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TCM Underground - July 2018
Remind Me

The Night Visitor

The Night Visitor (1971) was publicized with the tagline, "Locked in the cold asylum of his mind--a sane man stalks his prey." Starring Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Trevor Howard, Rupert Davies, Andrew Keir, and Per Oscarsson, it was a rare Swedish/American horror film, made as a partnership for Hemisphere Pictures. Laslo Benedek, who is most famous for directing Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953), was at the helm, working from a screenplay by Guy Elmes that was based on Sam Roecca's original story, Salem Came to Supper . Actor Mel Ferrer served as producer with Sidney Glazier, with future Babette's Feast (1987) cinematographer Henning Kristiansen creating the film's atmospheric look, and Henry Mancini composing the original score.

Von Sydow is Salem, an innocent man who has been confined for two years in an asylum for the ax murder of a drunken farmhand. One frozen night, he escapes the asylum and returns to his former home, where his sister (Ullmann) and her husband (Oscarsson) are now living. With the knowledge he was set up to take the blame for the murder, Salem hurries back to the asylum before anyone knows he has disappeared. There, he crafts a plan to revenge himself against those who wronged him, while appearing to still be locked in his cell. An inspector investigating the crimes (Howard) begins to think that the murders aren't quite what they appear to be.

The Night Visitor had been in pre-production as far back as 1963 under Roecca's original title Salem Came to Supper , when Steve McQueen was floated as Salem for Twentieth Century-Fox. By the end of the decade, Fox had abandoned the project, and Christopher Lee was set to play Salem, but he became unavailable by the time filming was to have started. Von Sydow and Ullmann, who had worked together several times, had been slated to star in the MGM film Man's Fate for director Fred Zinnemann, but were signed to The Night Visitor instead when Zinnemann's film was cancelled. Production took place in March 1970 and was filmed on location at Varberg, Hallands län, Sweden, and at various sites in Denmark, as well as the Asa and Laterna Studios in Copenhagen.

On its release in the United States on February 10, 1971, The Night Visitor was praised by the critics, including Look magazine: "Years have fled since we've had a chilling mystery, but here is one at last to squeeze the mind. If your flesh doesn't crawl, it's on too tight!" A.H. Weiler in The New York Times called it an "an uncommonly fascinating film shot in beautiful color against authentic wintry Swedish and Danish backgrounds," in which the actors give "taut but controlled performances that underline the tensions that make The Night Visitor a captivating, moody and scenic thriller."

The Internet Movie Database
Weiler, A.H. "Screen: Benedek's 'The Night Visitor" The New York Times 11 Feb 71

By Lorraine LoBianco



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