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The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972)

A woman (Shirley MacLaine) begins to suspect that her brother (Perry King) is possessed by a voodoo spirit.


Waris Hussein


Matt Robinson (screenplay), Irene Kamp (screenplay) (as Grimes Grice) | 1 more credit »
1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Shirley MacLaine ... Norah Benson
Perry King ... Joel Delaney
David Elliott ... Peter Benson
Lisa Kohane Lisa Kohane ... Carrie Benson
Lovelady Powell Lovelady Powell ... Erika
Barbara Trentham ... Sherry
Miriam Colon ... Veronica
Edmundo Rivera Álvarez Edmundo Rivera Álvarez ... Don Pedro (as Edmundo Rivera Alvarez)
Teodorina Bello Teodorina Bello ... Mrs. Perez
Robert Burr Robert Burr ... Ted Benson
Ernesto Gonzalez Ernesto Gonzalez ... Young Man at Seance
Peter Turgeon ... Detective Brady
William Hawley William Hawley
Aukie Herger Aukie Herger ... Mr. Perez
Earle Hyman ... Charles (as Earl Hyman)


Norah Benson (Shirley MacLaine), an affluent socialite living in the upper east side of New York City, seems to be living the perfect life as a divorced mother of two. After her mother's suicide, she becomes a mother figure in the close relationship she has with her younger brother Joel Delany (Perry King). However, Joel begins to a act very unusually. He tries to attack a man, and has to be taken to a mental asylum, and begins to lose his usual free-spirited kindness in exchange for a turbulent personality. After witnessing the acts of her brother and finally breaking down the shield of her affluence and naivety, Norah seeks the help of a spiritismo who will attempt to exorcise the spirit of a murderer they believe to be possessing Joel. But before they can attempt to help her, Norah's brother quickly turns on her, threatening her own life and the lives of her children.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


If you believe, no explanation is necessary. If you don't believe, no explanation is possible.


Drama | Horror | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

24 May 1972 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Possession of Joel Delaney See more »


Box Office


$1,300,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The Benson's dog, Clancy, is a Labrador Retriever. See more »

Alternate Versions

The UK cinema version was cut by the BBFC to edit shots of Carrie being threatened with a knife and forced to eat dog food from a bowl. The cuts were fully restored in the 2007 Sound & Media DVD release. See more »


Featured in Do What You Love: Class of 1984 (2015) See more »

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User Reviews

Demonic Doings in Manhattan
13 July 2001 | by seeker3See all my reviews

"The Possession of Joel Delaney" (1972) is a story of demonic possession, much on the order of "The Exorcist," but in many ways more believable. A young man, played by Perry King, has his body taken over by the soul of a serial killer. His sister, Shirley McLaine in one of her better performances, tries to find out why his behavior has so drastically changed, and her quest takes her into the Voodoo underground of Manhattan's Spanish Harlem. The plot develops slowly but builds to a powerful, unexpected finish in which McLaine and her two young children are lured to a secluded beach house and threatened by a knife wielding Perry. This includes one of the most shocking scenes involving a minor in American movies. I will not disclose the details of what the actor, ten year old David Elliot, is subjected to but it probably could not be filmed today in our more uptight, politically correct times, at least not with the same directness.

"The Possession of Joel Delaney" is not a better film than "The "Exorcist," but it is well worth watching and does manage to scare us without the use of gimmicks such as pea soup and revolving heads.

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