FILMS… The Visitor (1979)

#1970s

 

Taking a page out of a few film scripts…

 

An 8 year old girl is a descendant of a cosmic Devil, with a fight for this child waged between good and evil on Earth. 

 

The Visitor Official Re-Release Trailer (1979) – Sci-Fi Horror Movie HD, Movieclips Indie

 

An overblown but beguiling score is heard throughout this movie, The Visitor (1979) aka Stridulum. It sounds as if it is heralding the presence of the fantastical all-star American cast, and nothing more. This amazing ensemble was as if the director and writer, Giulio Paradisi –  credited as Michael J Paradise –  had thrown a huge net over Hollywood from a helicopter and then scooped up a random collection of big names. Then he had taken them – possibly at gunpoint – to Italy to make a movie. Finally, he cast them in their roles – after a wee bit more thought – and then signed up Franco Nero.

But the truth is less crazy, as after reading up on this film HERE in an interview with the film screenwriter, Ovidio Assinitis, it seems many of those big names signed up voluntarily. Some even demanded a role after seeing the cast list, looking at you again, Franco Nero. This article tells that John Huston signed up after working with the Assinitis on Tentacles (1977) and that…

“Shelley Winters was another close friend of mine so she came in on the project. We had Glenn Ford, who joined because he liked the script! And we used Franco Nero to play the galactic Christ figure. I know Nero well, so when I was shooting, he was like, ‘Hey, give me a role, give me a role!’ “

IMDb tells a completely different story HERE, with this film’s star Lance Henriksen stating that the cast took roles for a free trip to Italy. This reason bizarrely was the same reason that Christopher Plummer made to justify his appearance in another Italian exploitation film Starcrash (1978). And possibly countless others… possibly including the fictional Rick Dalton (see Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (2019)) But how they got this all-star combo on set, really doesn’t matter.

Either way, both these movies have terrific ensemble casts that wouldn’t look out of place in an Irwin Allen disaster movie of the sci-fi kind. The Visitor‘s crazy casting was complemented by an equally barking mad script. The genre of The Visitor is difficult to pin down to just one. It is primarily horror with more than a hint of sci-fi and a sprinkling of schmaltzy family drama.

The plot goes off in wild directions at times with more in-movie references to pop culture than seen in your average Deadpool (2016) movie. Films that you’ll think of after seeing The Visitor include The Birds (1963), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Omen (1976), The Omen II (1976), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Carrie (1976). And probably many more film and TV…

During the opening credits, there’s an eerie kind of silence. Then it starts, as an empty alien desert landscape is seen, and this is accompanied by a humming sound blended with spooky music. Immediately, you expect a young Mark Hamill circa the late 1970s to turn up. But he sadly doesn’t. Instead a bearded old man in a cloak, Jerzy Colsowicz – 72-year-old John Huston channelling Alec Guinness in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) –  watches the sun come up and it seems from those clouds that a storm is brewing.

Another black cloaked faceless figure suddenly appears – looking like an extra from the 1980s (?) Scottish Widows adverts – and approaches him, in a violent snowstorm. Then birds and the wind are heard and the wind blows the figure’s cloak off. This old man sees it’s a wee girl covered literally in snow –  it’s even stuck to her face with only her dark beady eyes showing – she backs away and both she and the storm disappear…

Then it’s over to the lovely Franco Nero, somewhere in Space, as a quite handsome cosmic Jesus Christ. He’s in what looks like a huge greenhouse and is surrounded by bald kids in wee matching beige overalls. Nero – with a bleached-blond wig (?) and beard – then mansplains the prologue, this as he tells the back story to the kids as if he’s telling them a more grim sci-fi bedtime story.

He – more eloquently – tells of Space set tale, telling about the long-standing bloody battle between the Zatteen – the Devil –  and the good God, Yahweh. Commander Yahweh had hunted the evil Zatteen down for years then had finally captured him and taken him prisoner, after a space battle. However, Zatteen escaped from Yahweh’s spaceship in another spaceship and headed for Earth.

