The Visitor (AKA Stridulum)
Reaction of any art form is at its most visceral as the credits roll, typically appraisal of a given film falls into the sub-divisions of tone, atmosphere and narrative. At least that is the theory, every so often a film comes out of the ether that hits its viewers so hard with its eccentric oddities that it’s difficult to process what that bolt out of the blue was. 2014 had that cinematic milestone with Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. Never ones to pass up a challenge, Arrow Video saw Glazer’s film and reintroduced Giulio Paradisi’s bonkers [the] visitor to the Blu-ray generation. There are no words for the visitor, it could be the work of a mad genius and it could just as easily be horrid explosion of over-ambitious mediocrity, there are equally valid arguments for both sides of the fence.
Effectively synopsizing the visitor is as close to taking a shot in the dark as you can come; nonetheless ‘Michael J. Paradise’ presents a potentially dangerous 8-year old girl, Katy Collins (Paige Connor) in the middle of the battle between good and evil – the lighter end of which is bizarrely figure headed by Franco Nero as Jesus and his ethereal underling Jerzy (John Huston) with the opposite end of the spectrum led by Dr. Walker (Mel Ferrer) and Raymond (Lance Henriksen). Such details where cannibalized from the promotional blurb as getting anything concrete from the film after one watch it close to impossible.
The reason for this is the schizophrenic ideal the director brought to the shoot. Lance Henriksen, in his interview, talks about how the director wanted to get as much footage as possible to be covered for all eventualities. The endgame of this resembles the process one would expect if 5 films where being produced at once and in a flurry of madness Paradisi edited them all into one weird whole. There is a police investigation of a mysterious birthday party shooting, John Huston wanders around the inner city being mystical, a relationship drama with Lance Henriksen and the wheelchair bound Joanne Nail (Barbara) in the presence of Shelley Winters housekeeper. There’s more, there is a vague bad seed/paedophobia horror vibe which is drawn together by an army of violent birds, akin to Damien (the Omen) and his dominion over animal kind. There is no telling where the visitor is heading from one scene to the next.
It’s for that exact reason that the film has a ramshackle charm to it, a film that endears itself to be this liberating different can’t be all bad. Take the score – picture the brand of score found in the closing scores of 70s police dramas or even certain Blaxploitation films and their triumphant victory coda then use it to accompany the film’s dramatic and more specifically horror moments. Franco Micalizzi’s composition with its string and horn section is yet more proof, if it was needed, that we are dealing with a rebel.
As improbably charming as Giulio Paradisi (or Michael J. Paradise to use his Americanized credit) was in the production of the Visitor, the qualities of this film aren’t all found in its contrariness there are some traditional strengths to the piece. To dip back into the Blu-Ray’s interview with genre favourite Lance Henriksen, on the set Paradisi often flamboyantly reminded his crew and cast that he worked with Fellini. Fellini and many of the upper echelon of Italian director were afforded some of the best cinematographers that world cinema has ever seen, and there is some runoff on this film. This camera work is constantly intriguing, the set design inspired and most notably the depiction of otherworldly power is unforgettable. The desert bound face-off between John Huston and the young Paige Conner (Katy) reminds of Richard Stanley’s brother in arms, the Namibian set Dust Devil.
Sprinkles of greatness aside, the Visitor is a mess held together by the classy glue of its principal actors. The only real distinctions that can be made going into the film are split between whether you can appreciate the caterwauling insanity of cinema’s “undefinables” and laugh along with the film or whether you are hit so hard by these incomprehensible films that confusion is the only answer. That choice to one side, Arrow have afforded it a wealth of extras, articles and artwork complimenting a gorgeous restoration that is seeing the UK favourite attempting to ‘crack America’.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
•High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements
•Original Mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
•Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
•Interview with Star Lance Henriksen
•Interview with Screenwriter Lou Comici
•Interview with Cinematographer Ennio Guarnieri
•Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Erik Buckman
•Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film and more!
THE VISITOR IS NOW AVAILABLE ON ARROW VIDEO BLU-RAY FROM ALL GOOD STOCKISTS.