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 You may think you’ve seen it all, but NOTHING can prepare you for The Visitor! The ultimate excursion into B-movie madness, this 1979 cinematic oddity from schlock producer extraordinaire Ovidio G. Assonitis, director of such deliciously guilty pleasures as Beyond the Door and Tentacles, brings together an extraordinary ensemble cast in a mind-bending tale of a girl and her pet hawk.

At first glance, Katy Collins is just like any other normal 8-year-old girl – but appearances can dangerously deceptive. As it turns out, Katy is the Earthly incarnation of an ancient evil by the name of Sateen – an intergalactic supernatural entity who was vanquished many light years ago. Katy possesses tremendous powers making her capable of great destruction – powers which some are keen to eradicate, and some to harness…

A veritable cult phenomenon thanks to its recent re-discovery, The Visitor combines stunning imagery, incredible set-pieces alongside a truly jaw-dropping cast list which includes John Huston, Mel Ferrer, Shelley Winters and Franco Nero appearing as Jesus! (Taken from the official synopsis)


Unlike some of Arrow’s recent in-house efforts, this release utilises another licenced master. Here’s what the accompanying booklet divulges about the source.

Quote: The Visitor was restored by Drafthouse Films, who delivered the final master to Arrow Films for this release.

Video


As you can see from the above quote, Arrow's information on the source used for this release is somewhat vaguer than usual. Given the general condition of the image it’s safe to assume that The Visitor hasn’t been granted the sort of care afforded to more popular features, as film artefacts are present for much of the runtime. There are many, many instances of dirt, debris, scratches and other marks on display, with things at their absolute worst during the film’s optical shots (which themselves look like they come from an entirely different source a number of generations removed from the original negative). The image is also very soft, lacking the sort of fine detail associated with a high-definition picture, although this is probably at least partially due to the original cinematography. Blacks are also weak, offering up more of a murky grey than true black, which doesn’t help things in the darker scenes. On the plus side colours are quite strong and naturalistic, with a real ‘seventies’ look to them. Although it wasn’t handled by Arrow’s recent author of choice, David McKenzie, the encode looks solid enough to my eyes. There’s some minor banding that may or may not be part of the source, but there are no particularly obvious compression issues and the image doesn’t look to have been unduly filtered.

Visually this is undoubtedly the weakest release Arrow has put out in some time, but that’s to be understood given the age and (less than high) standing of the film itself. If this were a new title rather than a catalogue release I’d be a lot more critical, but when it comes to films like The Visitor one just has to be thankful (if that’s the right word here) that they’re on Blu-ray at all, so they can be held to a different standard. It’s not a great looking presentation, but it has its moments and is almost certainly the best we’re ever going to see.

Audio


The Visitor's original sound mix is reproduced here in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono, but unfortunately this is one occasion when lossless  audio only serves to highlight the deficiencies of the source. The track sounds extremely harsh throughout, with absolutely no low end to speak of. There's also an ever-present hiss that proves terribly distracting, and while dialogue is perfectly intelligible it sounds dreadfully hollow. Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the mix is Franco Micalizzi's wonderfully ‘seventies’ score, which is just as out-there and over-the-top as the film itself, often popping up at the most unfitting of moments. Unfortunately the track's limited dynamic range stifles the effectiveness of the score, preventing it from distinguishing itself from the other elements of the mix.

Like the video, the audio here is a lot weaker than that found on the average Arrow release, but again this is due to the limitations of the available source material. If it weren’t for the annoying hiss it would actually be perfectly functional, but as it stands I couldn’t help but be distracted by such an obvious artefact. Still, it seems strangely fitting that such an odd movie would have a less than perfect soundtrack.
 

Extras


Arrow provides a fairly modest collection of bonus material by its own high standards, a list of which can be found below.

  • Interview with Star Lance Henriksen
  • Interview with Screenwriter Lou Comici
  • Interview with Cinematographer Ennio Guarnieri
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • DVD Copy
  • Collector's Booklet
  • Reversible Artwork

The interviews with Henrikson and Comici are best described as ‘open’ and ‘frank’. Given what they have to say about their involvement with the picture and its backers it’s hardly surprising that their attitudes and opinions are similar, as the filmmaking process appears to have been a total mess from start to finish. Henrikson seems simultaneously bemused and amused by the film, and recounts a humorous anecdote about his first viewing of the film in a Times Square theatre. Comici states that his involvement with the film was based purely on his ability to speak both English and Italian, and therefore act as a translator between producer Assonitis and director Paradisi. He tells some hilarious tales of the directorial interference and possible criminal links that are well worth hearing. Unfortunately Comici was fired after his draft was complete and had no further involvement with the script, which explains a lot. The subtitled interview with Ennio Guarnieri focusses more on the technical side of shooting the picture, but it’s too short to offer any real insight. The final on-disc extra is the original theatrical trailer.

Of course you also get a copy of the film on DVD, a collector’s booklet with an essay on the film, and some reversible artwork (although in this case I actually prefer Arrow’s newly-commissioned art to the original theatrical art). Oh, I also discovered a short Easter egg on the disc, which is pretty easy to find, but I won't spoil the surprise here.

Overall


My initial reaction after my viewing of The Visitor was along the lines of ‘what the hell was that?’, except not as polite. There’s a kernel of a story here, but the execution is so inept that the end result is little more than impenetrable, pretentious twaddle. Then again, the film appears to have quite a large, loyal cult following, so what do I know? I guess I’m just not one for experimental Italian cinema from the seventies. It surprised me to learn that this is actually the longer, more cohesive cut of the film, because the mind boggles as to how incomprehensible a shorter version might be…

The Blu-ray release is probably the weakest thing Arrow has put out in some time from an audio-visual standpoint, but I guess they could only do so much with the available materials. The same goes for the bonus content, which is interesting but oh so short (it comes in at around twenty five minutes). As I understand it there’s a US DVD release with two audio commentaries and more featurettes, but I guess those weren’t available for this edition. It saddens me to say that this is the least enthusiastic I’ve been about an Arrow release in a long time, although admittedly much of that is to do with the utter befuddlement provoked by the feature itself. I’m afraid I can only really recommend this one to existing fans of The Visitor.

* Note: The images Below are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

 Visitor, The
 Visitor, The
 Visitor, The
 Visitor, The
 Visitor, The
 Visitor, The


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