Zatteen hid on Earth, but this man was innately evil, and he developed psychic and occult powers, causing “destruction and death”. He also impregnated lots of Earth women and was eventually hunted down by Yahweh’s flock of birds. These birds had been trained to hunt for Zatteen and to kill him. Zatteen turned into an eagle and destroyed all the birds, apart from three which then killed him. Now Zatteen’s descendants – from those Earth women – are hunted down by Yahweh’s progeny on Earth, “lest their contamination spread through the cosmos”.

Then Colsowicz – in a natty 1970s Safari suit – enters the greenhouse, and it appears that he is loved by those space living bald kids. He approaches (the Space) Jesus, who asks ominously if it’s happened again. “It”, I guess is that another of Zatteen’s descendants have been found (hence the Safari suit, for hunting prey), and Colsowicz says this kid, is eight-year-old Katy Collins. Cue that fantastic music and… Atlanta, Georgia.

Then we go to a basketball match, between Atlanta and San Francisco, and it’s a close match and you can spot the sporting cameo. At the game is the new owner of the Atlantan team, Raymond Armstead (Lance Henriksen) and his pretty girlfriend Barbara Collins (Joanne Nail). After Barbara’s daughter Katy (Paige Conner) enters the room, a hawk is heard. This I assume implying that Katy, is a descendant of the Devil (Zatteen). After being pressed by an interviewer, Armstead says that he’s got an open chequebook and he is funded by God. Things go spooky for a while, and Atlanta wins… after the ball explodes on the final second.

Cosied up in bed – under what was once a live animal – Barbara and Armstead flirt, snog and talk marriage (This scene was written by Nail and Henriksen). Armstead is superkeen to get married, but Barbara feels she can’t. She swore off marriage after her divorce 7½ years ago. She feels she isn’t normal as she has something badly wrong with her insides, that she can’t explain. She is scared of her daughter, Katy and she doesn’t want more kids. She has a bad feeling about her daughter. He thinks she’s crazy.

After Barbara comes home from somewhere, we see her daughter’s pong game on an awesomely huge TV screen. Her daughter is talking to her pet falcon called Squeaky. She is looking forward to her 8th birthday party in three days, and ominously tells Squeaky “It was right for now to kill the set of babies.” After she gets the bird to fly in her mother’s face to scare her, she says she doesn’t feel loved and she is lonely in their big house and wants a little brother.

Colsowicz arrives in Atlanta by plane, as you do when you are an undercover Space warrior sent by Jesus. He meets up with a bald guy and they meet up with a whole lot of bald dudes in grey tracksuits. They then set up some screens on a skyscraper rooftop. (I did say this film was batshit crazy). Meanwhile, Barbara is out shopping and her friend Susan buys a wee electronic talking bird for Katy’s birthday present. This present is wrapped up for her in a box with a big bow.

Raymond has met with Dr Walker (Mel Ferrer) and his mysterious all man board, at his palatial home. Walker warns Raymond he is failing in his mission, as he has not succeeded in getting married to Barbara. Walker orders Raymond that he must now make her pregnant to give birth to a son. Barbara – Walker explains – has the near-unique ability to produce Zateen’s descendants. He creepily tells Raymond that the visitor, Colsowicz has arrived on Earth, but that Katy will deal with him.

At Katy’s eighth birthday party – which Colsowicz appears to gatecrash – Katy is given a loaded gun as one of her presents. She accidentally shoots her mother with it. Detective Jake Durham (Glenn Ford) investigates how this accident could have happened.

In bizarre scenes where Conner shows off her fantastic gymnastic skills, Barbara is operated on by Dr Walker. And as Katy bluntly puts it;

“Well, my mother didn’t die, but she just won’t be able to walk anymore.”

Barbara is now paralysed from the waist down and she has to use a wheelchair. She is now getting help at home from the enigmatic, new housekeeper and Mary Poppins wantnottobe, Jane Phillips (Shelley Winters). Philips takes an instant dislike to Katy and vice versa. Barbara also invites Raymond to live with them. On appearances, they look like one happy family, as both Katy and Raymond hope for another addition to the family.

Durham approaches Katy at school after she gets off the school bus. He gets a mouthful of abuse from her and she swears like a trooper. After he says he’s worried about her, she tells how the women in her family are all worried about her behaviour. Durham is also perplexed by the lack of findings in the report on the gun.

