The Visitors (1972)

87-88 mins | Drama | February 1972

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HISTORY

The working title of the film was Home Free . Nicholas T. Proferes’ credit reads, “Photographed and edited by.” According to a Jan 1972 Var article written by director Elia Kazan, he agreed to direct a script written by his son Chris, financing it himself for $150,000 by taking no salary, using only three technicians, unknown and first-time actors and shooting on 16mm film at his own Connecticut home. In his 1988 autobiography, Kazan stated that he gave Chris an article he had read and on which his son based his script. The Vietnam atrocity described in The Visitors relates to a true incident reported by Daniel Lang in a 1969 article published in New Yorker . The article was later expanded into a book, published in 1970 that was intially titled Casualties of War but later retitled Incident on Hill 192 .
       Kazan wrote that he found the bare-bones conditions while filming The Visitors “exhilarating,” and although unlikely to repeat the experience, he considered it of great value. Kazen's wife, filmmaker Barbara Loden, indicated that her low-budget 1971 semi-documentary, Wanda , influenced Kazan's decision to make The Visitors , which was Chris Kazan's only film.
       A Feb 1972 DV article related that Kazan’s Home Free Productions had been placed on the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) “unfair” list for being shot without a guild or IATSE contract. Responding to Kazan’s comment describing his role in the production as “exhilarating,” the SAG board of directors issued a statement which read, in part, that Kazan’s “sense of values... (reached) a ... More Less

The working title of the film was Home Free . Nicholas T. Proferes’ credit reads, “Photographed and edited by.” According to a Jan 1972 Var article written by director Elia Kazan, he agreed to direct a script written by his son Chris, financing it himself for $150,000 by taking no salary, using only three technicians, unknown and first-time actors and shooting on 16mm film at his own Connecticut home. In his 1988 autobiography, Kazan stated that he gave Chris an article he had read and on which his son based his script. The Vietnam atrocity described in The Visitors relates to a true incident reported by Daniel Lang in a 1969 article published in New Yorker . The article was later expanded into a book, published in 1970 that was intially titled Casualties of War but later retitled Incident on Hill 192 .
       Kazan wrote that he found the bare-bones conditions while filming The Visitors “exhilarating,” and although unlikely to repeat the experience, he considered it of great value. Kazen's wife, filmmaker Barbara Loden, indicated that her low-budget 1971 semi-documentary, Wanda , influenced Kazan's decision to make The Visitors , which was Chris Kazan's only film.
       A Feb 1972 DV article related that Kazan’s Home Free Productions had been placed on the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) “unfair” list for being shot without a guild or IATSE contract. Responding to Kazan’s comment describing his role in the production as “exhilarating,” the SAG board of directors issued a statement which read, in part, that Kazan’s “sense of values... (reached) a new height in unprofessionalism when it was achieved at the expense of his colleagues in the industry who have contributed so much to his earlier success.” In his autobiography, Kazan indicated that the budget for The Visitors was $175,000 [although his 1972 Var interview had reported a $150,000 budget] and that he had given his son a newspaper article about a war crime of the rape and murder of a Vietnamese girl and the convicted veterans who held their buddy informer to blame. Kazan admitted that while he knew he was going against the guild by-laws, it was the only way he could make the film. He identified Patricia Joyce (“Martha Wayne”) as a Yale university student and Chico Martinez (“Tony Rodriguez”) as a Puerto Rican cab driver and aspiring actor. Patrick McVey (“Harry Wayne”) and James Woods (“Bill Schmidt”) had previous film experience, although The Visitors was Woods’s first starring role. The Visitors marked the feature film debut of Steve Railsback.
