Kazan Redux: Elia Kazan’s Eighteenth Film: “The Visitors”

Today, as part of our “Kazan Redux” series, we’re going to re-review director Elia Kazan’s eighteenth film, “The Visitors.” The review below was first posted on December 24, 2017 and has been slightly revised.

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Elia Kazan had been one of America’s most celebrated and influential film and theatrical directors in the 1940s and 50s, but by the early 1970s, after the financial failure of five of his previous six movies, he could not find backing for a new film project written by his son, Chris Kazan, which explored themes regarding the unpopular Vietnam War. Kazan opted to film “The Visitors” himself on a shoestring budget using a 16mm camera.

The Visitors
Directed by Elia Kazan and featuring James Woods, Patricia Joyce, Steve Railsback, Chico Martinez, and Patrick McVey
United Artists, 1972, 88 minutes

4 Stars

Plot

Bill (Woods) and Martha (Joyce) and their infant child live in a Connecticut farmhouse owned by Martha’s domineering father, Western pulp fiction writer, Harry (McVey). They are not married and their relationship seems to be somewhat strained.

Two visitors, Sarge aka Mike (Railsback) and Tony (Martinez), show up at the house unexpectedly. They had served together in the same platoon with Bill in Vietnam, but Bill had testified against them at a court martial for wartime atrocities. The pair had been released due to a legal technicality after having been imprisoned for two years and had driven from Kansas to Connecticut to find Bill. The intentions of the visitors are unclear and Bill is nervous and fearful.

Harry stops by for a visit. He’s an overbearing redneck who enjoys the company of the two manly guests as much as he openly despises his daughter’s passive boyfriend.

As the night progresses, Martha learns from Bill the details of the wartime atrocity, which involved the rape and murder of a Vietnamese girl, and she angrily confronts Sarge. While she abhors him, she is also strangely attracted to his aggressive demeanor. Bill breaks things up and attacks Sarge. A fight ensues and Bill is beaten to a bloody pulp. Martha is also attacked. The visitors leave, satisfied that they have meted out justice. After Bill regains consciousness, he asks Martha if she’s all right. She just stares back at him with silent contempt.

The moral of the story: It was bad enough to see the violence of Vietnam on the television screen, but it was something altogether different when it crossed over your threshold.

Commentary

Kazan stated in an interview that “The Visitors” was an “anti-war picture,” and that it was about “the price of the Vietnam War on the soul of the American people.”  While the production quality is unsurprisingly low given the budget constraints, the rising tension between the characters is palpable. Railsback’s character is especially convincing as a coiled cobra patiently waiting to strike its victim. The script was loosely based on a portion of Daniel Lang’s book, “Casualties of War” (1969), which also inspired Brian De Palma’s same-titled 1989 film.

Like the Bill character, Kazan had also testified against his friends at the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in 1952 when he named the names of former associates of the American Communist Party. While I haven’t read of Kazan having ever been physically attacked because of his testimony, he was widely ostracized by liberals on both coasts until his death in 2003.

The shoestring-budget movie was filmed at Kazan’s home and property at 10 Old Mill Road in Sandy Hook, Newtown, Connecticut (yes, THAT Sandy Hook where 20 elementary school children and 7 adults were massacred by a disturbed young man in 2012). It’s unique among all of Kazan’s films because of its basic, no-frills production quality. “The Visitors” had an extremely limited release. Of all of Kazan’s nineteen films, “The Visitors” is the only one not on DVD, but it is available as a VHS tape and through Amazon streaming.

Additional thoughts from a believer

The United States’ protracted involvement in the Vietnam War wore down the resolve of the American people. By the time Kazan made “The Visitors” in 1972, the nation had had enough. In 1973, America ceased military operations in Vietnam. South Vietnam eventually fell to the North Vietnamese-led forces in 1975.

