Critic's Notebook: Emory film department to screen rare Neal Boortz classic

All hail the visitor!

If I were to tell you that that there's a made-in-Atlanta sci-fi horror movie starring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shelley Winters, Glenn Ford, and John Huston with Italian actor Franco Nero in a walk-on role as Jesus Christ, and radio host Neal Boortz playing a member of a criminal conspiracy, you'd probably ask what I'd been smoking lately.

Well, fair enough. Maybe someone was smoking something pretty powerful, but in all honesty it wasn't me. I'm actually describing a very real film. The wiggy, tripped-out '70s realness of The Visitor will be blasted onto a screen at Emory for one night only next Wed., Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m. Are you ready, Atlanta, to embrace your long lost film-child?

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Between slow-motion shots of people crashing through glass windows, you can catch a few glimpses of yesteryear's Atlanta in the trailer: A devil-girl runs through some familiar Downtown streetscapes and if I'm not mistaken, that's the old basketball court and ice-skating rink of the former Omni in there, as well.

Image According to Wikipedia, the 1979 film tells the story (if that's the right word) of a little girl with telekinetic powers who becomes the focus of a cosmic battle between good and evil. The movie was made by an Italian director, one Guilio Paradisi, working under the pseudonym Michael J. Paradise. I wish Wikipedia included an explanation of what he—or anyone involved really—had in mind when they made this thing. Adding to the whole fubar sense of mystery is the fact that Neal Boortz makes a cameo appearance.

The Visitor wasn't a hit when it was first released (most likely because audiences don't like crappy movies) but also because, as the Wikipedia entry explains, ticket-buyers were disappointed that a tantalizingly scary image which appeared on the poster—a huge alien eyeball and scaly hands hovering over a city at night—did not appear in the film and in fact had nothing whatsoever to do with anything that was in the movie.

Anyway, I say we let bygone alien eyeballs be bygones. It's time for Atlanta to make The Visitor a hometown hit, if only for one night. The film screens for free as part of Emory's Cinematheque series, which focuses this semester on films made in Georgia.