The Timothy Dalton Chat Group Presents
Press Reviews Page for Possessed.

Introduction to Press Reviews of Possessed

I thought it might be nice, for anyone who has not seen this movie, to put some background information up here first for you, about Possessed, before you read the Press Reviews for this project.

Timothy's project of Possessed in which he plays Father William Bowdern, is based on the true account of a Catholic Church-sanctioned exorcism that occurred 50 years ago. The Showtime Original Picture of Possessed tells a story that was suppressed for nearly half a century. A psychological thriller, Possessed is based on the actual events that were fictionalized in the 1973 supernatural thriller "The Exorcist."

Father William Bowdern (Timothy Dalton) is a priest who is haunted by devasting memories of his military service as a chaplin during World War II. Asked by a fellow priest (Henry Czerny) to save the life and soul of a child (Jonathan Malen) who becomes possessed after the death of his aunt (Piper Laurie), Father Bowdern must confront his past when he clashes not only with demonic forces, but with the powerful Archbishop (Christopher Plummer) with a political agenda.


Pictured above is the co-writer and Director of Possessed, Steven E de Souza and Timothy of course. This photograph was taken at the Premier of Possessed, on the 18th October 2000.

From Gannett news service

This is a fresh look at the true story that sparked the 'The Exorcist.' This time, however, the young victim is a boy. Timothy Dalton is superb as the haunted and diligent priest who tries to help. Dalton's had trouble with light roles (James Bond, Rhett Butler), but he's at his best with this dark and moving tale.

From Hollywood Reporter by Michael Farkash

With all the spooky Halloween fare emerging this season on television and as features, it seems the perfect time for Possessed, a scary true story based on a Catholic exorcism 50 years ago -- that's right, the same demon-expulsion rite that inspired 'The Exorcist.' OK, so it's not as flamboyant as 'The Exorcist,' and there's less dramatic license taken with rotating human heads, but the Showtime Original Picture has the chill factor inherent in knowing that there's truth behind this story.

On its own, Possessed proves to be an unsettling, frightening, well-produced, solidly acted story, with fine work by Timothy Dalton, Henry Czerny and other actors, plus solid direction from Steven E. deSouza, who also co-wrote with Michael Lazarou.

If there's anything lacking, it's that we don't get enough backstory on the principal characters, but the substantial characterizations and direction let us know who these people are. And just as important, the telefilm is a satisfying experience about individuals making real choices and going through real changes without the script beating us over the head about it.

Dalton stars as the Rev. William Bowdern, who's drawn into a case allegedly involving demonic possession of a young boy, Robbie Mannheim (Jonathan Malen, 'Bless the Child'). Bowdern, who served in World War II, was wounded and nearly killed in action, and he suffers from traumatic stress. Sure, he drinks, brawls (when the cause is right) and sometimes speaks too bluntly, but he's a heck of a good priest.

He's asked by fellow priest, Raymond McBride (Czerny, 'The Boys of St. Vincent') to render an opinion on the case of the young boy. Robbie and his Aunt Hanna (Piper Laurie) had been playing spooky spiritual games with a Ouija Board, and after her death, Robbie began to manifest the power to move objects.

His parents, Karl and Phyllis (Michael Rhoades and Shannon Lawson), initially are distressed and angry and then see that this is more than an adolescent phase.

Enter some priests, with the first foray not all that successful. Soon, more solid presences -- Bowdern and McBride -- come on the scene. But the exorcism is not agreed to so easily by archbishop Hume (Christopher Plummer), who's concerned about Catholicism's image in the modern day, so he carves the perfect solution -- he'll have Bowdern and McBride perform the exorcism because they're not directly under his command within the archdiocese. Neither priest has had training in the rite, and they're nervous as, well, hell.


The lengthy exorcism becomes more and more difficult, as we knew it would, and Mannheim proves to be wicked and blasphemous beyond all reason (but not, of course, beyond our expectations). Some of the scenes prove darkly funny, and it's a nice relief to have those few moments to break the tension.

Across the board, every actor brings something distinctive to the mix, though we might have hoped for more screen time given to Laurie and Plummer. With Dalton's character, more backstory would have helped -- so that he might have agonized over specific people and events in his life rather than just the same war scene again and again.

Malen does a fine job as a bright youngster who started as a good kid and then is pulled into evil behavior. When he plays the 'emcee from hell,' it's funny and terrifying.

Exorcist tale dreaws on truth by Kevin V. Johnson, USA Today

A priest waging war against a malevolent force makes a compelling case for cable possession. Viewers may become enraptured by Showtime's true-life tale of a priest's determination to save a boy from the diabolical force that has taken over.

Possessed, chronicles a 1949 exorcism in St. Louis. It's "the ultimate battle, in a sense," says Timothy Dalton, who stars as exorcist William Bowdern. Christopher Plummer, Piper Laurie and Jonathan Malen, as the possessed boy, also star.

The movie is based on a diary kept by a priest who was present at the exorcism and on events recorded in the 1993 book Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism.