The First World War was proclaimed to be “the war that would end all wars.” International organizations such as the League of Nations and the United Nations were established to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts. But conflicts and wars continue. As the Bible says, the hearts of men are desperately wicked. Individuals have a difficult time maintaining harmonious relationships let alone nations. The only lasting peace comes through a relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.

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Above: A Google Maps street level view of 10 Mill Road, Sandy Hook, Connecticut as it appears today

Lower the landing gear. Next month we’ll re-review Kazan’s final film, “The Last Tycoon.”

Truth from Arkansas! Sunday Sermon Series, #94

It’s Two-fer-Tuesday, my friends, which used to mean two new sermons from the brethren down in Arkansas. However, uploads of Sunday sermons from Pastor Cody Andrews of Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Star City have become sporadic and I suspected brother Wally was navigating an irregular work schedule in his new career as a nurse. Wally did send me a comment the other day confirming that he’s working every other weekend.

This week, we do have Pastor Roger Copeland of Northern Hills Baptist Church in Texarkana, preaching from James 1:5-8 on “What Is Wisdom and How Can I Have It?” This sermon was delivered on Sunday, July 11th.

Pastor Roger Copeland – What Is Wisdom and How Can I Have It? (sermon begins at 11:20 mark)

The Twilight Zone: The hazy divide between reality and the supernatural?

Stories from the Twilight Zone
By Rod Serling
Bantam Pathfinder, 1970 (22nd printing), 151 pp.

3 Stars

The Twilight Zone was a successful television series, which ran five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964. Rod Serling (many mistakenly thought his name was “Sterling”) served as executive producer and head writer. The stories always involved some type of bizarre supernatural circumstance that put the characters in a tense quandary. I remember watching the show as a young child and being creeped out and fascinated at the same time. Sixty-years later, Twilight Zone reruns still play on cable television and via streaming.

I bought and read this book as a thirteen-year-old and recently purchased a slightly dog-eared used copy from an Amazon third-party used bookseller as a lark. It presents five Twilight Zone episodes from the early years of the show in short-story format:

  • The Mighty Casey – A robot pitcher turns the cellar-dwelling Brooklyn Dodgers into a contender.
  • Escape Clause – Hypochondriac, Walter Bedeker, makes a deal with the devil to gain near-immortality, but immediately regrets it.
  • Walking Distance – A stressed-out, Madison Avenue advertising executive travels back in time to his idyllic childhood hometown, but gradually realizes you can’t go home again.
  • The Fever – A male version of the “uptight church lady” catches gambling fever in Las Vegas and becomes completely unhinged.
  • Where Is Everybody? – An Air Force sergeant is part of an isolation experiment and nearly loses his mind, or were his “imagined” experiences real?
  • The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street – Neighbors suspect an alien invasion and gradually succumb to paranoia, turning against each other.

Science fiction was at its peak in the early-1960s. People were trying to make sense of life in a culture where technology was rapidly advancing. It was all part of an empty search for “spiritual meaning” outside of God’s Word and Jesus Christ. People are still fascinated with the “paranormal” and “supernatural,” but scoff at true spirituality in Christ. The search for genuine spirituality begins with trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. The closer a Christian walks with the Lord, the more the spiritual/eternal overtakes the natural/temporal.

The Twilight Zone joins my small collection of books that sat on my bookshelf when I was a kid in 1970: CIA – The Inside Story, Bump and Run (San Diego Chargers football), The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (fiction), Arundel and Rabble in Arms (both Am Rev historical fiction), Uncle Tom’s Cabin (my grandfather’s copy), First NFL-AFL Illustrated Digest, We Came of Age (AFL football), and The Other League (AFL football).

