To recap the plot of The Visitor (1979, not to be confused with the film of the same title starring Richard Jenkins) is an impossibility without the aid of mind-altering drugs. It sounds stranger on paper than it does in practice, however, as everything in the film reaches a pretty logical conclusion. So, let me attempt to start:
The film begins in a dimension that is explained to exist beyond imagination. A lone man, Jerzy (played by John Houston), stands amid the hallucinatory landscape and observes a figure emerge, that of a young girl. Thick globs of snow coat her face and her eyes open wide. From there, the action is whisked off to Atlanta, Georgia and we learn the young girl is named Katy Collins. Her mother is a descendant of an evil space pirate named Sateen, who led a mutiny against another special entity named Yahweh. The implication here is quite clear—it’s a not-too-subtle allegory for the ongoing war against God and Satan, with a sci-fi twist. Katy, you see, has magical powers and people want to harvest them for evil deeds and want her mother to give birth to a boy so that they can have the masculine and feminine forms of powers to corrupt.
That all sounds strange, but easy to follow. But along the way, stranger and stranger things happen that seem to have no logical reason for being. Birthday presents for little girls turn into guns; hawks attack busybody detectives getting too close to the truth; bald men on rooftops summon birds from outer space to fight against evil.
The Visitor plays like a dream. That’s been said of many films, many times, but it’s true. It’s a film with its own self-contained logic and reason for action. Set pieces exist solely because the creative team behind the film thought it would film well, so they went for it—rationality be damned. The Visitor isn’t the kind of film to get hung up on small details. If it wants something to happen, that something will then assuredly happen without any sort of hang-ups or inhibitions.
And what a cast to boast! It’s insane that everyone agreed to be in it, considering how unseen and relatively unknown it is today: a pair of legendary directors, John Houston and Sam Peckinpah; Lance Henricksen; Shelley Winters; Mel Ferrer; and Glenn Ford. It’s like a Turner Classics reunion degenerated into an LSD-fueled frenzy.
Director Giulio Paradisi (as Michael J. Paradise) has a keen eye for action and a clear love of the city he’s filming. It’s a gorgeous film with some brilliant special effects and stunts thrown around. It’s possibly the most 70s movie ever made, with music, clothing and a style very set in its time and place.
The Visitor is on Amazon Prime for streaming, so if you have access, you should probably give it a watch. But, then again, this trailer might be more convincing than I could ever be: