The Visitor (1979 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Giulio Paradisi|
(as Michael J. Paradise)
|Produced by||Ovidio G. Assonitis|
|Music by||Franco Micalizzi|
|Edited by||Roberto Curi|
The Visitor is a 1979 Italian science fiction horror film directed by Giulio Paradisi (credited as Michael J. Paradise) and based on a story by the Egypt-born Italian writer and producer Ovidio G. Assonitis. It features a cast of well-established stars including John Huston, Shelley Winters, Mel Ferrer, Glenn Ford and Sam Peckinpah with supporting appearances by Neal Boortz, Steve Somers, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It was filmed on location in Atlanta, Georgia and at Cinecittà Studios in Rome. It has garnered a cult following over the years.
In an enigmatic, alien landscape, Jerzy Colsowicz (John Huston) experiences a vision of a powerful and destructive storm brought about by a young human girl. His colleague, an enigmatic Christ-like figure (Franco Nero), tells his bald pupils about the centuries-long cosmic conflict between Zatteen, an evil inter-spatial force of immense magnitude with powerful psychic abilities, and his benevolent arch-rival Yahweh. Zatteen escaped to the planet Earth centuries ago, and though he was eventually tracked down and killed by Yahweh, his spirit lives on in the minds of mankind, waiting for an opportunity to reemerge and wreak havoc. The figure tells his disciples that before his death, Zatteen had produced dozens of children with human women, and these descendants continue to populate the Earth.
During a professional basketball game at The Omni in Atlanta, home team owner Raymond Armstead (Lance Henriksen), sits courtside and promises an interviewer that the team will win at all costs. Since Raymond is a new owner and the source of his wealth is unknown, the interviewer presses him on the source of his wealth. He eventually answers that the money comes "from God". Raymond is in league with a secret cabal of Satanists who wish to bring about the resurgence of Zatteen. His associate Dr. Walker (Mel Ferrer) reminds him that his girlfriend Barbara Collins can be used as a conduit to distill Zatteen's powers into a corporeal, human form. Her 8-year old daughter Katy has already displayed psychokinetic abilities, and it's the Satanists goal to have Raymond father a male child with Barbara, who in turn will mate with his half-sister and produce the physical embodiment of Zatteen.
Katy is only partially aware of her powers, and she experiments with them throughout the film, most notably helping Raymond's basketball team to victory. Colsowicz, who possess powers similar to Katy, is sent to Earth by the Christ-like figure with several of his disciples, where at first they survey her from a distance. He's also acquainted with Barbara's new maid, Jane Phillips (Shelley Winters), who instantly sees the potential evil inherent in Katy, as she had once had a child with the same abilities. Katy begins using her powers to facilitate the Satanists goals, causing a series of fatal accidents to happen to their enemies. Barbara is inadvertently paralyzed by a gunshot wound, and becomes relegated to a wheelchair. A police detective, Jake Durham (Glenn Ford), investigating the deaths is killed in a car accident facilitated by the Satanists.
Raymond fails to seduce Barbara, and the Satanists decide to proceed with other, more violent methods. Barbara does get pregnant after the intervention, but is still afraid of having another child and has her ex, Katy's biological father, Dr. Sam Collins (Sam Peckinpah), abort the baby. When she returns home, she is attacked for her actions by Raymond and Katy, who attempt to execute her by tying a wire around her neck and sending her down the stairs in her chair lift. Before they can succeed, Colsowicz intervenes and summons an army of birds that thwart Katy and kill Raymond. The next day, the other Satanists are found dead at their round table, presumably by Colsowicz's intervention.
Colsowicz returns to the Christ-like figure and his apostles. He reveals that he has brought Katy with him. She is now bald and cleansed of her malice, and the film ends with her smiling and embracing Colsowicz who insists that children are not to be harmed.
- Mel Ferrer as Dr. Walker
- Glenn Ford as Det. Jake Durham
- Lance Henriksen as Raymond Armstead
- John Huston as Jerzy Colsowicz
- Joanne Nail as Barbara Collins
- Sam Peckinpah as Dr. Sam Collins
- Shelley Winters as Jane Phillips
- and introducing Paige Conner as Katy Collins
Atlanta radio personality Neal Boortz has a small role as a businessman, while fellow radio host Steve Somers has minor walk-on role. Basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar makes an un-credited cameo as himself, while actor Franco Nero has an un-credited supporting role as an unnamed Christ analogue.
The Visitor was released on DVD by independent distributor Code Red in November 2010. It was the first time the film had been presented in its uncut form in the United States.
In 2013, independent distributor Drafthouse Films acquired the film. Drafthouse Films announced they would re-release the film in remastered form on October 31, 2013 with a VOD/digital and home entertainment release in January 2014.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, The Visitor holds an approval rating of 82%, based on 17 reviews, and an average rating of 6.7/10.  On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 65 out of 100, based on 5 critics, indicating "generally positive reviews".
Film.com's David Ehrlich referred to the film as "a remake of The Bad Seed as filtered through the acid-tinged mind of Alejandro Jodorowsky." Many of the set pieces in the film bear striking resemblances to contemporary releases. When the Visitor returns to his cosmic home, there is an extended light sequence that is modeled on the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Katy's ominous powers are rendered in the style of The Omen, and the conflict over her nature, with good winning out over evil due to the help of an elderly man, led one critic to call the film an "Exorcist knock-off". That same review cited other obvious influences on the film like Carrie, The Birds, and The Lady from Shanghai.
- Hayes, Kevin J. (2008). Sam Peckinpah: Interviews. Univ. Press of Mississippi. pp. xxxii–xxxiii. ISBN 978-1-934110-64-5.
- "THE VISITOR (X)". British Board of Film Classification. December 12, 1974. Retrieved May 24, 2015.
- Husney, Evan (June 19, 2013). "Drafthouse Films Rediscovers The Sci-Fi/Horror Epic That 1979 Couldn't Handle". Drafthouse Films. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
- Collis, Clark (October 9, 2013). "Drafthouse Films to rerelease whacked-out '70s horror film 'The Visitor' this Halloween -- EXCLUSIVE POSTER". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
- "The VIsiter (1979) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Flixter. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
- "Critics Reviews for The Visiter (1980) - Metacritic". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
- Ehrlich, David (2013). "Review: The Visitor", Film.com.
- Scherstuhl, Alan (2013). "1979's Astounding Sci-Fi Horror Mess The Visitor Is in Theaters at Last", The Village Voice.
- Trunick, Alan (2013). "The Visitor", Under the Radar
- Axmaker, Sean (2013). "Videophiled Classic: ‘The Visitor’ Brings Satanic Incoherence with a Side of Bizarre", The Parallax View.
- Amador, Maria Luisa; Blanco, Jorge Ayala (2006). Cartelera cinematografica, 1980-1989 (in Spanish). UNAM. pp. 53, note 432. ISBN 978-970-32-3605-3.
- Lancia, Enrico; Melelli, Fabio (2005). Le straniere del nostro cinema (in Italian). Gremese Editore. p. 183. ISBN 978-88-8440-350-6.