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 7/24/21

The headline pictured above is HUGE and disconcerting news for conservative and traditionalist Catholics. Pope Francis’ decision to restrict and eventually eliminate the Latin mass deserves a separate post all by itself. The Second Vatican Council (1961-1965) was an effort by the Roman Catholic church to modernize itself. One of the most significant changes wrought by the council was replacing the incomprehensible Latin mass liturgy with the Novus Ordo (“New Order”) mass in the vernacular. Conservative and traditionalist Catholics strongly resented Vatican II’s modernizations and defiantly clung to the Latin mass as a symbol of pre-conciliar militant Catholicism. Conservative pope Benedict XVI officially accommodated the Latin mass in a 2007 encyclical. However, on Friday, July 16th, pope Francis reversed Benedict’s accommodation and declared that priests could only say the “extraordinary form” Latin mass with the permission of their bishop, with the goal of eventually eliminating the Latin rite altogether. Conservative and traditionalist Catholics were already resentful of Francis because of his progressive reforms, but this “attack” upon their beloved Latin mass has elicited oaths of outrage and defiance. On his part, Francis recognized the Latin rite was a bastion for his conservative and traditionalist opponents that was being used to rally and indoctrinate others.

The mass is a boring, liturgical ceremony when said in English. Imagine compounding the boredom by sitting through an incomprehensible Latin liturgy for one hour. But traditionalist Catholics are thrilled by the “grandeur” and “mystery” of the Latin rite. Whether said in Latin or the vernacular, the mass is an anti-Biblical ceremony purporting to transform Jesus Christ into bread wafers and wine and to re-sacrifice him for the sins of the congregants. The genuine Gospel is nowhere in sight at either Latin or Novus Ordo masses. I will be reporting on the conservative/traditionalist reaction to Francis’ ruling in the weeks ahead. We are living in unusual times when the most “pious,” doctrinaire Catholics view their pope as a scoundrel at best and a heretic at worst.

Interesting phenomenon. Liberal mainline “Protestantism” is seeing a slight resurgence 1) as a reaction to evangelicalism’s almost-wholesale endorsement of Donald Trump and 2) because of its wholesale embracement of the increasingly acceptable LGBT agenda. The genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone is not preached in mainline “Protestant” churches.

As a former viewer of “19 Kids and Counting,” I’m still interested in the Duggar clan. Anna Duggar has had to deal with incredibly difficult circumstances in her life while I whine about piddly stuff.

I’ve been reporting on the persecution of evangelicals by Catholics in Southern Mexico since I started this blog six years ago. When will it stop?

Catholic sociologist, Richard Sipe, estimated that 30-40 percent of Catholic priests are homosexual. Catholic seminaries were/are both magnets and incubators of deviancy.

James R. White dissects “Mere Christianity” ecumenical gobbledygook

In the 24-minute video below, evangelical apologist, James R. White examines the spiritually deadly errors of Roman Catholicism and picks apart the foggy-bottom “Mere Christianity” ecumenical paradigm that permeates evangelicalism and is peddled in this video by Norman Geisler disciple, Frank Turek.

This is excellent, folks. In this era of rampant ecumenical compromise, few apologists are willing to step out and “tell it like it is” regarding Roman Catholicism. God bless James R. White!

Throwback Thursday: Life’s Most Important Question?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 10, 2016 and has been revised.

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If you asked a crowd of people what was Life’s Most Important Question, you’d get many answers, but with the absolute certainty of death ahead of them and their standing with God uncertain, some people would answer that Life’s Most Important Question is:

“What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)

The Roman Catholic church claims to have the answer to that question. It says for a person to be saved they must do the following:

  • Attend RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) classes for a year.
  • Get baptized.
  • Attend mass every Sunday and every holy day of obligation.
  • Receive the eucharist at least once a year.
  • Obey the Ten Commandments (impossible).
  • Confess all “mortal” sins to a priest – participate in the sacrament of reconciliation at least once a year.
  • Use sacramentals liberally and frequently ask Mary and the saints for their help.
  • Receive the sacrament of last rites before you die.

If you do all of the above, according to the Catholic church, you may PERHAPS merit Heaven, provided you don’t have ANY mortal sin on your soul at the moment of your death.

