Ingrid Bergman plays Karla Zachanassian, a beautiful, wealthy woman living in a decaying European hamlet, who has an affair with a local businessman, Serge Miller (Anthony Quinn). When she becomes pregnant, he denies his paternity and she flees town in shame. Years later, she returns with an almost Hitchcockian proposition to the townspeople. She’ll lavish them with millions if her ex-asshole is hanged in a show trial.
Released in 1964, “The Visit” was adapted from a popular Broadway play, but the theme of the corruption of money in society is toned down somewhat for the big screen, and it loses its Shakespearean knockout punch. The film’s director, Bernhard Wicki, explained the change in telling Tinseltown terms: “You can’t end a movie with death as easily as you can with a play.”
The idea then becomes that Bergman’s avenger Karla has lived her life as a Count of Monte Cristo-esque seeking revenge, and yet, in her moment of satisfaction – plot twist! All along, she planned to shame the townspeople for agreeing to her twisted bargain, and most deliciously, her former lover was to live out her days knowing that her friends were out to murder her for money. This ending might be darker than death and dumber too, but Bergman is extremely sinister in this black-and-white film. She would have made a good Cruella Deville or Maleficent if she had lived until Hollywood became Disneyland.