It’s a puzzling case, as the gun was found in the box that Susan gave her which contained the electronic bird. But it was inconclusive if this box had been tampered with after this purchase. And the police can’t find any other fingerprints on it. or a manufacturers mark or a serial number for the gun or the bullets. Durham is more concerned about Katy as…

“She doesn’t seem shook up at all. You… you’d have thought she would have been. I swear, she seemed glad it happened. Yeah, that bugs me, man. That really bugs me…”

And he goes to investigate… The rest of the film – with more of those sci-fi and horror film inspired references – in the usual ways… as, Nail said in an interview HERE, in the rest of this movie, Katy “tortured, tormented, harassed, abused… and crippled” her poor mother. And Barbara isn’t the only one…

Despite the hype surrounding this film’s erratic plot, I found this uncut version easy to follow and would certainly add this to my much-loved movies list. I loved that bombastic music, but I did feel initially that it should have been added to another movie. But I warmed to it, as it feels as fantastically 1970s as the film ambience, plot and the cast.

The cast was fabulous. In interviews, Conner and Nail both talked enthusiastically about their fellow cast members. Conner spoke warmly about John Huston and the off-screen support he gave her in this her debut film. She said working with Ford was “cool” and told how she found it difficult to swear in her scenes with him. She added that her mother gave her permission to swear as her character.

Interestingly, her favourite scene was one of the more sugary scenes in the film. In this scene she and Nail are cosied up in bed and talk to Raymond on the phone. It was a lovely scene in contrast to the more horrifying ones.

Nail also enthused about working with Ford saying;

“Glenn Ford was fabulous. I really enjoyed working with him and I wish it could have lasted longer. But he worked very well with Katy. They had a wonderful rapport, kind of adversarial relationship, but I thought he had such great poise and great strength…”.

However, I did like this film horror plot, which adds an intergalactic theme to those horror storylines. It’s well worth a look for those future scenes with one reminiscent of Close Encounters of the Third Kind which is probably the wackiest, yet is understandable in the film context and adds a menacing tone to the film.

Ovidio Assinitis brilliantly wove these coincidences of 1970s film reminiscences of all genres into the story. It does stand up as a unique look to the Devil child movies. This film is more a pleasurable rollercoaster of a film, rather than a blatant rehash of similar film ideas strung together. For that reason, I feel this has the perfect musical score as it tributes many 70s favourites and more. Assinitis, in his interview states;

“We were looking at other films, yes, and science fiction novels. But honestly, The Visitor was influenced mainly by video games.”

And these games from back then you will recognise in the later parts of the film.

I’m now keen to see more of his B Movies which include Beyond the Door (1974), Iron Warrior (1987) and Piranha II: The Spawning (1981). His casts in these films include Lance Henriksen, John Schneider, Brad Dourif and Juliet Mills. If these casts and plots are like The Visitor I’m sure they’ll be much more than a warm tribute to these Hollywood blockbusters than those mass produced, The Asylum (1997-) films.

However, my best advice for newcomers to this film comes from John Huston himself – who said to Assinitis on completing this film;

“‘Listen… this will either be a marvellous movie or a piece of shit.’”

And for the ultimate, out of this world and horror 70s experience, it’s definitely one to pay a visit.. or revisit too.. cue that film music, one more time…

Weeper Rating:   😦 😦😦 😦😦/10

Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂/10

Hulk Rating: ‎  ‎ ‎mrgreen ‎ ‎mrgreen / 10

 


The Glenn Ford Blogathon 2021 No 30

This post was added to Hamlette’s Soliloquy and  Coffee, Classics, and Craziness’s Glenn Ford Blogathon. Franco Nero in Django Unchained, John Wick 2 and The Time Of Their Lives. Glenn Ford in Superman. Joanne Nail in The Streets of San Francisco. John Huston directed Annie, Prizzi’s Honor and Escape to Victory. Lance Henriksen appears in Omen II and Jagged Edge. Mel Ferrer in Murder She Wrote, Hotel, Glitter, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Shelley Winters in Buona Sera Mrs Campbell, AlfieThe Poseidon AdventureThe Devil’s Daughter and He Ran All the Way.