In contrast to Roman Catholicism’s long religious legal laundry list, God’s Word gives us the simple answer to the question in Acts 16:30 in the very next verse:

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31).

“Believe” is translated from the Greek word, pisteuo, which means “to put one’s faith in, to trust, with the implication that actions based on that trust will follow.”

Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. That is the ONLY way to be saved.

Answering another Catholic apologist

The name of this blog is “excatholic4christ.” Yes, I was a Roman Catholic for 27 years, but I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone in 1983 and came out of the Catholic church with its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. Isn’t it okay to “worship” God as a Catholic or whatever way strikes your fancy as long as you’re “sincere”? Nope. Although pluralism, tolerance, and relativism are the world’s current standards, the Bible is God’s standard and it contradicts most Catholic doctrines, including how a person is saved.

I started this blog in 2015 with the aim of Gospel outreach to Roman Catholics and warning evangelicals of ecumenism with Rome. Over the last six years, I’ve addressed many of Rome’s anti-Biblical doctrines. A couple of times, I selected a particular book by a Catholic apologist and systematically answered their claims from a Biblical perspective via a lengthy series.

The first series addressed “The Catholic Verses: 95 Bible Passages That Confound Protestants” (2004) by Catholic apologist, Dave Armstrong. That series ran from August 2018 to April 2019 with 34 weekly installments (see the complete index here). Bottom line: We weren’t confounded.

The next series addressed “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019) by Catholic apologist, Karl Broussard. That series ran from December 2019 to November 2020 with 50 weekly installments (see the complete index here).

These apologetics series require a lot of prayerful work and research and I wasn’t in a hurry to begin another one, especially after returning to work in January and commencing to assist one of my sisters around the same time. Those situations have calmed down a bit, so the Lord has put it in my heart to start another series addressing a Catholic apologist. Catholics need this information and so do evangelicals who are increasingly hearing pro-ecumenical messages from their pastors.

I was strolling through Amazon a few months ago and stumbled across “Forty Reasons I Am A Catholic” (2018) by Peter Kreeft. Kreeft is a Catholic philosopher and apologist. He is particularly notable for me because the ecumenically-minded young pastor of the Southern Baptist Convention church we attended for one year (2014-2015) praised Kreeft from the pulpit as his favorite philosopher. This book looks like a good vehicle for another apologetics series. It’s only 132 pages long and, obviously, from the title, is divided into forty chapters, meaning the chapters average only 3.3 pages in length. At quick glance, the book appears to be addressed to a non-academic, general audience. Kreeft evidently believes he has forty good reasons for why he is a Catholic, while I know I have forty (and many more) very good reasons for why I am no longer a Roman Catholic. Who is right?

Please pull out your Bibles and join me on Friday, July 30th as we begin a forty-week series examining and answering “Forty Reasons I Am A Catholic.”

Truth from Arkansas! Sunday Sermon Series, #93

It’s Two-fer-Tuesday, my friends, which means two new sermons from the brethren down in Arkansas. Yes, we actually do have TWO sermons today! Brother Wally’s uploads from Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church have become infrequent undoubtedly due to his new work schedule.

First, we have Pastor Roger Copeland of Northern Hills Baptist Church in Texarkana preaching from Psalm 85:6 on “Is Revival Possible In Our Day.”

Next, we have Pastor Cody Andrews of Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Star City, preaching from Luke 9:28-36 on “Who? Why? What?”

Both of these sermons were delivered on Sunday, July 4th.

Pastor Roger Copeland – Is Revival Possible In Our Day?

Pastor Cody Andrews – Who? Why” What?

When Some in the Church Came Down on the Wrong Side of History…and the Gospel

Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930
By Kelly J. Baker
University Press of Kansas, 2011, 326 pp.

