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The Possessed is a 1977 American television horror film directed by Jerry Thorpe, written by John Sacret Young, and starring James Farentino, Joan Hackett, Diana Scarwid, and Harrison Ford. It is about a priest who returns from the dead to battle satanic forces at an all-girls school. The film was shot on location at Reed College in Portland, Oregon in 1976.[2]

The Possessed
The Possessed (1977 film).jpg
Screenplay byJohn Sacret Young
Directed byJerry Thorpe
StarringJames Farentino
Joan Hackett
Harrison Ford
Claudette Nevins
Diana Scarwid
Theme music composerLeonard Rosenman
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Executive producer(s)Jerry Thorpe
Producer(s)Philip Mandelker
CinematographyChuck Arnold
Editor(s)Michael A. Hoey
Running time76 minutes
Production company(s)Warner Bros. Television
DistributorWarner Bros. Television Distribution
Original networkNBC
Original release
  • May 1, 1977 (1977-05-01)[1]


Kevin Leahy, an alcoholic Catholic priest who has strayed from his faith, crashes his car and is pronounced dead at the scene. As penance, he is sent back to Earth to fight evil as an exorcist, and returns to life. At the Helen Page School, a Catholic all-girls college in Salem, Oregon, graduation season is near. The school is about to go coed. Ellen Sumner (Claudette Nevins), is a teacher at the school, which her daughter, Weezie, attends. One evening, the paper in Ellen's typewriter inexplicably bursts into flames.

Lane (Diana Scarwid), Alex (Carol Jones), Celia (Dinah Manoff), and Marty (P.J. Soles), play a prank on Weezie by smearing ketchup and other liquids under her bedsheets. Louise Gelson (Joan Hackett), who is Ellen's sister and headmistress of the college, enters and instructs the girls to leave. Weezie returns to her dorm in time to see the curtains suddenly burst into flames. She tells Ms. Gelson, who insists the girls must have been smoking.

During graduation practice, Lane's gown bursts into flames. Ellen and Paul Winjam (Harrison Ford), another teacher, put out the flames, but Lane is burned in the ordeal. Sergeant Taplinger (Eugene Roche) investigates, and Ellen tells him of the other random fires, insisting it is supernatural. Ellen seeks out Leahy to investigate the occurrences. Leahy and Ellen visit Lane in the hospital, where she is receiving treatment for burns to her legs.

Weezie confesses to Leahy that the night of the fire in her dorm, she had visited Mr. Winjam late to study for a biology test; he suspects they may be romantically involved. That night in the biology room, Weezie and Mr. Winjam meet, and his jacket bursts into flames; Weezie is locked out of the room, and watches through the window as he burns to death.

The next day Leahy finds Ms. Gelson crying hysterically in Winjam's office, and realizes she and Winjam had also been romantically involved. Ms. Gelson suspends classes, and several students leave the college. That night, Weezie encounters Ms. Gelson wandering erratically through the hallways of the school; Ms. Gelson screams, and slaps her. Weezie tells Leahy of the incident, and then confesses to her mother about the affair with Winjam. Leahy searches the school for Ms. Gelson, and Ellen and Weezie begin to smell smoke.

The remaining girls on campus, who have congregated in one of the dormitories, also begin to smell smoke, and find themselves locked in. Ms. Gelson unlocks the rooms and leads them away. Leahy searches the dormitory, and finds all of the rooms empty. He frees Ellen and Weezie from Ellen's locked office, and they attempt to leave the school.

They encounter the possessed Ms. Gelson at the college's swimming pool, surrounded by the girls. Ellen forces all of the girls to leave the room, and Ms. Gelson grabs Leahy, lighting his jacket on fire, but the fire extinguishes itself. Ms. Gelson, laughing wildly, spits nails at Leahy. He embraces her, and again catches fire; he jumps into the swimming pool, and disappears in a blaze.

The college is reopened for graduation, and Taplinger inquires to Ellen about Leahy's identity and whereabouts. She tells him she does not know who he really was or where he went. Lane is able to return to school for the graduation ceremony, led by a healthy Ms. Gelson.



Filming of The Possessed took place in January 1977 on the campus of Reed College in southeast Portland, Oregon.[3] The production reportedly accrued $400,000 in local revenue for the state of Oregon.[4]


The Possessed was first broadcast on NBC on May 1, 1977.[1]


Steve Barton of Dread Central rated it 3.5/5 stars and called it a "token TV movie Exorcist knock-off" that is "actually ridiculously entertaining."[5] Paul Mavis of DVD Talk rated it 4/5 stars and called it an "extremely effective made-for-TV supernatural horror film."[6]


  1. ^ a b Terrace, Vincent (2013). Encyclopedia of Television Pilots, 1937-2012. McFarland Publishing. p. 235. ISBN 978-0-786-47445-5.
  2. ^ Baker, Jeff (July 1, 2014). "5 movies filmed at Reed College; four are failures, one is great". The Oregonian. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  3. ^ Cowan, Ron (May 15, 1977). "2 Oregon films sorry affairs". Statesman Journal. Salem, Oregon. p. 47 – via  
  4. ^ "Oregon-made film to be aired Sunday". Statesman Journal. Salem, Oregon. April 30, 1977. p. 24 – via  
  5. ^ Barton, Steve (March 18, 2011). "Possessed, The (DVD)". Dread Central. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  6. ^ Mavis, Paul (September 29, 2011). "The Possessed (1977)". DVD Talk. Retrieved April 30, 2014.

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