Monsoon-A-Day ‘The Visitor’ (1979)

Welcome to Monsoon-a-day

Where I watch and review a movie a day. Or whenever I fucking feel like it.

Day 101

 

“Cocaine decisions…
You are a movie business guy
You got accountants who supply
The necessary figures
To determine when you fly
To Acapulco
Where all your friends go

Cocaine decisions…
We must watch the stuff you make
You have let us eat the cake
While your accountants tell you Yes Yes Yes
You make EXPENSIVE UGLINESS
(How do you do it? — Let me guess…)
Cocaine decisions…”

—Frank Zappa

I think the vast majority of us forget, that Hollywood first and foremost, is a business. We marvel at all the art it’s produced and scoff at the trash but the common denominator between them is the fact that regardless of quality, each and every film in existence was produced to make money. Especially the films made as tax write offs.

One of the lesser known aspects of the film industry is the practice of tax shelters countries create to generate moolah into an area. Some are so desperate for that Hollywood coin, that they’ll create extremely generous tax incentives in order to lure productions away from America and into their country. Every terrible (read: every film not made by Cronenberg, which was all of them) film Canada produced between 1974 to 1982 was a direct result of this program as was the entire career of Uwe Boll. Germany had a weird tax loop hole that Boll exploited the hell out of, in which every film he made was automatically tax exempt, which means that no matter how much the film lost at the box office, he was safe. It was a huge financial safety net that once they got rid of, he “coincidentally” decided to retire.

I have no idea whether or not The Visitor was a “tax shelter film” but unless producer Ovidio G. Assonitis had career ending dirt on each member of it’s cast, there is literally no other explanation as to why so many great actors are in this. I understand why it was made (Assonitis wanted an Exorcist knock off) and I understand why it turned out crazy (the director threw out the script because “it was garbage” even though he hadn’t read a single word of it) but this film is a goddamn murders’ row of talent.

I can list every actor/director/celebrity that appears in this film but without any context, they would just be names on a page. You can’t really wrap your head around how truly bizarre this films cast is until you experience this film. Even the worst Z grade garbage manages to pull a David Carradine or Billy Zane every once and in awhile but The Visitor managed to wrangle some of the best talent in business. There’s no way of listing the actors along with the plot without it sounding like my phone had a stroke in the middle of a game of Mad Libs.

An intergalactic exorcist (John Huston) is sent to Earth by a Space Jesus (Franco Nero) to stop the devil incarnate who has taken the form of an eight year-old girl to spread his/her evil across the globe. There’s also appearances by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and The Wild Bunch director Sam Peckinpah, who was so drunk during shooting, that the film never properly explains his relationship to the narrative.

Shelley Winters also shows up as an intergalactic or interdimensional? nanny that takes care of Katy (the devil’s child form played by Paige Conner.) Even though Conner was playing the goddamn devil, Winters proved to be much more sinister. She apparently took great pleasure in beating the shit out of the child. Not just in the film. Paige Conner later remarked:

“She was just a witch. She knocked me down on the floor a couple of times. I couldn’t stand her. She just looked at me and said “I love scenes where I get to hit children”

Suffice it to say, Paige Conner kept her distance.

It’s almost impossible to recount what happens in the film because it isn’t just one film. It’s every single film the director had ever seen sloppily mashed into one pot. Imagine being stuck on a five hour subway ride with an insane homeless person that’s screaming the plot of The Omen, The Exorcist, The Birds, and El Topo at you while you’re slowly getting high from the paint fumes wafting from his breath.

That’s essentially The Visitor. But crazier.

It also features one of the best opening sequences I’ve ever seen. If the entire film was as good as it’s opening, the film would have a legitimate claim as one of the greatest works of art that cinema has ever produced.

I’m only half joking.