(director/writer: Leslie Stevens; cinematographer: Conrad Hall; editor: Richard Brockway; cast: William Shatner (Marc), Milos Milos (“The Incubus”), Eloise Hardt (Amael), Robert Fortier (Olin), Allyson Ames (Kia), Ann Atman (Arndis), Paolo Cossa (Narrator); Runtime: 78; Winstar; 1965)
“This bizarre supernatural art-horror film is the first feature with all dialogue recorded in Esperanto (an artificial international language created in the 1800s so everyone in the world could speak in the same tongue).”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This bizarre supernatural art-horror film is the first feature with all dialogue recorded in Esperanto (an artificial international language created in the 1800s so everyone in the world could speak in the same tongue). There are English subtitles that come with this lost film (Incubus has been missing for the past thirty years) reconstructed from a single print found at Cinematheque Francaise in Paris. Producer Anthony Taylor recently recorded it on video for the first time. It’s a gorgeously photographed b/w film by cinematographer Conrad Hall; a spooky tale about murderous sea creatures. It’s filled with hokum, as it tells about the battle for souls between the God of Light and the God of Darkness. Guess who wins?
This film also comes with the mystique of a “curse” that supposedly befell members of the cast and crew, several of whom were murdered, kidnapped, or committed suicide after its completion. In 1966 Milos Milos, an actor from Belgrade, murdered his girlfriend, Mickey Rooney’s fifth wife, Barbara Ann Thompson Rooney, and then shot himself. Ann Atmar, a sometime nude girlie-magazine model, committed suicide a few weeks after the film was finished. A few years after the film was released the daughter of Eloise Hardt was kidnapped from her Los Angeles driveway and murdered.
The film is set during a lunar eclipse in the mythical land of Nomen Tuum (translation-an Unknown Time), where there is a Deer Well with strange healing powers. But it is also a dark place where succubi lure corrupted souls into hell. The attractive Kia (Allyson Ames) is one such succubus, who easily lures impure souls to the sea where she steps on their head and they drown. She tells her leader that she wants more challenging prey and finds Marc (pre-Trek William Shatner), who plays the very moral visitor to the Deer Well to heal his physical injuries. He is living there in a cottage with his beloved virginal sister Arndis (Ann Atman). Kia woos him and leads him away with her but the head demon, Amael (Hardt), tells Kia to be careful with him, he won’t be easy, his soul is good and he will try to conquer you with love.
When Kia lures him away, Marc takes her to the cathedral’s altar and she runs away in fear of his goodness. But Marc’s sister is taken by the Incubus (Milos Milos), who is disguised as a young peasant. He was summoned by Amael to rise from the underground of the dead, and Arndis is brought to Satan’s Bridal Chamber by him. Here the Incubus deflowers Kia and returns her to Marc, in the hope that Marc will forget his Christian beliefs and seek bloody revenge. The catch is that Kia can’t go through with the ruin of Marc and succumbs to his love, something she will have to pay the price for as the Incubus goes after her. When she spots the Incubus by the cathedral, she makes the sign of the cross in defense; but, the Incubus turns into a screaming black goat and attempts to ravish her.
“Incubus” was directed by “The Outer Limits” creator Leslie Stevens, who filmed it on Big Sur, California. This thin story has merit, as it casts a spellbinding effect over its eerie doings and strange surroundings. If its strangeness you are seeking, or a cultish horror film from the 1960s that is an oddity, or if you are a fan of horror films, then this is the film for you. Others might not be so taken with the strange events taking place, events that seem more nutty than real; and, they might not be taken by Shatner’s stiff performance. I found this B film engaging in an Ingmar Bergman way, but without the Swedish director’s ability to tell a better story. But, the film deserves an audience beyond its cultish fans.
REVIEWED ON 5/30/2001 GRADE: C+