The Possession of Joel Delaney is an unusual occult thriller [based on Ramona Stewart’s novel]. Pic centers on a chic East Side society divorcee (Shirley MacLaine) who harbors an inordinate affection for her brother, Joel (Perry King), and attempts to save him when he is possessed by the spirit of a Puerto Rican friend fond of ritual beheadings.
Script eschews any serious attempt to explain the subject matter in conventional psychiatric terms, coming down on the side of ethnically-originated spiritualism. You believe it or you don’t, ditto the rather murky sociological overtones that seem needlessly overemphasized.
Script overextends the build-up, making the final quarter a bit anti-climactic and slowing the pace, but the presence of MacLaine smooths over the rough spots.