TNB Night Owl–The Visitor

Wheel of cheese cut and stacked in front of a stone wall. Photo by Alexander Maasch.

The 1970s were a strange and beautiful time. It was an era of excess, of style. We were still enamored with space exploration and how the cosmos ties into every aspect of our lives. Under these auspices I can imagine the filmmakers thought THE VISITOR (1979) were making important statements. The end results were far from that lofty goal.

THE VISITOR opens with God standing alone on a desert planet where he meets a cloaked figure. The figure removes its cloak to reveal a little girl. They stare at each other for a while as it snows.

Cut to the next scene and a Christ figure is giving lessons to a group of bald children (we will learn throughout the film that Bald is Beautiful). He is telling them how Yahweh battled the devil Zatteen and banished him from Earth, but not before Zatteen fathered many children across the globe. Enter God from the opening who informs him that part of the lineage was the girl from the opening, an 8 year old named Katie.

Katie is a fun update of Rhoda from THE BAD SEED. A perfect student, gifted athlete, but cruel and amoral. This one has special powers though. Her mother’s boyfriend owns a basketball team and she uses her powers to cause an explosion so the team wins. She has her pet hawk kill for her. At her birthday party, she even used her powers to turn a toy bird into a gun and “accidentally” shoots her mother in the spine, in the perfect spot to paralyze her but not kill her. The whole time the boyfriend and Katie are both pressuring her to get pregnant and provide the kid with a brother.

There’s Satanists, random bald people, plots to bring Zatteen to flesh, alien abductions. There’s even a scene where the devil teaches God to play Pong. There’s one of the fakest “death by dove” scenes ever filmed. It even has an ending that renders the entire film pointless.

The cast is stellar, and filled with Hollywood legends–the God figure is played by John Huston. Sam Peckinpah plays Katie’s biological dad. Glenn Ford is the detective investigating the shooting “accident”. Shelley Winters is the maid who had a child like Katie once–had. Franco Nero, the original Django, is Christ. Lance Henriksen plays the boyfriend working in cahoots with Satanists. They did a great job with what they had. Unfortunately, they had little. As the phrase goes, “You can’t polish a turd.” In this case, you can enough to make it somewhat pretty, but it’s still a turd. Henriksen has said that the movie was a turkey which they all did for a free trip to Italy.

You can watch it here or, if you really like it, Drafthouse Films has it beautifully remastered in all its WTF glory.

Question of the night–what’s your favorite movie that’s still good even if it makes no sense?

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