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:: William Peter Blatty - Correspondences & Themes
This page last updated: July 12, 2007
:: William Peter Blatty - Correspondences & Themes

A note about this section:

After becoming well-acquainted with the directorial and prose styling of William Peter Blatty, it becomes apparent that many things (e.g. Biblical quotes; Shakespearean references; names; actors; themes, and the like) tend to recur, often in more than a single instance. This particular section of the website attempts to list and archive as many of these correspondences as possible. If you believe anything relevant is missing, please e-mail me and let me know.

Note: the correspondences & themes are listed in the order of which they were (are) discovered.

- Ryan S

� No. » Image(s) » Correspondence(s)


Actor Scott Wilson was cast in both The Ninth Configuration (as Captain Billy Cutshaw) and The Exorcist III (as Dr. Freeman Temple).


Actor Jason Miller was cast in all three of Blatty's films that dealt with his "trilogy of faith": The Exorcist (as Fr. Damien Karras); The Ninth Configuration (as Lt. Frankie Reno); and The Exorcist III (reprising his role of Fr. Damien Karras).


Actor Ed Flanders was cast in The Ninth Configuration (as Col. Richard Fell), and subsequently taking over the role of Fr. Joseph Dyer in The Exorcist III.


It has been confirmed by William Peter Blatty that the un-credited astronaut in The Exorcist, conversing with Fr. Dyer at Chris MacNeil's house party (portrayed by Richard Callinan), was indeed intended to be Captain Cutshaw from The Ninth Configuration; they are one and the same. This is consistent, in the sense that The Exorcist, The Ninth Configuration and Legion form an "unofficial trilogy," as quoted by Blatty himself: the mystery of faith, the mystery of goodness, and the problem of evil. In an interview, Blatty stated (in regard to penning a sequel to The Exorcist):

"I offered to write an Exorcist sequel � not that story [Exorcist II: The Heretic] � if they would put up just a little bit of money to make the film I wanted to make based on another novel I wrote, The Ninth Configuration. But they wouldn't do it."

Had this actually occurred, and The Ninth Configuration had been the "true" and "official" sequel to The Exorcist, Cutshaw's appearance in the original film would be all the more relevant.


Blatty once referred to The Ninth Configuration as the true sequel to The Exorcist and has stated that he intended the character of Captain Cutshaw to be the same astronaut that a sleepwalking Regan in The Exorcist warns, "You're gonna die up there." In The Ninth Configuration, Cutshaw mentions a fear of dying in space that is almost certainly a reference to Regan's line in the previous film. However, the characters were played by different actors and the astronaut in The Exorcist is not named by the credits.


William Peter Blatty had initially intended actor Nicol Williamson to play the role of Col. Kane in The Ninth Configuration. Blatty had always been "stage-drunk" by Williamson, but eventually conceded to the fact that he had been "horribly miscast" for the role. Instead, Williamson played the role of Fr. Paul Morning in The Exorcist III, and is also, interestingly, mentioned in the novel Legion:

"It seems he was standing in a royal reception line. He was right beside the Queen and to the other side of him stood Nicol Williamson."



The name "Vincent" has been used at least three times in Blatty's works: Vincent Amfortas from the Legion novel; Col. Vincent Kane from The Ninth Configuration, and the young boy from the Legion novel / The Exorcist III film is named Vincent Paul Korner. It should also be noted that William Peter Blatty's son [deceased], who passed away on November 7, 2006, at the age of nineteen, was named Peter Vincent Galahad Blatty.


Shakespearean references, quotes and musings are often made by characters of Blatty's creation. From Kinderman's ramblings of the "numbing of the moral sense" from Macbeth in Legion and The Exorcist III, to Lt. Reno's interpretation of Hamlet's insanity in The Ninth Configuration, Shakespearean references are abundant.


