The Visitor (1979)

It Stinks!/Worth a Watch

Directed by Giulio Paradisi (as Michael J. Paradise)

Written Luciano Comici & Robert Mundi

Story Giulio Paradisi & Ovidio G. Assonitis

Starring John Huston, Paige Conner, Joanne Nail, & Lance Henriksen with Shelley Winters, Glenn Ford, Sam Peckinpah, & Franco Nero (uncredited)

Release Date: August 3, 1979 (Italy) November 20, 1980 (US)

Running Time: 1hr 48min

Rating: R

aka Stridulum

[I’m just gonna give fair warning here: this movie is batshit insane! I’m not entirely sure if I’ll be able to properly explain the plot, but I will do my very best! Also there will be some spoilers, but hey, this movie is 40+ years old now. Still, I won’t give the whole plot away, because I think this is one worth going in with some surprises!]

We open on an old guy in robe (Academy Award winning filmmaker John Huston!), standing in some trippy looking landscape. He then sees a vision of a storm and a little girl covered in what I think was supposed to be snow/ice. [This was 1979, so it could’ve also been cocaine!] Said man is Jerzy Colsowicz, who’s some kind of intergalactic space warrior. We then cut to some sort of space Jesus (Italian cult icon Franco Nero; the film doesn’t flat out say who his character is, but it’s pretty obvious!) in what appears to be a white terrarium to a bunch of bald children in gold robes. He’s telling them a story.

Centuries ago, there was an evil intergalactic being named Zateen (possibly Sateen, either way Satan allegory), who had powerful psychic abilities. He waged war against Yahweh, who eventually tracked Zateen to Earth and killed him. However, before his death, Zateen mated with hundreds of women who can produce children who also possess powerful psychic abilities. Plus there are still people aware of the evil power and want to bring it back. So Jerzy needs to go to Earth and prevent Zateen from a possible rebirth.

Meanwhile in Atlanta, Georgia a basketball game is happening. One of the teams playing is owned by rich person, Raymond Armstead (character actor extraordinaries Lance Henriksen), who has a pretty girlfriend named Barbara Collins (Nail). She’s one of these women who possesses the ability to birth mutant children, and she just so happens to have one already! Precious little Katy (Conner), is already aware she has powers, as she makes a basketball explode so that Raymond’s team can win the game. [So, I’m not a huge sports expert, but I don’t think basketballs are prone to just explode at random. But nobody in the movie really finds this odd, so whatever I guess. Also, this has all happened within the first 10 minutes!]

Anyway… Katy is turning 8 and really wants a little brother to keep her company, since her mom leaves her alone all the time (not sure what the mom even does for a living). Just so happens that Raymond is in league with a cult of Zateen worshipers (Zateenists?), lead by Dr. Walker (actor/director Mel Ferrer, who’s also known for being the first husband of Audrey Hepburn), who want Raymond to have a son with Barbara, then have that son mate with Katy (ew), so that they will produce an offspring (ew!), who will be the resurrected Zateen, who will bring havoc to the world once more.

Jerzy takes a visit (hehe!) to Atlanta, and a bunch of those bald kids are now grown bald men in track suits. They assist Jerzy by doing what appears to be performance art on a random rooftop (that’s what it looks like anyway). He will randomly show up at places where Katy is, and do absolutely nothing! Dramatic music will accompany him as he does mundane shit, like climbing up some stairs (I guess at that age it’s mildly impressive), and looking at at stuff.

The most proactive thing he does in the whole movie is babysit Katy while Barbara and Raymond go to some fancy dinner (I’ve made none of this up). The two play pong (early video game for those unfamiliar, google it), and Katy seems aware of Jerzy’s intentions, but doesn’t seem all that concerned (probably because he’s ancient). Not a whole lot accomplished there, but Jerzy does get paid $15 for his services! That’ll get him early dinner at some old country buffet!

Glenn Ford shows up as a detective, investigating an accident where Katie shot and paralyzed her mom (yeah for real). The most entertaining scene involving Ford is him talking to Katie and she curses him out. So if you’re a fan of kids cursing at adults, then you’ll find these scene hilarious (I certainly did)!

Shelley Winters plays a housekeeper who doesn’t care much for Katy (I can’t blame her, she’s a little shit), and even slaps her at one point for being disrespectful about her mother (and Winters even slapped the little girl for real)! Filmmaker Sam Peckinpah cameos as Barbara’s ex husband (and I’m assuming Katy’s dad), but he couldn’t remember his lines and would end up being dubbed by someone else (this was made during his peak drug and alcohol abuse years).

That’s really all I want to say about the plot, because there’s just so much going on, that I either don’t wanna give away too much, or I can’t explain it well enough! I’ve seen this movie a good few times now, but I’m still not entirely sure what the fuck is totally going on (something I find happening a lot with genre films made by Europeans). This was yet another film I came across thanks to the good folks at RiffTrax! This is definitely one that can be enjoyed on its own though, but the comedic commentary definitely enhances the experience.

From what I’ve looked up on the making of the film, the many of the cast members agreed to make the film because they got a free trip to Rome out of it (while a lot of it takes place and was filmed in Atlanta, it was also filmed at a studio in Rome). Gotta say, I can’t blame them for that! Huston was no stranger to odd productions like this in his twilight years (he appeared in the also strange, but not as fun, Bermuda Triangle the year before), and the other seasoned actors were probably looking for a quick paycheck to make sure some of their family members had some financial security.

Is it without merit? No, it definitely has some positives going on. For one, it has some really nice cinematography; several shots could be framed and mounted on a wall (especially the opening shots). The visuals are mostly competent, and any of the clunkier ones really just add to the charm. For a movie made on an estimated budget of $800,000, it looks a lot better than some films made for way more. It also apparently earned around $12 million worldwide; not bad! The music is also decent, even if it gets over the top at times (and in places that aren’t that dramatic).

The acting is a mixed bag, with a few of the known actors phoning it in (Ferrer and Ford in particular), and others hamming it up (which let’s be honest tends to be more entertaining anyway). John Huston was the kind of guy who even when saying nothing has a natural presence (this doesn’t always work in scenes where he’s just looking at stuff, but still makes for some unintentional humor). I would also say most give off the impression of not knowing what’s going on (which I can’t blame them).

Page Conner who played Katy I thought did a good job, putting in a lot of energy and enthusiasm in her performance. [She only has 6 credits on IMDb. At some point she was an Atlanta Falcons cheerleader and is now a makeup artist, owning her own eyelash extension company, Luxury Lash Lounge, in Atlanta where she’s from. I’ve definitely heard worst outcomes for former child actors.]

So if you’re a fan of bizarre, European sci-fi I would say give this a watch.

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