       According to Kazan’s autobiography, when the film opened in New York, he and his son were shocked when the audience booed the story’s conclusion and did not understand the mostly negative reviews it received. Kazan also stated that the film’s distributor, United Artists, was not enthusiastic about his intention to enter the film in the May 1972 Cannes Film Festival and offered him minimal support. Kazan indicated that the film was well received at its screening at the festival and suggested that the reason it did not receive further attention was due to the influence against it by the chairman of the jury, with whom he had had political differences in the past. After The Visitors , Kazan directed one more film, the 1976 Paramount release, The Last Tycoon . In 1989, director Brian De Palma directed an adaptation of Lang's Casualties of War released by Columbia Pictures. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
14 Feb 1972
p. 4461.
Daily Variety
16 Feb 1972.
---
Filmfacts
1972
pp. 108-11.
New York Times
3 Feb 1972.
---
Variety
26 Jan 1972
p. 5, 25.
Variety
2 Feb 1972
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Film by Elia Kazan
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
WRITER
From an orig scr by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Lighting des
Lighting asst
FILM EDITORS
VISUAL EFFECTS
Optical negative
PRODUCTION MISC
Bull Terrier trained and handled by
SOURCES
MUSIC
Selections from Lute Suite #1, J. S. Bach, performed by William Matthews, guitarist.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Home Free
Release Date:
February 1972
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 2 February 1972
Production Date:
1971 in Newton, Connecticut
Copyright Claimant:
Home Free Corporation
Copyright Date:
2 February 1972
Copyright Number:
LP50043
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
87-88
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In rural New England, factory worker Bill Schmidt lives with his girlfriend Martha Wayne and their infant son Hal. The couple rent their house from Martha’s father Harry, a writer of pulp westerns, who lives and works nearby in a small cottage. Although Bill constantly scans newspaper ads for new housing, Martha scoffs at him, insisting that they have an ideal arrangement. One winter morning, after Bill goes out to retrieve a paper as usual, Martha takes Harry a stack of pancakes which he later feeds to his bull terrier, Mack. Soon after Bill departs, Tony Rodriguez and Mike Nickerson drive up and introduce themselves to Martha as army buddies who served with Bill in Vietnam. When Bill returns minutes later, he greets the pair without enthusiasm while Martha introduces them to baby Hal. Tony and Mike both comment about Bill’s expansive house, but he hastily explains that the house and extensive acreage belong to Harry. Over snacks, Tony asks Bill about his life and he and Mike laugh when Bill reveals he works for a company that manufactures helicopters for the military. Later, when Mike asks to lie down and take a brief nap, Bill takes Tony out to look at the property. After delightedly helping Bill feed the family chickens, Tony abruptly grows critical of Bill’s comfortable lifestyle. He then reveals that he and Mike have just been released from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth after serving two years for a crime in which Bill testified against them. When Bill cautiously asks for details about their release, Tony affably explains that their ... +


