Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stridulum aka The Visitor (1979)

In my ongoing quest to see every b-movie ever made, I occasionally come across the kind of obscure oddity that I can't believe was ever produced. Stridulum is one such movie - an incomprehensible mess of different genres featuring a surprisingly famous cast that obviously devoured the movie's entire budget.  Here you can see Golden-Age stars such as Glenn Ford, John Huston and Shelley Winters sleep-walking their way through a storyline that they obviously didn't understand any more than I did, along with personal fave Lance Henrikson and infamous director Sam Peckinpah in smaller roles. To say this movie makes no sense is an understatement, but I'll try to outline the plot as best I can. 

An evil inter-galatic being named Zathaar has been impregnating women on earth for centuries in order to continue it's legacy. John Huston is called upon to track down the latest incarnation of evil, an 8 year old girl named Katy, who lives in Atlanta with her mother Barbara. Barbara has had an inkling for some time that there's something a little "off" about her daughter, but her boyfriend (Lance Henrikson) assures her that she's imagining it all. Little does she know that Lance has been recruited by Zathaar's followers to keep the child alive and convince Barbara to have more evil babies.

Okay, so that doesn't sound too complicated, maybe a little weird - but seriously, this movie is so convoluted it's insane. Even at the very beginning, where a Jesus-like figure is outlining the background to the story, it takes him 2 or 3 minutes to explain something that could have been summed up in maybe a couple of sentences. Actually, that one scene can serve as a representation of the entire movie: a half-baked idea that's stretched far beyond breaking point and that becomes even more non-sensical as the makers add more and more padding to fill the running time. What's crazier is that this movie is 105 minutes long; so we have interminably boring scenes of basketball matches, ice-skating and gymnastics - they were pretty big on sports in this movie. It was roughly an hour into the movie, during a scene that finds John Huston staring at some lights in the sky for at least 3 minutes, that I thought "what in the fuck am I watching?!" 

For a movie with some really respected actors, the performances are pretty ropey. Huston is probably the best of the bunch, but still seemingly couldn't give a crap what's going on. Glenn Ford phones it in as a cop for about 10 minutes before having his eyes pecked out by a bird; a scene that sounds like much more fun than it really is. Shelley Winters is amazingly awful, and Lance Henrikson doesn't have nearly as many scenes as he should - but like Ford he really doesn't seem to be too bothered about the whole thing.

When I first read up on this movie, I got the impression that it would be some sort of special effects extravaganza, but I definitely had the wrong idea. When there are any kind of effects, they're fairly cheesy - one of the scenes I found most entertaining was at the end when the cast are attacked by a flock of vicious birds that suddenly turn into mould cast models with knives attached to their heads. There are a few scenes like this, where the weirdness and cheapness of the movie becomes funny, but you have to sit through a lot of talk to get to them. There are a few nice images here and there, and at times it resembles an Italian giallo in terms of it's "feel", but I guess I'm probably stretching to find something to like with that. 

Ordinarily I dig non-sensical movies that take a bit imagination to enjoy, but it kinda seems like half the script of this movie went missing shortly before shooting and they just went along with it anyway. It's not that Stridulum is confusing because it's filled with surreal imagery or weird ideas - it's just pretty badly put together. So many scenes just seem to be inserted at random, which is again something that sounds appealing to someone like myself, but the majority of these scenes are just mundane and dull. I will however give it kudos for making use of the terms "cripple molester" and "magic womb".

Apparently the movie was originally released at 80 minutes, which may be a more bearable watch, but I wouldn't recommend the 105 minute version unless you really want to test your endurance levels. It's too unique to just write off as a heap of junk, but it's nowhere near as entertaining as it could have been.

Here's a trailer that makes the movie seem a lot better than it actually is:


  1. Is that Joanne Nail from "Switchblade Sisters"?

  2. Great review and 100% accurate. I'm sitting through the 104 minute version right now ;)

  3. What film did you ever make??? Apparently your an expert so I was hanging on your every word.

    1. Word. Guy's got no taste. This is a great film.


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