Monday, June 10, 2013

DVD Review: THE NIGHT VISITOR (1971)

THE NIGHT VISITOR (1971) 

Label: VCI Entertainment 

Release Date: July 2nd, 2013 
Region Code: Region-FREE NTSC
Duration: 102 minutes 
Rating:  PG 
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Cast: Max Von SydowLiv Ullmann, Trevor Howard, Per Oscarsson, Rupert Davies, Andrew Keir
Director: Laslo Benedek

Synopsis: A powerful Gothic suspense tale of a man wrongly accused of murder, who is committed to an asylum for the criminally insane. While imprisoned, he makes a series of incredible escapes to methodically wreak vengeance on those responsible for putting him there.

In Laslo Benedek's Scandinavian thriller THE NIGHT VISITOR (1970) Salem (Max Von Sydown, THE EXORCIST) is a man imprisoned at a maximum security prison for the criminally insane, sent away for life for an ax murder he didn't commit, he was set-up by his his own sister Ester (Liv Ullman, SHAME) and her conniving husband Dr. Anton Jenks (Per Oscarsson, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE).

The film opens up a bit oddly with Von Sydown running through the Scandinavian wilderness just outside the asylum in his undies, you're not sure what his motivations are as he sneaks into a farmhouse through a broken window and steals a syringe, three ampules of morphine and a necktie before sneaking out through the same window. he travels a short distance and visits and attractive young woman named Bitte (Lottie Freddie) whom he seduces and strangles to death. So why is this innocent man murdering folks and returning back to the asylum? It quickly becomes clear that these maneuvers are but the first in a series of devices aimed towards framing Dr. Jenks for a series of gruesome murders, at each crime scene Salem leaves a tidbit of evidence, each one further incriminating the increasingly frantic doctor.

These nuggets of plot must seems like spoilers but it's never quite a mystery whom is performing the murders and why, we know from the start that Salem is out for some cold-blooded revenge, the suspense comes from the fucked-up mind games Salem thrusts upon those that would have him rot in prison, it's a twisted game cat and mouse. The local Inspector (Trevor Howard, THE THIRD MAN) starts to put the pieces together but they don't quite fit, his interactions with the imprisoned Salem are laced with great dialogue exchanges. 

It's wonderful the way that Salem reveals himself as the culprit to both the Dr. and his sister Emma, taunting them, they inform the Inspector of his nightly visits but how can he take them seriously when Salem is locked-away at the asylum under the watchful eye of Dr. Kemp (Andrew Kier, DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS).

Love the scheming murders and repeated prison escapes, we get strangulation  blunt force trauma, a poisoning and an ax murder to which the Inspector observes "I've seen 'em hacked to pieces before, but never like this". Sadly, we don't get to see it on screen, it's all implied except for some blood spatter on one victims head, it's pretty tame but it's not about the gore kiddies. This one revels in the cold determination of a man betrayed and the lengths to which he will go to see that the lives of those that wronged him are ruined, to that end it's completely successful. In the film's final moments Salem's revenge seems assured but he must return to his prison cell unnoticed before the inspector can unravel the puzzle, and it's a nail biter!

THE NIGHT VISITOR (1970) an immensely entertaining Scandinavian suspense film deserving of a wider audience. It's great to see VCI Entertainment putting it back into circulation after the previous DVD went out of print awhile back, recommended. 3.5 Outta 5 

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