4 Stars

When most people think of the Ku Klux Klan, they think of the original, Reconstruction-era (1865-1871) Klan and its unabashed aim to stymie the advancement of Blacks in the postbellum South via intimidation and violence. The reconstituted KKK was founded on Stone Mountain, Georgia in 1915. While Blacks were still a concern to the re-born KKK, the heavy influx of “ethnically-inferior” Catholics and Jews from Eastern and Alpine Europe was also perceived as a serious threat to White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant-American society. The 1920s Klan would largely use political means to oppose their perceived foes rather than violence.

In this book, Professor Baker examines the philosophy of the 1920s Klan through articles from its own publications. She focuses especially on the KKK’s image of itself as the defenders of the Protestant “gospel” against the onslaught of immigrant Catholic papists loyal to the Vatican and against the cosmopolitan Jew with their Christ-denying religion. But Baker unsurprisingly does not define the gospel other than a nebulous belief in Jesus Christ. According to her understanding, the Protestant and Catholic gospels were/are similar excepting Catholics’ fealty to the pope. She transfers her misunderstanding of the opposing gospels to the Klan, claiming they had no problems with Catholic doctrine except for loyalty to the papacy. That clearly was NOT the case. Some/many in the Klan were genuine Christians and were well aware of the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone in contrast to Catholicism’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.

While many Protestants of the era objected to the Klan’s postbellum legacy of violence, they strongly sympathized with the new Klan and its anti-immigrant message. Many White Protestants of the era shared the Klan’s belief in Anglo-Saxon ethnic/racial superiority and were anxious regarding the future of their daughters in a nation that was becoming a “melting pot,” with the increasing threat of “miscegenation,” the interbreeding of people of different racial (and ethnic) types.

The KKK was surprisingly popular in 1920s America and attracted a large number of members and sympathizers in the mid-Atlantic and mid-Western states in addition to the South (see chart). Many conservative-evangelical churches of the 1920s came down on the wrong side of history regarding the resurgent 1920s Ku Klux Klan. The chaplain of each chapter usually doubled as the pastor of a local, Protestant church. When did the appeal of the Klan start to wane? The scandalous news of the rape and murder of a young, single woman by David Curtiss “Steve” Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of the Indiana Klan, in 1925 precipitated the public’s loss of confidence in the organization.

Like many historians, Baker scoffs at 1920s-era Protestants’ suspicions of American Catholics’ dual loyalties, but makes no mention of papal condemnations of democratic forms of government and freedom of religion as late as pope Leo XIII’s Testem benevolentiae nostrae encyclical, written in 1890, which condemned “Americanism.” Baker feigns a lack of scholarly expertise regarding current events, but then proceeds to draw many comparisons between the Christian nationalism of the 1920s Klan and the Christian nationalism of the Tea Party (and by extension, Trump’s MAGA-ism). There certainly are parallels, but equating the Tea Party/MAGA-ism to the Klan is as slanderously inaccurate as saying all Democrats are Marxists.

Personal note: After I was saved out of Roman Catholicism and trusted in Jesus Christ as my Savior in 1983, I began collecting reference materials about the Catholic church. One of the books I purchased was “House of Death and Gate of Hell” (originally published in 1918) about the horrors of Catholic convents written by evangelist and ex-Catholic, L.J. King. To my surprise, included in the text were several positive references to the Ku Klux Klan. I was also surprised when I learned the Klan wasn’t restricted to the South as I had previously thought. In my studies of Rochester history, I learned that the local chapter of the KKK burnt crosses near the newly-constructed Monroe Community Hospital in the early 1930s because the edifice was partially designed by the area’s first Black architect, Thomas W. Boyde Jr. Boyde would later design my wife’s maternal grandparents’ cottage at Henderson Harbor on Lake Ontario in 1954. The Rochester Klan held its rallies at a large field in East Rochester. The field, only a half-mile from our home, is now part of the East Rochester Public School Campus.


Negro and White: Desegregation – Right or Wrong? How Much? How Soon? Principles and Problems in the Light of God’s Word
By John R. Rice, D.D., Litt. D.
Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1956, 22 pp.