Actor Stacy Keach was cast in The Ninth Configuration (as Col. Vincent Kane), playing alongside Jason Miller as Lt. Reno. Keach also starred in Jason Miller's own film, That Championship Season, as James Daley.

Keach was also first choice for the role of Fr. Damien Karras in the original Exorcist film, which was subsequently given to Jason Miller.


Mark Kermode, in The Ninth Configuration DVD audio commentary, brings up a point about Robert Loggia miming to "There's A Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder" by Al Jolson, done up in "black face". He also notes that, in The Exorcist III, the crucified boy who appears at the end of the film is also done up in "black face". Kermode inquires about its meaning:

"It seems to be something that recurs. What is it?"

"Nothing. Just a coincidence; unconscious."

It should be noted, however, that a third example of this "black face" is mentioned in the novels of Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane and The Ninth Configuration: among the various inmates' paintings is depicted a "Negro Christ".



The Brothers Karamazov is referred to, many times, by Lt. Kinderman in the Legion novel, and is also briefly mentioned in the novel Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane, as well as the revised novel of The Ninth Configuration. Coincidentally, Lee J. Cobb, who played the part of Lt. Kinderman in the original Exorcist film, starred as Father Karamazov in the 1958 film adaptation of the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.


Lemon drops have appeared twice in Blatty's films: They can be seen humorously in Col. Fell's (Ed Flanders) medical office, written on a wall with an arrow pointing to them, in The Ninth Configuration. They are then also mentioned by Fr. Dyer (Ed Flanders) in The Exorcist III, just prior to seeing "It's A Wonderful Life" with Lt. Kinderman (George C. Scott).



Actor Michael Moriarty, who was originally set to play the role of Captain Cutshaw in The Ninth Configuration, plays the part of Ray Preston in Shiloh (1 and 2). Scott Wilson, who ended up playing the role of Cutshaw, also stars alongside Moriarty, in both films, as Judd Travers.


Actor George DiCenzo, who played the role of Captain Fairbanks in The Ninth Configuration, also took the role of Stedman in The Exorcist III.


In the novel of The Exorcist, Fr. Merrin is seen taking his wallet out of his pocket, and removing a "faded plastic calendar card that was twelve years out of date. It bore an inscription on the reverse: What We Give To The Poor Is What We Take With Us When We Die. The card had been printed at the Jesuit Missions."

This same inscription/quote is seen framed, hanging on a wall in Fr. Morning's room in The Exorcist III.



In The Exorcist novel, Fr. Merrin explains the relevance of Fr. Damien Karras' first name:

"It was the name of a priest who devoted his life to taking care of the lepers on the island of Molokai. He finally caught the disease himself." He paused. "Lovely name."

In the novel of Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane, the following is written:

And abruptly the wood became Molokai, and Colonel Kane was Father Damien who had come to cure the lepers. No � come to cure himself. Was he a leper? Something like that.

The following is also written in the revised novel of The Ninth Configuration:

And then Kane was on the island of Molokai, where he had come to cure the lepers, but it somehow was also an orphanage where a Franciscan monk was lecturing to children in military uniform, their faces blank and eroded. Suddenly the roof fell in upon them as bombs struck Molokai.

As an interesting side-note, Damien Echols, one of the West Memphis Three, declared that he changed his first name in reference to Fr. Damien of Molokai.



There are many quotes in the novel of Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane that would later be heard or harked back to in The Exorcist and Legion / The Exorcist III. They deal primarily with demonic possession. Similar quotes can be found in the revised novel of The Ninth Configuration.

From Curtis Books 1966 paperback copy of Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane:

Pages 178 - 180 (abridged):

"It's about my brother, Lieutenant Spoor. You've got to help him."

"Help? How?"

"Leslie Spoor is possessed of a devil, Hud, and I want you to cast it out. He is levitating nightly and it's upsetting Lieutenant Zook. It reminds him of his belt. Also, Spoor talks to dogs, which is not entirely natural. I want you to exorcise him tonight. You're a colonel and a Catholic and an unfrocked priest. It's your duty, Colonel No-Face!"


