Mania Grade: D
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- Rated: Unrated
- Starring: Mel Ferrer, Joanne Nail, Paige Conner, John Huston, Shelley Winters, Glenn Ford, Lance Henriksen, Franco Nero, Sam Peckinpah
- Written By: MICHAEL J. PARADISE, Ovidio Assonitis, Robert Mundy, Lou Comici
- Directed By: MICHAEL J. PARADISE
- Distributor: DRAFTHOUSE FILMS
- Original Year of Release: 1979
- Run Time: 108 Minutes
Mania Review: The Visitor
Rediscovered or Best Forgotten?
By Robert T. Trate
November 15, 2013
When it was announced that the Alamo Drafthouse was going to re-release The Visitor, I suddenly asked, what movie is that? The Visitor, from 1979, is an obscure science fiction film by Michael J. Paradise. An obscure film starring the legendary John Huston, Glenn Ford, and Lance Henriksen? My attention was had and I sought out the picture.
The film opens with Jerzy Colsowicz (John Houston) on an open plane in a world that is not our own and reality that certainly is not our’s. Where is up to the audience to decide. Jerzy witnesses a shrouded figure walking towards him and slowly the identity of this person is reveled. Standing in front of him, covered in snow is Katy Collins (Paige Conner) and she is the chosen one.
When Jerzy goes to share this news with his order, we witness a Christ-like figure (Franco Nero) telling a story to some children. The story is our backstory to the film and the evil that is about to be released through Katy Collins. Up until this point, the film has a majestic quality to it. A strange and wondrous world is opening up. However, hearing Nero tell the tale of evil and how it was once stopped completely kills the mood. Imagine a story that is told for the first time. It lacks poetry, a sense of awe. Nero not only butchers the scene, but his lines, as well. It short, it leaves us with nothing. Nothing is what we get tons of in The Visitor.
There are numerous factions trying to exploit Katy’s abilities and her mother, Barbara’s (Joanne Nail), ability to produce more of these special children. Raymond Armstead (Lance Henriksen) has made a deal with a collection of gentlemen who want a son from Barbara. They have given him wealth and power, but, to seal the deal, for some unknown reason, Barbara must marry Raymond. With any type of film in this genre (The Omen (1976), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Exorcist (1973)), there is always a big revelation to the child’s power. What they can or will do is shown/ told to the audience. Outside of smashing a basketball backboard, ice skating really well, and accidentally shooting her own mother, Katy’s abilities bring nothing to the table in the terms of fear. Katy is just a bratty kid that loves to swear and wear out her babysitters. Stephen King’s Carrie White was more terrifying and she was the hero of that story.
There are numerous characters introduced to the film that simply bring nothing to the story. Glenn Ford’s Det. Jake Durham investigates the shooting of Katy’s mother, but can find no evidence of foul play or any otherworldly intervention. The casting of this actor in such an inconsequential role only hurts the part even more. It could have been easily written out, much like Shelly Winter’s housekeeper, Jane Phillips. She is harbinger of doom for Barbara, but even she knows that Katy isn’t normal or even right. She knows that she shouldn’t have any more children, but everyone and anyone tries to get her to do so (until they decide to kill her), which makes no sense if she is vessel for more children like Katy.
The hook and appeal here is the chance to see the obscure and forgotten science fiction film on the big screen. It has been beautifully restored. Yet, with the extremely dated score by Franco Micalizzi, you’ll know why the film was forgotten. Even the ending leaves you with wanting nothing.
Theatrical Release Date: NOVEMBER 8, 2013 - NYC
VOD Release Date: FEBRUARY 2, 2014
The opening from The Visitor:
Robert Trate writes three columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Toy Maniac, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.