The Visitor: The Strangest Sci-Fi / Horror / Religious Film You'll Ever See

Marshall Lemon | 27 Nov 2014 12:00
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This utterly bizarre B-movie is fascinating to watch unfold.

In many ways, 1979's The Visitor is a hard movie to get a bead on. When I first watched it, my first assumption was that someone handed a born-again Christian $800,000 and several suitcases of drugs, leading to the creation of a psychedelic religious movie with sci-fi and horror undertones. But there may be a simpler answer: The Visitor wanted to combine The Omen and Close Encounters of the Third Kind into a single movie, drawing in the audiences of each.

The end result was far from successful. Despite The Visitor's unique premise and star-filled cast (featuring Lance Henriksen, Glenn Ford, Shelley Winters, and John Huston among others), The Visitor wasn't able to pull itself together in a way that matched its source material. Sometimes it feels like each scene was cut-and-pasted from different movies with little regard to what lined up. And the occasional technical flub doesn't help, including cases of obvious post-production dubbing to cover up misspoken lines.

But if you're looking for a hilarious bad movie night with friends? The Visitor is a fantastic choice. For proof, here are The Visitor's opening lines, delivered by Jesus Christ to a group of bald space children.

Once, far away, light years, distances beyond thought, a great slender ship with a tail of fire slid through the black reaches of space. On that ship was Sateen, a prisoner named Sateen. Words cannot describe his evil. His criminality. He had been captured by Commander Yahveh after decades of search and evasion in a blood-drenched battle that claimed hundreds of lives. But shortly thereafter, Sateen escaped in a tiny scout craft. A fantastic escape from that spaceship. And soon he found a hiding place on the planet Earth.

Right from the start, The Visitor is dealing in religious allegory, turning Christian mythology into a bizarre space opera. In itself, that would have might for a fascinating, if controversial film, especially for 1970s. (Which explains why Jesus, played by Franco Nero, is an uncredited role for this film.) But spirituality and spaceships don't have a big role in The Visitor, it's just the backstory for a much stranger tale:

Sateen was a mutant, his genes transformed. A mutant with a primal wish to kill, but evolved to new psychic and occult powers. He used these powers to spread destruction and death. In order to find and destroy Sateen, Commander Yahveh tried many methods. One of these methods was an immense army of birds trained to hunt and to kill. But when these birds did discover Sateen, he transformed himself into an eagle and managed to destroy them all. Except for three, which survived and wounded him, fatally, in the brain.

But Sateen, now dead, lived on in another way. Before he was killed, he mated with Earth women, procreating numerous children, thereby transmitting his wicked spirit and evil powers through new generations. Yet the struggle continued, and still goes on. For Yahveh's descendants pursued the progeny of Sateen, lest their contamination spread through the cosmos.

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