The OVIDIO G. ASSONITIS (TENTACLES, MADHOUSE, BEYOND THE DOOR)-produced THE VISITOR from 1979 is just too much for your Unk to handle all his own, so I have elicited the help of both AUNT JOHN and our good pal AMANDA BY NIGHT of MADE FOR TV MAYHEM. As far as I’m concerned, the movie is spectacularly daffy enough to be absolutely critic proof so the question I posed before them and myself was simply, “What are your five favorite things about THE VISITOR?” All three of our answers are below…
First up, AMANDA BY NIGHT‘s FIVE VISITOR FAVES:
1. JOANNE NAIL – this enticing actress’ portrayal of the put-upon mother with the crazy ass womb is one of sympathy and grace. And her wardrobe is simply to die for. When you think about it (I mean, really think about it), has anyone else made being thrust through glass look so elegant? I could say the same about her chain swinging badassary in SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, but alas I shall save that for another day!
2. Ice Skating as the Deadliest Sport in the World – In a movie almost all about whacky set-pieces, one of the most fantastic scenes features our creepy little traumatot Katy luring some slightly older boys into a game of survival of the fittest. They fail on every possible level but it’s so much fun to watch!
3. Crazy Cameos – From GLEN FORD to SAM PECKINPAH, someone had the goods on a few of the more prominent people of Hollywood society. Also, there hasn’t been a pairing as cool as JOHN HUSTON and SHELLEY WINTERS since, well, since they were first featured together in TENTACLES just two years before! Wow, were those guys an item?
4. The Power of Pong – Not only is the game shown often, it’s used as a device to create suspense… and it works! All of this terror is brought to us via the crazy 1979 version of awesome home theater. Remember those curved large screen TVs which flooded images with the help of those giant red, green and blue lights coming from something called “front projection.” Yeah, 1979 ruled! You had to sit in just the right spot to actually see anything, but it reminds me of the first high-tech store my childhood town had. It was called Video Concepts (which was eventually bought by Radio Shack and closed down… lame) and this odd, curvy TV was all the rage. They make good use of it in THE VISITOR and it brought back every single little kid mall memory I ever had… now that’s scary!
5. THE VISITOR as a symbol for the chaotic incoherence of life – No, I am not joking. Is THE VISITOR in any way reminiscent of real life? Even ’70s high-tech real life? Nope. But I think sometimes confusion in films works because confusion has to work in our everyday lives. I mean, we’ve got a little girl who is driving her mom nuts and hates her babysitters. Sound familiar? I guess that’s the core of this movie and through the warped bewilderment of film as a mirror of our lives, we also get straight up escapism. I guess if you needed to write an academic paper on THE VISITOR, you could pull all kinds of crap out of it (especially with that ending!), but you can also completely shut down and watch the pretty lights. It’s nice.
Now let’s talk to AUNT JOHN:
1. THE HAWK
What was it about the ‘70s and the falconry fad? It seemed like everyone and the their mother had one of those padded leather hand mitts and a scary bird to match, but in THE VISITOR, Squeaky the hawk (or was it a falcon?) had free range to fly all over the place. Who in their right mind let’s their child keep one of these things in the house?
2. THE HOUSE
From its railing-less, open back stairs to the strangely ornate cement work surrounding its pool, the Collins’ house is truly something to behold. Bonus points for the incongruous 7-Up Tiffany style light fixture hanging in the kitchen.
3. THE HOUSEKEEPER
SHELLEY, SHELLEY, SHELLEY! She is in maybe three scenes, and she steals everyone last one of them because who can really compete with the force of nature that is WINTERS? Was it W.C. FIELDS who said he would never work with kids or animals? Well, kids and animals should probably never work with SHELLEY WINTERS based on the masterful bitch slapping she delivered to PAIGE CONNER.
4. THE HUSTON
Throughout the film, it looked to me like JOHN HUSTON knew less about what was going on than I did, but there is one scene towards the end where he makes the strangest face after conducting an impromptu light show on the top of a skyscraper. The eye roll says it all.
5. THE HOTTIES
Bald is beautiful and the brigade of follicly challenged bruisers were like a big bag of confusing eye-candy. Apparently they are angels but you would have never known it from the menacing looks on some of their faces.
Last up UNK:
1. THOSE GLASSES!
I’m not one to be too observant when it comes to fashion but these are some spectacular spectacles and if I understand the movie correctly, they have the power to manipulate basketball players like KAREEM ABDUL-JABAR by remote control. O.K. I admit it, I did not understand the movie correctly.
2. LANCE HENRIKSEN
HENRIKSEN followed up roles in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and DAMIEN: OMEN 2 with his part in THE VISITOR which is kind of like starring in peanut butter and then starring in jelly and then starring in GOOBER GRAPE. It’s always nice to see early HENRIKSEN and note how even at a young age, he stood out of the pack as an offbeat presence. If I were speaking of any other movie besides THE VISITOR I would be able to say that he was the most otherworldly effect in the entire film, but this is a movie that throws a blonde wig on aquamarine-eyed FRANCO (DJANGO) NERO and sells him as Jesus Christ.
3. AHEAD OF THEIR TIME VISUALS
I realize now that logic and sense can go peddle its papers elsewhere for all I care if a movie can stun me enough with its visuals. THE VISITOR’s arresting surrealism not only looks cool but also foretells the direction that movies will steer towards once music videos become popular in the early eighties. The bit on the rooftop with the nonsensical shadow hands flapping behind sheets seems ripped right out of a MTV mainstay years away from THE VISTOR’s 1979 release. Let’s hear it for proper presentation too, this title may have seemed like a throwaway on VHS but given the space to reveal all of its charms on DVD it transforms into a keeper. Strangely enough THE VISITOR’s director GIULIO PARADISI was the assistant director on FELLINI’s 8 1/2 !
4. THE SCORE
Holy crap FRANCO MICALIZZI’s score is utterly fantastic and better than Earth deserves. It’s epic and galaxy dwarfing and in complete denial about the nonsense unfolding on screen.
5. PAIGE CONNER
Little PAIGE may have been in over her head starring in this insanity but she fares no lesser than the seasoned professionals that surround her. Foul-mouthed tots are a post EXORCIST horror staple, yet CONNER’s Georgian accent adds an extra kick to her profanities. CODE RED’s recent DVD provides an interview with PAIGE today. She’s looking damn good and shares that STRASBERG-trained SHELLEY WINTERS didn’t hold back when slapping her across the face within the movie. Why does that not surprise me? PAIGE may not have gotten laurels thrown at her at the time of this film’s release but all I know is that when she reacts to accidently shooting her own mother in the movie with a shrug and a “shit happens” grimace, I totally believed her.
Thanks to AUNT JOHN and AMANDA REYES of MADE FOR TV MAYHEM for helping a rendered nearly speechless bro-ogger out! THE VISITOR, you really are something else.