Spoor's tongue lolled out of the side of his mouth, red and narrow and long. "Call me Legion, for we are many. We are eighty-two plus one."

"Who is the one?" asked Kane, knowing.

"'Killer' Kane!" said Spoor, and vanished.


The following passage is derived from page 182 of the above-mentioned Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane paperback novel:

Sunrise and sunset, he'd loved them as a boy. They had filled him with a sense of glory, made him feel somehow closer to God; a God he could touch, and see and breathe. "Peace I leave you, My peace I give you..." He remembered the words from the Mass and wondered what had happened to that peace.

The "Peace I leave you, My peace I give you..." quote here is also uttered by Fr. Dyer during the opening scenes of The Exorcist III, in the church.


From page 199 of the Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane novel:

"Do you believe in possession, Father?"

Lt. Kinderman says this exact same line to the University President (Lee Richardson)  in The Exorcist III.



In an interview, it was asked if there was any significance to the characters of The Exorcist, Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane / The Ninth Configuration and Legion / The Exorcist III all having their names beginning with the letter "K".

Blatty's response:

"No, although it's bemusing to note that all of Patient X's victims in Legion had names that began with K. I chose "Karras" because it held an echo of caritas, or love; "Kinderman" because of his basic kindness; and "Kane" for the hard C of Cain, the primal murderer."



In The Exorcist novel, there is a similarity between names: Fr. Lankester Merrin, and Mary Jo Perrin.

Additionally, there is a Nurse Merrin in The Exorcist III (listed in the end credits).



In The Exorcist III, an interesting fact assists in proving that Nurse Allerton was in on all the killings. At the beginning of the film, the black boy, Thomas Kintry, is discovered desecrated and nailed to a pair of rowing oars. In the 1928 Olympics, a man named Allerton Cushman competed in the rowing event.



In both novels of Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane and The Ninth Configuration, along with the film adaptation, Lt. Reno describes Kane as "Gregory Peck in Spellbound," stating that "He comes to take charge of a nuthouse and it turns out the guy's really crazy himself!"

Ed Flanders, who plays Col. Fell in The Ninth Configuration and Fr. Dyer in The Exorcist III, had second billing to Gregory Peck's lead as General Douglas MacArthur in the 1977 feature film MacArthur. Instead, he played the part of President Harry S. Truman.


Ed Flanders starred in the drama series St. Elsewhere from 1982 to 1988. In 1999, William Peter Blatty published a short story entitled Elsewhere in the 999 Anthology.

Additionally, a male voice can be heard during Lt. Kinderman's dream sequence in The Exorcist III saying the following: "Your attention, please. Your attention. The twelve-eighteen to Elsewhere now departing on track eleven. All passengers boarding proceed to the gate."

An image can then be seen depicting the word Elsewhere.


In The Exorcist III, Father Morning is seen to approach possessed Karras / "the man in cell eleven" at the film's climax. Staring intently at Morning, possessed Karras declares: "The time, you're going to lose." In The Exorcist novel, the following dialogue can be found:

"Strange. They only..." She paused. "Well, they only just stared at each other for a while, and then Regan - that thing - it said..."

"Said what?"

"It said, 'This time you're going to lose.'"



The name Eddie is mentioned in at least five instances throughout Blatty's work: Ed Flanders stars in both The Ninth Configuration and The Exorcist III; Cutshaw humorously mentions his uncle Eddie in The Ninth Configuration; Fr. Dyer (Ed Flanders) mentions his brother Eddie in The Exorcist III; page page 66 of the Legion paperback novel introduces Dr. Amfortas' neurologist friend, Dr. Edward Coffey; and, on page 192, Eddie Flanders, an "instructor at the Georgetown Institute of Languages" is introduced. This latter is interesting, considering that the actor, Ed Flanders, starred in both The Ninth Configuration and The Exorcist III.