1 Star

What a coincidence that this pamphlet was next in line in my reading queue following “Gospel According to the Klan.” As the publisher of The Sword of the Lord newspaper from 1934 to 1980, John R. Rice was one of the main leaders of the independent fundamental Baptist movement in this country. In this pamphlet published in 1956, Rice upbraids the Federal government for mandating the desegregation of public schools in the South. Rice concedes that the Jim Crow laws were problematic, but argues that it was up to each state to work out its own racial policies. He argues that Black folks were not yet ready to assume the rights and responsibilities that communist and socialist “agitators” were demanding. Rice also expresses his anxieties regarding the threat to the purity of White womanhood and the racial miscegenation that would inevitably follow radical desegregation, especially given what he posits as the voracious and unbridled sexual appetite of the Black man. Rice’s preacher father was a member of the violent, Reconstructionist-era KKK, a fact you won’t find in his authorized biography. The Sword of the Lord still publishes many of Rice’s pamphlets, but not this one. It’s an embarrassment. John R. Rice and the independent fundamental Baptist movement came down on the wrong side of history…and the Gospel…in regards to race and segregation. Rice asserts in the title of this pamphlet that his pro-segregationist views would be presented “in the Light of God’s Word,” but he actually presents no Scripture passages to support his racist views. This pamphlet is a good example of what happens when Christians become subservient to the surrounding culture rather than being obedient to Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

Postscript: Note the lofty (honorary) academic credentials appended to Rice’s name, a very common practice of pastors in the IFB. Rice’s honorary academic credentials weren’t much help in the writing of this racist diatribe.

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 7/17/21

Retired Catholic archbishop of Newark, N.J., John Myers, caught some heat over his 8000 sq. ft. estate featuring indoor and outdoor pools (photo above). The extravagant opulence that was the standard for Catholic prelates in the past is increasingly less tolerated by the rank and file. See my post here about former-Catholic bishop, James Kearney, who resided on “millionaires’ row” here in Rochester.

As the writer of this article points out, rhe U.S. Catholic Bishops’ efforts to deny the Jesus wafer to abortion-supporting politicians like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi will definitely alienate many casual Catholics.

This article exemplifies how conservative Catholic media commentators advise their like-minded audience to ignore pope Francis and his progressive reforms. This calls into question the RCC’s claim that the pope is infallible when it comes to his pontifications on all serious matters affecting “faith and morals,” even though Catholic theologians can only agree on the infallibility of three papal declarations throughout history – the immaculate conception (1854), papal infallibility (1870), and the assumption of Mary (1950). What is the worth of having an allegedly infallible guide when the prerogative of infallibility is never used? It’s all bogus.

I’d like to read this new book, “The Truth at the Heart of the Lie: How the Catholic Church Lost Its Soul — A Memoir of Faith,” from a liberal Catholic. Progressive Catholics think Francis isn’t making changes fast enough while conservatives rue the day he was elected pope!

Francis is softening up the RCC to eventually ordain women as deacons, but it will be decades before Rome accedes to ordaining women as priests. By the way, priestly sacrifice was done way with by Jesus Christ and His once-for-all-time sacrifice on the cross.

The NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) is taking Christian Nationalism to the next level.

I’m not a fan of statues of Jesus Christ. I believe they violate the second commandment. Notorious anti-Semite, Gerald L. K. Smith, erected this monstrosity in 1966.

English soccer fans get downright nasty with their anti-Catholicism (and racism). These folks are “Protestant” in name only.

The number of Rochester homicides in 2021 that’s cited in this article isn’t accurate. There have actually been 40 homicides here in Rochester since January 1st. Rochester is one of the poorest cities per capita in the country due to the decline and exodus of several manufacturing companies (e.g. Kodak, Xerox, etc.). 2020 U.S. Census data ranks Rochester as the third poorest city in the country behind only Detroit and Cleveland.