Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


THE VISIT (1964). Director: Bernhard Wicki.

A small European town that is on the verge of bankruptcy drums up a big welcome for a wealthy widow, Karla (Ingrid Bergman), who left the village at 17. Karla has what seems like a happy reunion with her girlhood lover, Serge (Anthony Quinn), who dumped her to marry the daughter of the town's most successful tradesman. At a dinner arranged for Karla, the multi-millionairess cuts through the bull and explains how Serge refused to accept responsibility for her pregnancy, and even hired two other men to say they had slept with Karla. Karla's baby was taken from her -- it later died -- and she was driven out of town as a whore. Now she tells everyone that she will not only give money to the town but to each individual citizen -- if Serge (whom she still loves) is put to death! Serge is at first confident that her offer will be completely rejected by his friends and fellow townspeople, but he is surprised by the depths of human greed.

Based on a play, this is not talky or stage-bound, but it still remains unsatisfying. There are so many fascinating ramifications to the basic situation that are only touched upon. Ingrid Bergman is quite effective as Karla -- Quinn is less so but not bad -- but Wicki's direction is pedestrian. This lacks the dramatic fervor and poignancy that it requires, and it doesn't help that Serge never seems to come to terms with his guilt. The Visit looks good, but it percolates without coming to a boil.

Verdict: Doesn't make the most of its fascinating premise. **1/2.

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