In rural New England, factory worker Bill Schmidt lives with his girlfriend Martha Wayne and their infant son Hal. The couple rent their house from Martha’s father Harry, a writer of pulp westerns, who lives and works nearby in a small cottage. Although Bill constantly scans newspaper ads for new housing, Martha scoffs at him, insisting that they have an ideal arrangement. One winter morning, after Bill goes out to retrieve a paper as usual, Martha takes Harry a stack of pancakes which he later feeds to his bull terrier, Mack. Soon after Bill departs, Tony Rodriguez and Mike Nickerson drive up and introduce themselves to Martha as army buddies who served with Bill in Vietnam. When Bill returns minutes later, he greets the pair without enthusiasm while Martha introduces them to baby Hal. Tony and Mike both comment about Bill’s expansive house, but he hastily explains that the house and extensive acreage belong to Harry. Over snacks, Tony asks Bill about his life and he and Mike laugh when Bill reveals he works for a company that manufactures helicopters for the military. Later, when Mike asks to lie down and take a brief nap, Bill takes Tony out to look at the property. After delightedly helping Bill feed the family chickens, Tony abruptly grows critical of Bill’s comfortable lifestyle. He then reveals that he and Mike have just been released from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth after serving two years for a crime in which Bill testified against them. When Bill cautiously asks for details about their release, Tony affably explains that their lawyers had their confessions thrown out as he and Mike had not been properly advised of their rights. Noting Bill’s apprehension, Tony explains he only wanted to offer Bill his forgiveness for his testimony. At the house, Hal’s crying awakens Mike who joins Martha. While chatting with Mike, Martha confides that Bill has never told her about his experience in Vietnam, only that he was involved in a court-martial. Meanwhile, Harry grows curious when he sees Bill walking with a stranger and telephones Martha for explanations. Enthused to learn the men are veterans, he invites them to his cottage where he offers them alcohol and regales them with tales about his days serving in the Pacific during World War II. When Bill attempts to comment about the war, Harry scornfully belittles his pacifistic stance. Hearing whining at the door, Harry discovers Mack seriously injured and bleeding. As Bill tends to the dog’s wounds, he observes that Mack has been in a fight. At a window overlooking the Wayne property, Tony points to a large black dog loping in the distance. When Harry curses and relates that the neighbor’s dog is an area nuisance, Mike goes out to the car to retrieve a rifle from the trunk. Spotting him, Martha grows alarmed and after placing Hal in his crib rushes to her father’s house just as Harry and Tony approvingly watch Mike shoot the black dog. While the three men go out to retrieve the carcass which they then carry across the snow to the neighbor, a disgusted Bill and Martha return to their house. Bill then divulges his part in the court-martial of Mike, Tony and two other members of their squad. Bill relates that Mike led a patrol to seek out the enemy Viet Cong in a small village, but, unable to uncover any traitors, he angrily took a teenage girl hostage then later raped her and encouraged the other patrol members to do the same. All but Bill complied and he later turned the others in. Hugging Bill, Martha praises him for his bravery, but he admits his eventual testimony has haunted him ever since. Martha angrily dismisses this and inquires about Mike and Tony’s unexpected visit. When Bill says that Tony offered him an apology, Martha suggests Bill ask them to leave, as their presence is disturbing. Meanwhile, Harry invites Mike and Tony to his cottage, then telephones Martha to ask if they can come over to watch a televised football game on Bill’s set. Annoyed when Bill falteringly agrees, Martha goes outside for a long walk. As Harry continues to drink heavily during the game, he first admonishes Bill to acknowledge that Vietnam is crucial in the ongoing battle against Communism, then makes racist comments that incense Tony. When Mike joins Harry on the sofa, an uncomfortable Bill goes upstairs to sit with Hal. Bored, Tony strolls about restlessly, while Mike observes that Martha is attractive and questions Harry why she and Bill are not married. Harry scornfully criticizes Bill as weak. After the game ends, Bill listens from upstairs as Harry invites the men to dinner and suggests that they can join a neighborhood coon hunt later that night. Martha returns from her walk, angered to discover that Bill has not asked Mike and Tony to leave. Taking Mike aside, Harry asks him if he knows anything about Bill’s involvement with the court-martial. Mike relates the story, and is mildly surprised when Harry sides with his actions and wonders why he did not kill Bill for his betrayal. Martha prepares and serves dinner and grows increasingly ill at ease as Harry, now quite drunk, cuts his hand while attempting to carve the roast. After convincing her father to return to his cottage, Martha makes coffee, which annoys Bill, who retreats to the kitchen. After Tony helpfully offers Martha advice on a fussy Hal, she snaps at him and he joins Bill. Accompanying Mike in the living room, Martha confides that she knows about the episode in Vietnam. When Mike responds carelessly, Martha disparages him, but Mike criticizes her for offending her father by remaining unmarried. Insisting that he has no need to justify actions the army has accepted, Mike maintains that he is a better soldier than Bill. Growing sympathetic to Mike when he reveals he was shocked to see soldier friends maimed or violently killed, Martha hesitatingly agrees to dance with him to radio music. Curious at the lengthening silence, Tony goes to the living room, followed by Bill who is so outraged by Mike’s smug look as Martha clings to him, that he attacks Mike. While Tony holds Martha inside, Mike and Bill go outside and Mike beats Bill severely. Returning to the house, Mike and Tony chase the terrified Martha upstairs where Mike violently rapes her. Tony drags the semiconscious Bill back inside, then joins Mike outside where they drive away. Martha drags herself downstairs and sits silently across from Bill. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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