When a film has a cast that includes Hollywood legends such as John Huston, Shelley Winters, Glenn Ford, and Sam Peckinpah you expect you are in for something great. Sadly, such is not the case with The Visitor (also known as Stridulum) which has more in common with a schlocky soap opera than the classic films its cast is best known for.
This sci-fi/satanist genre bending movie was released in 1979 and filmed in Italy and the US. The story centres on a precociously evil young girl named Katy (played by Paige Conner) who is possessed by an ancient evil force called Zatteen which was somehow passed on to her by her mother Barbara (played by Joanne Nail).
The plot of this supernatural soap opera is thickened by her mother’s boyfriend Raymond (played by Lance Henriksen in one of his first roles). It turns out that the successful businessman is also a satanist (aren’t they all) and has dark plans to impregnate Barbara in order to bring a male child into the world so her children can eventually mate to bring a physical manifestation of Zatteen into the world.
In the background of all this, the evil Zatteen’s arch nemesis, Yahweh (curiously but effectively played by John Huston), is attempting to thwart the satanists’ attempts at unleashing Zatteen’s special brand of evil into the world once again. After consulting with a hippy-like supreme leader who enjoys hanging out with a bunch of bald kids in robes, Yahweh embarks for the mortal world to stop all hell from breaking loose.
Much of the rest of The Visitor includes a series of bizarre confrontations between Katy and other characters that serve to illustrate just how evil she is. Notable encounters include a seemingly endless ice skating excursion where she shows up some bullies with her figure skating abilities before flinging them through walls in Blades of Glory fashion. She also seems to really enjoy tormenting her wheel chair bound mom, culminating with a scene where she pushes her from a chairlift, sending her tumbling down a flight of stairs in dramatic telenovela fashion.
Midway through the film, the family’s new no-nonsense housekeeper Jane (played by Shelley Winters channeling Mary Poppins) arrives. Jane has no patience for Katy’s evil antics and attempts to keep her in line. Shelley does a noble job in a thankless role, trying to bring some credibility to an incredulous plot. The presence of respected actors such as John Huston and herself only seem to add to the absurdity of the film.
The most entertaining aspect of this film is the unintended comedy provided by a series of improbable events and characters. Creepy Katy and her Satan loving dad are finally brought down by a swarm of birds that were sent to do the Lord’s work.
In another bit of odd casting, noted director/writer Sam Peckinpah is cast as Katy’s biological father. A doctor, his character is enlisted to perform an abortion on his ex-wife after she is forcibly impregnated by the satanists. I’m almost certain this was a plot line on Young and the Restless at some point.
John Huston brings credibility to the film but was certainly slumming it when he signed on for this one. According to IMDB, Lance Henriksen indicated that he and other actors only agreed to do the film for a free trip to Italy, while calling it “a real turkey”. As a longtime fan of Henriksen, I would have to agree with his interpretation.
If you are a fan of schlocky sci-fi or unintentionally funny films, you may be mildly entertained by The Visitor. If not, I suggest this turkey is best left unvisited.
The Visitor (1979) Directed by Giulio Paradisi; Written by Luciano Comici and Robert Mundi; Starring John Huston, Shelley Winters, Lance Henriksen, Joanne Nail, Glenn Ford, Paige Conner and Sam Peckinpah; Available to stream for free on Tubi.
This is my contribution to The Shelley Winters Blogathon. My esteemed colleague has also written an article for the blogathon here. Please check out some of the other contributors by clicking on the image below. Our thanks to Poppity Talks Classic Film and RealWeegieMidget Reviews for welcoming us into the cult.
Great review, Andrew! To have a satanic businessman and a murderous figure skater in the same film — it’s truly a shame that this is not a cinematic masterpiece.
Thanks Kevin! Yes, this film had all the ingredients to be a masterpiece, where did it all go wrong?
Adore this post – sounds like fun trashy 1970s TV Movie fare so right up my street – definitely one to check out! Thanks for your contribution to the blogathon and my to review and watch pile!
My pleasure, thanks for including for including my post! This is definitely worth a watch if you enjoy cheesy films and who doesn’t?
So agree – if you ever have a blogathon on cheesy films then count me in. Rebecca from Taking Up Room had a “So Bad its Good” one last year which kinda covers it – I added The Medusa Touch which is fantastic – if you haven’t seen it do!
Very well written review of a film that is indeed a mess, despite the all star cast and interesting premise. Henriksen also played a satanic admirer in Damien Omen II around the same time. Winters, I remember, did acquit herself well though.
Thanks for the kind words Christopher!
The plot of The Visitor sounds like it should at least be a fun, campy flick.
Your extremely entertaining review definitely shows its not quite at that level.
Still, I may have to look into it because I enjoy turkey once in a while.
Thanks for the comment John. I think we can all use a good turkey once in awhile to cleanse the palate.
Crazy but fun movie! It has a surprisingly strong cast. I miss the 1970s… the era of anything-goes-cinema!
Crazy but fun sums this one up perfectly! We all need a good guilty pleasure flick once in awhile.
I like that there’s an epic figure skating scene in the middle of a movie about Satanists. 🙂