If the plot sounds familiar, the St. Louis case also is the basis for the recently re-released 'The Exorcist,' which has become one of the more successful reissues, grossing $30.5 million so far.

Possessed also features objects flying around the room, projectile vomiting and plenty of foul language. But, in general, the gruesome supernatural events are scaled down.

Dalton faithfully portrays Bowdern: He was a hot-tempered, smoking, sports lover - unafraid to challenge and taunt his adversary. As he wades in for the final confrontation, he shouts, "Fasten your seat belt, Beelzebub. It's gonna be a bumpy ride."


That's quite a different reaction from that of the Catholic Church, which, the movie implies, distanced itself from the exorcism as much as possible. Nonetheless, the priests and their assistants soldiered on.

Though many of those involved are now dead, including Bowdern, one priest, Walter Halloran, 71, still remembers the experience vividly.

Bowdern asked Halloran, then a graduate student at St. Louis University, to help.

"I usually held the boy, so that he wouldn't hurt himself or hurt someone else or fall out of bed," Halloran says. " He would thrash around and that sort of thing. It strengthened my faith." But the two-month ordeal also was arduous. "You kept wondering, 'When is this thing going to end?'" he says. "Sometimes you'd think it was cleared up, and then you'd get a call to come back again."

When it was finished, the boy's room at the Alexian Brothers hospital was shut and never used again, except to store furniture. In 1978, the hospital building was torn down but not before a demolition worker found a copy of the diary in a desk drawer.

Halloran, who lives in San Diego and is still a member of the clergy, hasn't seen Possessed. But it's likely viewers will be more frightened watching the movie than he was living it. "I was too busy to get afraid."

Deliverance From Evil by Michelle Bearded of The Tampa Tribune.

Exorcisms aren't just for Hollywood. The practice is a recognized rite by the Catholic Church but rarely is performed.

With the rerelease of the classic film "The Exorcist" comes a revival in the subject of purging demons from humans.

Fact or fiction? How much truth is there to the tale of the girl possessed by the devil?

"The Exorcist" is a fictionalized account of a true event that occurred 50 years ago and was suppressed by the Catholic Church for decades. But if you see the film version starring Linda Blair, whose claim to fame was spewing pea soup and rotating her head in a circle, you're not getting the complete picture.

The real story can be seen at 8 p.m. Sunday 22nd October 2000 on Showtime. Possessed, a two-hour original production based on the 1993 book by Thomas B. Allen, stars Timothy Dalton, Christopher Plummer, Piper Laurie and Henry Czerny.

Set in the 1960s, the movie tells the story of a whiskey-guzzling, chain-smoking Jesuit priest who teaches at St. Louis University. He gets roped into performing an exorcism on a young boy seemingly possessed by a demon. Timothy Dalton turns in some exceptional acting in his role as Father William Bowdern, whose own faith is tested by the experience.


Plummer also gives a convincing performance as the archbishop who first resisted granting permission to perform the centuries-old rite.

As the prelate who desegregated his diocese, he wanted to move his church into modern times, to make Catholics seem less suspicious and more forward-thinking to Protestant Americans. He finally relented on his exorcism stance and tapped Bowdern for the rite with the caveat that it would be kept under a shroud of secrecy.

It's a compelling film that will keep your attention the full two hours.

JUST HOW PREVALENT are exorcisms? Allen, a freelance writer who is wrapping up his book, "Shark Attacks," said in a telephone interview that the Catholic Church continues to practice the rite but does not publicize it.

"It's like the CIA," he says. "You know they're still doing covert operations - they just don't talk about it."

With all the publicity surrounding "The Exorcist," Allen has updated Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism. The newest version includes the never-before-published diary of a priest who kept a daily account of Bowdern's six-week experience in 1949. It can be ordered through the Internet at

Allen was never able to interview the subject of the exorcism, who would be in his 60s now. In fact, the boy's identity has not been revealed. And by the time he began researching the book in the early 1990s, Bowdern had already died. Allen did interview the priest who worked alongside Bowdern during the exorcism.

"He basically said he was there, and it was the real thing," Allen noted. However, to this day, the church hasn't commented on it.

WHERE DOES THE CHURCH stand on exorcisms? Bill Urbanski, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, found this statement in the Code of Canon Law:

"No one can legitimately perform exorcisms over the possessed unless he has obtained special and expressed permission from the local bishop. Such permission is to be granted from the bishop only to a priest endowed with piety, knowledge, prudence and integrity of life."

The church gives credence to the practice, with strong conditions attached.

If there have been exorcisms in this diocese, which was founded in 1969 and covers Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Citrus and Hernando counties, Urbanski says "there's no record of it."

Possessed also will air at 10 p.m. October 28th, 8 p.m. October 31st and 8 p.m. November 6th, 2000. It's an entertaining and educational look at an ancient practice that appears to have some validity in modern times.

I would like to say a big thank you to both Carol and Sylvia for sending the above reviews to me.