Just prior to Lt. Kinderman entering Fr. Dyer's hospital room in The Exorcist III, a nurse can be heard saying "Dr. Miller, line 118" over the intercom. Jason Miller played the role of Fr. Karras in The Exorcist, Lt. Frankie Reno in The Ninth Configuration, and reprised the role of Fr. Karras in The Exorcist III.



The name Julie is mentioned in at least three instances throughout Blatty's work: Lt. Kinderman's daughter in The Exorcist III is named Julie; Nurse Allerton from The Exorcist III is named Julie Allerton; and William Peter Blatty's own wife, in real life, is named Julie.



During Lt. Kinderman's discussion with the University President in The Exorcist III, two references are made to the original Exorcist film: the clock that had been ticking next to the two men suddenly comes to a stop, followed by a distant sound of possessed Regan giggling, when Fr. Karras discovers Fr. Merrin's dead body at the climax of the original film. Subsequent whispering can be heard in a male voice, spoken in Latin.



In both the Legion novel and The Exorcist III film, we are told that the Gemini killer's father's name was Karl. This is the same name as Chris MacNeil's Swiss, male housekeeper in the original Exorcist novel and film.



In the Legion novel, one of Dr. Vincent Amfortas' patients is named Willie. This is the same name as Chris MacNeil's Swiss, female housekeeper in the original Exorcist novel and film.


In a scene from The Ninth Configuration, Cutshaw says the following:

"Animals are innocent. Why should they suffer? Why should children suffer? Will you tell me that? Why should any baby have to suffer, and die?"

"Why should men?"

"Oh, come on, now. Don't try that one on me. You've got answers for it! Like 'pain makes people noble.' And 'how could man be more than a talking, tennis-playing panda bear if it weren't, at least, for the possibility of suffering?' But what about animals, Hud? Does pain make turkeys noble? Why is all of creation based on dog-eat-dog, and the little fish are eaten by the big fish? Animals screaming in pain; all of creation an open wound, a fucking slaughterhouse!"

In the Legion novel, the following is written, once again mentioning the "panda" metaphor:

Kinderman wondered if it were possible for a man to be a man without pain, or at least the possibility of pain. Would he not be no more than a chess-playing panda bear? Could there be honor or courage or kindness? A god who was good could not help but intervene upon hearing the cry of one suffering child. Yet He didn't. He looked on. But was that because man had asked him to look on? Because man had deliberately chosen the crucible in order to be able to be man, before time began and the fiery firmaments had been flung?



In the Legion novel, the priest who is murdered in the confessional is named Fr. Bermingham (as opposed to Fr. Kanavan, in The Exorcist III film). In the original Exorcist film, Fr. Thomas Bermingham played the role of the University President, as well as being a technical / religious advisor for the film.



The following is written on page 121 of the paperback Legion novel:

A short, stout nurse waddled into the room. Her eyes had the toughness of a veteran's. She was carrying a rubber tourniquet and a hypodermic syringe. She moved toward Dyer.

"Come to take a little blood from you, Father."

In the unreleased trailer, the demonic voice is heard to say the same line, which was not included in the final cut of the film.


The following is written on page 160 of the paperback Legion novel:

"You know, when the television set's turned off, all you hear in this room is the shuffling of slippers. It's a creepy sound," he said.

This seems to hark back to the scene in The Exorcist III where Kinderman's daughter, Julie, is shuffling through the kitchen at night, wearing slippers.



On page 178 of the Legion novel, the nurse who carelessly switches off Thomas Vennamun's lamp, resulting in James Vennamun transmuting into the Gemini Killer, is named Nurse Keach.

Stacy Keach played the part of "Killer" Kane in The Ninth Configuration.


On page 200 of the Legion novel, Dr. Amfortas' farewell letter to Fr. Dyer rings quite similar to Kane's farewell letter to Cutshaw in The Ninth Configuration:

"I know that someday I will see you again."

