporting Keach is a nice turn from Jason Miller, Pulitzer prize winning playwright and also Father Karras from The Exorcist. The best way to go into this film as blind as the subtle and blunt revelations are best kept as surprises but for fans of the likes of Catch 22, Shutter Island, The Fisher King and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, you'll certainly want to admit yourself to The Ninth Configuration.

Second Sight's Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic. It comes with the following extensive feature set:

- English Subtitles for The Hard of Hearing

- Audio Commentary by Writer/ Director William Peter Blatty

- 'The Writer/ Producer/ Director' - Interview With William Peter Blatty

- 'Confessions of Kane' - Interview With Actor Stacy Keach - 'The Debrief Of Sgt. Christian' - Interview With Actor Stephen Powers

- 'Designing The Configuration' Interviews With Production Designer William Malley and Art Director J. Dennis Washington

- 'Killer On My Mind' - Interview With Soundtrack Composer Barry De Vorzon

- 'The Party Behind The Curtain' - Interviews With Actors Tom Atkins, Jason Miller, Richard Lynch and William Peter Blatty

- Mark Kermode Introduction Featurette

- Deleted Scenes and Outtakes

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