 

 

45 thoughts on “FILMS… The Visitor (1979)

  1. Laughed out loud at your “huge net deployed by helicopter to scoop up big name actors” theory of how this one was cast. Although, agreeing to be in the movie to get a free trip to Italy does sound more plausible. It’s somehow comforting to know that screen legends can be just as shallow and bargain conscious as the rest of us.

    Being a big fan of both Glenn Ford and Lance Henriksen (that’s not contradictory, is it?), and a huge fan of crazy B horror and sci-fi, I should be all over this one. Actually, it’s in my Tubi queue, but I haven’t pulled the trigger yet. Not sure I’ll get to it before Halloween, but thanks to this timely reminder, I will press play sooner than later…

  2. I didn’t know of this film’s existence until your post appeared in my reader, but The Visitor sounds insane, in a good way…. and what a cast. If I hadn’t read it here I wouldn’t believe this film existed. It sounds like something from a movie fan’s dreams!

  3. It’s had a Blu-Ray release. That’s pretty awesome. The movie sounds terrible, but in a really good way. I’ll probably have to buy it.

  4. An all time trash classic, up there with Holocaust 2000. never worked out what Stridulum means, but who cares; where you film is as mental as this, there’s no questions asked! Somewhere between The Omen and a terrifying public Information Film…Tentacles also worth a watch…

  5. Oh my gosh, Gill!
    I have never heard of this movie but now I totally want to see it!

    The cast is amazing in the story sounds completely nuts! Plus, your review made me laugh so hard! Thank you for being so funny! Especially your version of how the film was cast!

  6. I don’t watch horror films, but your review was very interesting! I enjoyed reading it. Thanks so much for participating in our Glenn Ford Blogathon. 🙂

  7. This was like a train wreck… I couldn’t stop watching it! 😉 Seriously, I thought it was crazy enough to be considered a sort of cult classic. I found it very entertaining. Plus, as you noted, it has a great cast.

    The severely cut VHS edition (96 min.)

    made the movie almost incomprehensible.

    Like you, I was happy to find the uncut version (108 min.), and it is like a different movie. Crazy, but enjoyable… dear lord, I miss the 1970s! 🙂

    • I miss them as well.. It is probably my favourite decade in film. Have you seen The Chosen / Holocaust 2000, got recommended it here and it’s another bonkers 70s film. Always looking out for more.. so any you recommend?

    • If you love bonkers 70s movies you must check out the 1973 British sci-fi flick THE FINAL PROGRAMME. It’s about as 1970s bonkers as you can get. I reviewed it a few months back.

    • For more serious 70s bonkersness there’s also Alfonso Brescia’s Amazons vs Supermen (1975). Which I reviewed way back in 2009. It’s a kung fu superhero slapstick comedy, with lots of extra added lunacy.

    • Yes, I’ve seen The Chosen / Holocaust 2000. It’s definely bonker!

      Well, if you are looking for crazy oldies, I recommend The Sentinel (1977) and The Manitou (1978), both movies have an all-star cast.

      Alucarda (1977) is a lot of fun too.

      Virus (1980) is also pretty interesting (a timely tale about a deadly virus). YouTube has the uncut version.

    • Thanks. I saw The Sentinel recently and you are right it is very crazy. I do love Ava Gardner in her later films, watch this place for a review on Tam Lin in a few days.. and another blogathon announcement on November 1.

    • Alucarda is totally nuts. The same director gave us another slice of Mexican weirdness in 1975 with his vampire movie Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary which is a bit more commercial. It’s still pleasingly offbeat.

      And the Hong Kong film industry have us one of the lighthearted bonkers movies of the 70s, the Shaw Brothers superhero science fiction monster movie The Super Inframan (which I recommend very highly).

    • Oh, I haven’t seen Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (or Inframan). Thanks for the recommendation(s). BTW, I noticed that the same director, Juan López Moctezu, made The Mansion of Madness (aka Dr. Tarr’s Torture Dungeon). Have you seen it? I’ve always been curious about this movie.

    • No, I haven’t seen The Mansion of Madness but it’s on my wish list. Unfortunately the Mondo Macabro DVD seems to be out of print and pretty much unobtainable.

Love your thoughts... but only if they are spoiler free!

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