- Vincent Kane

"Yet I know that I will see you again someday."

- Vincent Amfortas



In the Legion novel Martina Otsi Lazlo's surname is most likely in reference to the character of Victor Laszlo from the film Casablanca. This creates a connection with Kinderman�s love of great films, as well as his Casablanca-like friendship with Fr. Dyer. It should also be noted that Kinderman has a dream sequence in the Legion novel that depicts he and other characters of the novel amid a scene from Casablanca. Kinderman is seen conversing with Humphrey Bogart.



In the original Exorcist novel, the following is written:

Who are you? Clelia.
Are you a woman? Yes.
Have you lived on earth? No.
Will you come to life? Yes.
When? In six years.
Why are you conversing with me? E if Clelia el.

The subject interpreted this answer as an anagram for "I Clelia feel."

4th Day

Am I the one who answers the questions? Yes.
Is Clelia there? No.
Who is there, then? Nobody.
Then with whom was I speaking yesterday?
With nobody.

In Legion novel / The Exorcist III film, Mrs. Clelia is the catatonic patient suspected of murdering Fr. Dyer.



In the Legion novel, Dr. Temple gets to the bottom of Lazlo's automatic movements by asking a carpenter how people used to make shoes prior to the invention of machines that would do the job for them.

This is in direct reference to a passage from Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung.

Jung found out by asking his clinic�s head nurse how long the woman had been making the gestures. The nurse told him that the prior head nurse had said that the old lady used to make shoes.

Jung next checked her dilapidated records, which, surprisingly, indeed identified the gestures as cobbler�s motions.

At her funeral, Jung asked her brother how she lost her sanity, and the brother told Jung that she had been in love with a shoemaker who rejected her, and from that point, she became dysfunctional.

Jung: "The shoemaker movements indicated an identification with her sweetheart which lasted until her death� Henceforth I devoted all my attention to the meaningful connections in a psychosis."



On pages 226 and 305 of the Legion novel, the following is written:

Every man that ever lived craved perfect happiness, the detective poignantly reflected. But how can we have it when we know we're going to die? Each joy was clouded by the knowledge it would end. And so nature had implanted in us a desire for something unattainable? No. It couldn't be. It makes no sense. Every other striving implanted by nature had a corresponding object that wasn't a phantom. Why this exception? the detective reasoned. It was nature making hunger when there wasn't any food. We continue. We go on. Thus death proved life.


"You know, we talk about evil in this world and where it comes from," said Kinderman. "But how do we explain all the good?" We we are nothing but molecules we would always be thinking of ourselves. So how come we are always having Gunga Dins, people giving up their lives for somebody else?"

These paragraphs hark back to comments made by Col. Kane in The Ninth Configuration; for instance:

"Every man who has ever lived has been filled with desire for perfect happiness. But unless there is an afterlife, fulfillment of this desire is impossible. Perfect happiness, in order to be perfect, must carry with it the assurance that the happiness won't cease; that it will not be snatched away. But no one has ever had such assurance; the mere fact of death serves to contradict it. Yet why should Nature implant in everyone a desire for something unattainable? I can think of no more than two answers: either Nature is consistently mad and perverse; or after this life there's another, a life where this universal desire for perfect happiness can be fulfilled. But nowhere else in creation does Nature exhibit this kind of perversity; not when it comes to a basic drive. An eye is always for seeing and an ear is always for hearing. And any universal craving - I mean a craving without exceptions - has to be capable of fulfillment. It can't be fulfilled here, so it's fulfilled, I think, somewhere else; sometime else."


"If we're nothing but atoms, molecular structures, no different in kind from this desk or that pen, then we ought to always be rushing irresistibly, blindly, towards serving our own selfish ends. So how is it that there is love in this world? I mean love as a God-might love, and a man will give his life for another."


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