The Visitors

1972, Movie, R, 88 mins


Elia Kazan, the maker of commercially successful films such as ON THE WATERFRONT, strayed from traditional studio films to try his hand at more personal, meaningful films. THE VISITORS proves that this was perhaps not the wisest move. Woods plays a Vietnam veteran living a peaceful existence on a Connecticut farm with his girl friend, Joyce, and their infant son. Also living in the area is Joyce's father, McVey, a macho alcoholic writer who is not very fond of Woods's liberal attitude and passive nature. Coming to disturb this serene setting (though some big problems lurk beneath this veil) are two men Woods knew in the Army. They're fresh out of jail, having been imprisoned for the rape and murder of a Vietnamese woman. Woods is responsible for their conviction, as he testified against them. McVey meets the two men, fills them with beer, and brings them back to Woods's house to be entertained by the ungracious host and hostess. It isn't too long before Joyce is dancing with one of them, with Woods going into a huff when she allows him to go a bit too far. When Woods overcomes his passivity for just a bit he is beaten to a pulp and his wife brutally raped.

This was supposedly a treatise on the problems of Vietnam soldiers returning home with the same values that allowed them to be mass murderers. Thrown into the thematic message is a bit of the phoniness lurkhing behind the ideals of those trying to continue with a hippie-type existence. Neither of these themes is treated very fairly; both are based on shallowly developed conceptions that take a back seat to the anxiety inherent in the situation. Kazan's son Chris wrote the script and is probably to blame for most of the inadequacies. Shot in 16mm and blown up for release, the film was made for only $150,000 (the non-union actors received a total of $1,200 for their salaries; director Kazan took 10 percent of the profits, if any). The picture was made entirely on the Kazans' home turf in Newton, Connecticut. Oddly enough, another home-movie-style feature release in the previous year was, thematically and in other ways, a nearly identical twin to this one: GLORY BOY. Director Kazan was accused of union-busting for this low-budget effort; the film was put on the "unfair" list by the Screen Actors Guild. leave a comment

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The Visitors
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