Borrowing heavily from the “Omen” films and mixing in bizarre sci-fi elements, that would not be out of place in an L Ron Hubbard novel (he’s the sci-fi author who founded ‘ Scientology’ for those who didn’t know) comes the bizarre 1978 horror film “The Visitor”, which is released to UK BD and DVD this week (6th Oct) from Arrow films.
Starting off with an introduction featuring Italian cult movie star Franco Nero as a Jesus like character, in which we’re told that God and Satan were actually rival alien warlords engaged in some Intergalactic battle. We’re then informed that Satan (who was executed by the alien god many centuries ago) has found a way of returning by taking over young 8 year old Katy Collins (Paige Conner), who lives in Atlanta with her mother and step-father.
We soon discover that young Katy is your stereotypical evil child, when someone gives her a gun as a birthday present, which then ‘accidentally’ goes off, hitting her mother Barbara (Joanne Nail – Switchblade Sisters) and thereby confining her to a wheelchair for the rest of the film.
The detective investigating who would give an 8 year old a gun as a birthday present, played by former Cowboy actor Glenn Ford (he was also Superman’s dad in the 1978 film) subsequently has an unfortunate car accident, when he’s attacked by a kestrel (sound familiar?) Then some kids at the ice rink try to bully her, but end up having similarly unfortunate accidents, and so it goes on.
Anyway, seems Barbara’s current partner, Raymond (played by genre veteran Lance Henricksen – Aliens), is in with some evil cult or something, run by fellow genre veteran Mel Ferrer (of Nightmare City infamy) and they want him to knock her up so that she will produce another evil child. But, noted character actor and director John Huston, who I think is meant to be playing ‘god’ in this, though its never quite clear, has to try and stop them and remove the evil from young Katy.
If all that wasn’t enough, you’ve also got former 50s sex siren Shelly Winters as the mysterious Nanny, who seems to know a lot more about Katy than she’s letting on and fellow director Sam Peckinpah turning up as Barbara’s ex-husband.
Produced by Ovidio G Assonitis, the man who gave us “Piranha 2 : Flying Killers” and directed by some chap called Giulio Paradisi, who seems to have had an otherwise undistinguished career outside of this film, the production essentially apes the plot of the “Omen” films, most notably “Damien : Omen 2” in which Lance Henricksen also starred, but mixes in bizarre sci-fi elements. Again, I think its pretty safe to say that if the Church of Scientology (who have some pretty crazy beliefs about god and aliens) did their own take on the Omen films, it would look something like this.
This cinematic oddity, with its diverse cult movie cast, and hodge podge of different ideas, has garnered quite a cult following over the years, so I guess its only fitting that Arrow have given it a special edition release.
Extras on the disc include.
An interview with Lance Henricksen (8m30s), which proves to be highly entertaining, as he reveals the stuff going on behind the camera was equally bizarre as what was going on in front and provides some interesting anecdotes about his experience of seeing the film for the first time on New Yorks 42nd Street.
An interview with screenwriter Lou Comici (8m50), who provides some very revealing details about just how bizarre things really were in the script, before he tidied it up and the turmoil between the director and producer during the production.
There’s also a 4 minute interview with director of photography Ennio Guarnieri, in Italian with English sub-titles, in which he discusses how many of the special effects shots were achieved.
And lastly there’s the original theatrical trailer.
The film is released in a dual edition BD and DVD combo pack (each disc containing both the film and extras), which comes packaged with reversible sleeve artwork, showing the original theatrical poster on one side and newly commissioned artwork by Erik Buckman on the other and you also get a special collectors booklet containing linear notes on the film, illustrated with stills from the film and poster artwork throughout.
The film is definitely something of an acquired taste, but if this sounds like your idea of a fun evenings entertainment, Arrow have done their usual sterling job of bringing this to disc.
Buy the UK BD/DVD combo pack from Amazon.co.uk.