Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ingrid Bergman in The Visit 1964

This 1964 film is based on a 1956 play by Swiss playwright, Friedrich Dürrenmatt about an impoverished European town that receives a visit from one of it's former citizens who has become the richest woman in the world. She had been shunned by the town at 17 years old after having an affair with one of the men and giving birth to a child out of wedlock. She offers to give the town a million dollars to help them escape the poverty they find themselves in on one condition - they kill the man who fathered her child.

Ingrid Bergman plays the rich woman and Anthony Quinn is the man she had the affair with in this Italian production. It's a very strong brew with lots of intense emotions and broadly played scenes, but it packs a mighty wallop and is worth watching alone for Ms. Bergman's wardrobe, which is spectacular - just look at those glasses! As in many Italian films the dialog is recorded after principal photography is completed, so there's that slightly out of sync quality to the finished product, but it was originally done in English, so it's not dubbed in that sense. This trailer uploaded by Movie Clips Trailer Vault gives you the flavor of the piece.

If this ever comes up on television, be sure and watch or record it. It's really worth seeing for the spectacle and the intense emotions that it brings up. If you're obsessed with seeing it you can sometimes find discs for sale at iOffer.com.

Obscurity factor: 7 (no DVD, no VHS, Infrequently aired on television, well represented on YouTube)


  1. Always thought of this one as a rather damp squid because Ingrid Bergman is too young - and we love her, no matter what. The play is "The Visit of the OLD Lady." Casting Ingrid (who is much younger than today's aged gamines like Ms. Keaton or Ms. Hawn) changes the dynamics. Imagine a minute, Ben, a Martita Hunt in the part, and story becomes revolting, which it was meant to be. In the end, I remember this film as "the one with the gold lamé leggings." In the Opera, Karla Zachanassian was sung by the compulsively repulsive Regina Resnik, a closer fit.

  2. Yes, I see your point that Bergman was too young, or rather, too glamorous to play the part. My mother actually played it when she was quite young, but she played Karla as a gorgon. It's interesting that they changed the ending as well.

  3. How did Karla become the richest woman in the world?

  4. I have recently become vaguely obsessed with this film - and have read quite a lot about it. Apparently, the two producers (who just happened to be Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Quinn) had a disagreement over the way Karla should be presented. Bergman wanted her to be glamorous in the way the richest woman in the world would present herself to the world; Quinn wanted her to be shown as described in the play: decrepit - and with a wooden leg and hand. It's clear who won that argument. However, I don't feel that she looked too young. Perhaps it's because I'm old enough to remember Ms. Bergman's glory days, but I was very aware of her lines and wrinkles and signs of aging and didn't think the photography did her any favors at all. Yes, she's beautiful - but she's a beautiful 45 year old woman - the right age to have had a daughter the age of the young maid in the film. And, it's not like Quinn looks like he's on his last legs either! I found it beautifully cast.
    If you get a chance, listen to the score of the recent (horrible flop) musical version starring Chita Rivera. It was a stunning production and I enjoyed every second of it. I don't know why it received such a vicious drubbing from the critics. But, the score really told the story and you could get the complete aura of the story from the music. (Chita DID play it with the wooden leg!)

    1. I actually saw that production. It wasn't bad at all. I think people took issue with the play itself. It's such a European play, without any of the optimism and positivity of traditional American musical theater. The other problem I posit people had with it has to do with misogyny. It depicts a powerful woman who uses that power against a man in a vengeful way.