by Dave Wain
Throughout the seventies, Egyptian mogul Ovidio G. Assonitis shot a handful of brazen pictures that were not too dissimilar to successful Hollywood fare. BEYOND THE DOOR prompted a Warner Brothers lawsuit due to its similarity to THE EXORCIST, while TENTACLES capitalised on the success of JAWS with delightfully schlocky results. THE VISITOR, meanwhile, is a not-so-subtle nod towards THE OMEN and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND as well as a legion of other box office winners.

As with his previous film Tentacles – which saw John Huston and Henry Fonda fending off a giant octopus – Assonitis once again utilises his knack for casting iconic actors; Huston stars again, alongside such golden-era talent as Glenn Ford and Mel Ferrer. Lance Henriksen, Shelley Winters and Sam Peckinpah – in a rare front-of-camera role – also appear.
The film’s narrative centres around Katy (Paige Conner), a young girl whose heritage leads an alien elder (Huston) to be sent to Earth by a Christ-like figure (played by Franco Nero) as it turns out she’s a scion of an evil alien race complete with the power of telekinesis. In the midst of this is her single mother (Joanne Nail) who’s being wooed by baseball team owner Raymond (Henriksen) who in turn is being pressured to impregnate his new found love by some shady conspiratorial characters in order to add to the extra-terrestrial lineage.
With the risk of damning it with faint praise, The Visitor’s certainly never boring. Its Atlanta based setting – thanks to an attractive tax incentive – is vibrant, while Assonitis’ direction entrances and bewilders in equal measure, initially spectacular stunt sequences segueing into sniggering fodder. The sight of legions of shaven-headed clones staring from the top of skyscrapers at a bewildered Huston, and Franco Micalizzi’s ill-fittingly bombastic score, add to the lunacy. It’ll never be considered high art.

The extra features on this Arrow Blu-ray are ported over from the Drafthouse Films edition that saw an American release earlier this year. They include interviews with Lance Henriksen, screenwriter Lou Comici and also cinematographer Ennio Guarnieri. UK folks are, however, the recipients of an illustrated collector’s booklet with writing from critic Mike White who includes excerpts of cast interviews given to his Podcast. With a VHS release through Warner Brothers back in 1987 being the only time The Visitor has entered the UK home entertainment market, upgrading your dusty tape to Blu-ray will be an essential manoeuvre, primarily because this Arrow disc runs twenty minutes longer.

A total oddity and an awkward recommendation to the uninitiated, The Visitor is a film impossible to dislike, be it due its cast, its misguided ambition or its grand air of disjointed madness. Whatever the case, it simply demands your attention.