Never Question What It Means, by Dayne Linford
Many movies are found in editing. Some, however, remain hopelessly lost. Guilio Paradisi’s (credited as Michael J. Paradise) 1979 film The Visitor belongs very firmly in the latter camp, a confusing mess of a script made even more confusing by consistently bizarre shot compositions and haphazard editing employed in its realization. The credits claim the script was written by one person, but my personal theory is that a team of writers each wrote twenty pages, combined their scripts in alphabetical order according to last name of the writer, and then edited names to be the same based on a complex voting/electoral college system. IMDB says it was two guys, I figure this means there’s at least some truth to my theory.
Regardless, it would explain how we end up watching what’s best described as a succession of movies – first a surreal, low budget science fiction epic reminiscent of Dune, then Jesus (that’s literally all the context I have for you here), then a basketball sports movie, then domestic drama, then corporate intrigue, then murder investigation, then PSA on the dangers of man-killing falcons, then gymnastics demonstrations, then figure skating, then domestic drama again, then something rapey that feels like the government stuff in E.T., then something trippy that has what looks like a landing strip in that it’s long and appears to narrow as it continues away from us, then abortion, then straight up Omen/Exorcist/psychotic demon child, then more trippy and watching old guys look confused, then final demon child stuff, then birdstorm (that’s the best way to describe it I can come up with), then Jesus again. Perhaps 20 pages per writer is a little generous. I’m rethinking my theory and now believe each writer had 3-5 pages based on enthusiasm.
If all this sounds awesome then you might be sort of correct. Kind of. I’m still a little confused, to be honest. We’ll try a proper plot synopsis as an attempt to give you at least some idea of whatever shredded unifying elements exist in this film. So, something bad came from another planet, described several times as “too evil to describe,” which seems rather weasely to me. Regardless, forever ago, this evil thing and a good thing fought each other and the good thing won. But the evil thing had sex with humans and made evil babies, all of whom have powers. In the modern times, a single mother is the last descendent of Jesus, or the evil thing, I’m not sure. Maybe Jesus is also an evil descendent? Anyway, this single mother has a daughter who’s eight and super evil and has a pet falcon. The mother is dating a basketball owner or coach who wants money for his team so he is working under the aegis of a bunch of evil businessmen. They want him to marry/seduce the single mother and make an evil boy child with her, who, according to an IMDB person (yes, I spent a lot of time trying to make sense of this), will mate with the girl, or something. I don’t remember that but I believe entirely that it’s in the movie. And some old alien from a place “beyond imagination” (how convenient) is here to stop it all. I think he’s the titular visitor, but it’s anybody’s guess at this point.
I should mention that the old alien is played by John Huston. And a maid for the single mother by Shelley Winters. And Glenn Ford plays a detective. And Sam Peckinpah is an abortion/poor person doctor, apparently, though his lines were dubbed because he couldn’t remember them. And Franco Nero plays Jesus. So, wow. How these people ended up in this movie is really beyond me. I guess we’ve all got to make a living. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the cast makes this a must see. You pretty much don’t see Franco Nero throughout most of the film, which I feel is an incalculable loss, as Django-Jesus is the single greater idea I’ve ever heard in my life. Mostly John Huston paces and looks confused. Shelley Winters also looks confused and a little crazy, and Glenn Ford mounts an impressive befuddled aspect, too. The confused looks on the actor’s faces are so convincing that I suspect the editor stole them from documentary footage on the making of the film. And Huston paces a lot. There is a lot of purposeless walking in this movie. In the figure skating scene mentioned above, Huston spends the entire scene walking down a flight of stairs and makes literally no progress. I don’t know whether this is comedy gold or not but it sure is…something.
Well, I’m tapped. Go see this movie. Or don’t. I can’t really say whether I recommend it or not. There’s worse ways to spend two hours, or better. I can’t even say if you should be drunk during it – my girlfriend and I were two drinks in when we started it, and that didn’t really do much. Maybe try it stone sober. Maybe really drunk. Maybe with friends. Alright, I feel like I’m writing a Dr. Seuss review. All I can say was that The Visitor was a completely unique experience that felt painfully derivative and completely madcap, a film that entirely escaped the control and comprehension of everyone involved and even the decade it was made in, summing up the 70s in perhaps the best way possible – a confusing, psychobabbling, faux-symbolic mess. Which is kind of special, I guess.