In the small but potent category of crazy-assed OMEN wannabes (see SUICIDE CULT and FEAR NO EVIL), the Italian-made THE VISITOR is a definite stand-out. It’s trashy, pretentious and often downright jaw-dropping in its sheer wrong-headedness—in short, a definite guilty pleasure of obvious interest to bad movie mavens.
How producer Ovidio Assonitis managed to attain the star power assembled here I’ll never fathom. Among the slumming icons who appear in this Italian production are John Huston, Mel Ferrer, Glenn Ford, Sam Peckinpah and Shelley Winters. I hope they were well paid.
THE VISITOR, from 1977, was originally titled STRIDULUM (and recently released on DVD in Italy under that title). Like many Italian productions of the time (when for a film to be greenlit its makers had to satisfactorily answer the all-important question “What’s this like?”), it was clearly intended as a direct cash-in on a successful American film, in this case THE OMEN. The results, however, are unique. Not good, but unique.
The Visitor is an otherworldly old man sent to Earth in the company of several bald weirdoes who congregate atop a big city high rise. The Visitor is seeking to positively influence a seemingly normal child named Katy, who is actually a telepathic alien with evil intent. She proves this by making strange things occur, such as a handgun that “accidentally” discharges into her mother’s back, paralyzing the woman. Katie also telepathically causes the death of a pesky police lieutenant who’s been investigating the shooting, and also those of some mean boys who harass her at an ice skating rink.
Katie’s mother is pregnant. The problem is the woman doesn’t know how she was impregnated and wants the baby aborted. In truth, the unborn child was implanted by Katie’s alien chums during an Earthly sojourn, and the child is intended to eventually mate with Katie. But the Visitor is determined to keep this from happening. Will he succeed???
This isn’t a completely terrible movie. It actually has some good things, including artfully desaturated photography and an overall air of ominous mystery. The director Giulio Paradisi (credited as “Michael Paradise”) isn’t untalented, even if his film is a joke overall. The reasons?
For starters there’s the totally overwrought and inappropriate funkadelic score by Franco Micalizzi, which accomplishes nothing short of turning the proceedings into an unintentional comedy. Ditto the special effects, which are of the grade-Z variety, and the acting by the all-star cast, which isn’t much. There are moments of GOD TOLD ME TO-like craziness, such as a memorable freeway mash-up and the totally nutzoid climax (featuring a flock of doves and a cameo by none other than Jesus Christ!), which are ultimately what resonates most about this ridiculous movie.
Film Ventures International/American International Pictures
Director: Giulio Paradisi
Producer: Ovidio G. Assonitis
Screenplay: Luciano Comici, Robert Mundi
Cinematography: Ennio Guarnieri
Editing: Roberto Curi
Cast: Mel Ferrer, Glenn Ford, Lance Henriksen, John Huston, Joanne Nail, Sam Peckinpah, Shelley Winters, Paige Conner, Ja Townsend, Jack Dorsey