(WASHINGTON POST) Ignore, for a moment, the pea soup. Forget the head swivel, the crucifix, those 75 stone steps that tumble from Prospect to M Street. Forget that demonic voice and what your mother may or may not be doing in Hell. The creator of the scariest movie of all time would like very much if you’d remember that he wrote the Peter Sellers caper “A Shot in the Dark,” that his early collaborator in Hollywood was the comedy director Blake Edwards, that an esteemed book critic once wrote that “Nobody can write funnier lines than William Peter Blatty.”
This career in punch lines was hurled out the window when Blatty started clacking away on his green IBM Selectric in a cabin near Lake Tahoe during the summer of 1969. For nine months, starting around 11 each night and working through darkness, the unemployed screenwriter wrote in seclusion about the demonic possession of a girl, the troubled priest from Georgetown University who is assigned to her case and the brooding brick Colonial on Prospect Street NW where the nightmare unfolds. Even as he typed out the vilest of passages, Blatty never thought his novel would frighten anyone, or that it would become and remain (adjusting for inflation) the top-grossing R-rated movie in history.
The comic writer’s legacy is a horror film.