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Click above to purchase "Incubus" at amazon.com

 

Incubus

review by Anthony D.

 

Studio: Fox Lorber Films

Running Time: 76 minutes

Starring William Shatner, Allyson Ames, Robert Fortier, Ann Atmar, Eloise Hardt, Milo Milos

Written and Directed by Leslie Stevens

Retail Price: $24.98

Features: Filmograhpies, Video Release Trailer, Interview with Producer and Photographers, Audio Commentaries with Star William Shatner and Producer Anthony Taylor, Photographers Conrad Hall and William Fraker, The Curse of Incubus, Web Exclusive

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, Dolby Digital Mono Esparanto, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Chapter Search

Kia is a beautiful blond demon who has tired of snatching the souls of ugly, poor sinners for her master in the inferno. Though warned by her older sister, Kia sets out to capture the soul of a "pure" soul because there are no heros or martyrs in Hell. Kia sets her sights on a returning war hero, so good and pure that he maintains a cabin with his sister. As quickly as a solar eclipse creeps onto the scene, Marc falls head over heels for this woman's captivating ways, and offers to guard her on her journey back home. Kia promises Marc that they will lie together naked on the dunes, to which Marc retorts that without giving his soul in love, the lust he feels would mean nothing. Kia doesn't like this turn of events and passes out. Marc carries her into a nearby mission church, where she comes to, scratching and clawing her way out of Marc's arms. Now tainted with the ravages of purity, Kia and her sister unleash the greatest demon on the unsuspecting world: the Incubus. When the Incubus rapes Marc's sister, Marc it is up to Marc to either give in to the dark forces through vengeful murder, or to seek comfort from his despair through the pure act of forgiveness. With Kia standing lustily beside him, his choice will be difficult and life-altering.

Filmed amidst the stark beaches and forests of Big Sur, California, INCUBUS is a stylish metaphysical thriller with shades of Hitchcock, Bergman and Roger Corman. Stylishly filmed in stark black and white, this 1965 thriller was once considered to be lost. Fortunately, valiant producer Tony Taylor was able to track down one single print - in Paris, of all places, where it was playing to packed midnight movie audiences - and from that print create a new print for "Incubus'" video release.

As expected for a film of this age and history, the full-frame black and white presentation of "Incubus" is not without its share of problems. The starkness of the photography by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Conrad Hall ("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "American Beauty") is a major contributor to the film's evocative tone, and while there are many artifacts present (hair, splice marks, dirt) they rarely detract from the film. There are times when the film seems to have been reproduced at a lower contrast level than necessary, but these instances are few. In its own special way, "Incubus," is a beautifully photographed essay in suspense: shadows are deep, and whites are absolute. Practically every frame of "Incubus" is composed in a painterly style to which the chiaroscurro is appropriated to the best advantage. With only the flaws previously mentioned, "Incubus" has a very fine print with grain only evident in the day for night processed shots. Not an earth-shattering transfer, though kudos must go to The Sci-Fi Channel for funding the restoration of "Incubus," and to Fox Lorber for making it available to a new generation of viewers.

Yes, it's true: "Incubus" is the only film ever released in the language of Esperanto. This language was first presented as a universal secondary language by Polish oculist Ludwig L. Zamenhof in 1887. Not the first "planned language," but it remains the most prevalent, as followers of Elvis Costello can testify. (The liner notes for his album Blood and Chocolate were written in Esperanto). The language sounds very Teutonic, and is ably presented on the film's mono soundtrack. Somehow, the language doesn't come off as a trick; the other-worldly beings populating this tale - - right down to Shatner - - seem perfectly at ease with the language, their Esperanto places them in no particular time or place. Dominic Fronitere's musical score is highly effective in creating a suspenseful tone to the demonic goings on.

Following a hysterically funny (intentionally) trailer: "...even before STAR TREK..there was INCUBUS! ...LOOK ON with Bewilderment as William Shatner speaks in Tongues!" I chose the audio commentary tracks to listen to Shatner speak in English about his role in the film. Speaking sporadically, though intelligently, Shatner offers up a memorable stroll down memory lane as he relates the difficulties of Esperanto and working opposite the director's semi-clothed wife. Shatner's tone is often soporific, but he has some interesting tales to tell. Following Shatner, I went to the much better Audio Commentary supplied by producer Anthony Taylor, Cinematographers Conrad Hall and William Fraker, as moderated by "Outer Limits" historian, David J. Schow. With rarely a silent moments, these four present an entertaining and informative scene-specific commentary, touching upon topics not brought up in the 23 minute "Interview with..." special feature. The interview takes place in a theatre, where the four are about to watch the film, and to me one of the scariest things on the disc is the gaunt, near-skeletal appearance of Anthony Taylor! Taylor is quite thin, and looks enough like the villainous Count Orlock of Murnau's "Nosferatu" to make one sit up and take notice. A couple of text files are up next: "About this DVD" is a one-pager tracing the history and restoration of "Incubus;" "The Curse of Incubus" textually relates those considered to be touched by ill fates, possibly owing to their association with the film. Three pages of information spotlight director Leslie Stevens, who went bankrupt and divorced not long after the film's release, co-star Eloise Hardt who suffered through her daughter's kidnapping, co-star Ann Atmar who committed suicide and the Incubus himself, Milo Milos who engaged in a murder/suicide with Mickey Rooney's estranged wife. A weblink also appears.

All in all, this is quite a good package, considering that the film itself fizzles out toward the end. A highly stylized horror film, "Incubus," is one that will weave a spell on the intrepid viewer. Fans of Ingmar Bergman's "The Virgin Spring" should find that viewing both films together to be a rewarding experience, though "Incubus" does have a fair share of similarity to "The Seventh Seal" as well. Certainly for me, I found "Incucbus" to be a deft little thriller with a haunting quality, lovingly packaged with care from its creators that will be remembered long after William Shatner is no longer a household name.

(4/5 - NOT included in final score)

(3/5)

(2.5/5)

(3.5/5)

(3.5/5, NOT an average)

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