Friday, June 5, 2015

Incubus Review

I recently heard about a constructed language called "Esperanto." While researching this topic online, I found out that there was a movie written entirely in this language made back in the 1960's called Incubus (1966). Furthermore, this movie starred William Shatner a year before his donned his iconic role as Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek series. This simply sounded too good to pass up. As it turned out, parts of it actually are not bad. It's got some pretty creepy visuals in spite of its low budget.
As an injured soldier, Marc (William Shatner) has recently settled in the mysterious seaside community called Nomen Tuum, seeking out the healing springs there. But evil lurks in the idyllic countryside. Kia (Allyson Ames) is a succubus, luring to their final perdition men who already have sinful habits and libertine inclinations. She tires of this, it's too easy, and these souls are destined to Hell anyway. She wants to match wits and charm with someone who is good. So, against the advice of her sister Amael (Eloise Hardt), Kia seeks out Marc, a man who has already faced death with courage. After a night together, Kia finds that not only is Marc's goodness still intact, but that love has corrupted her as an agent of darkness. In anger, Kia and Amael conjure a demonic incubus (Milos Milos) to deal with Marc. Kia still cares for Marc, but she may not be able to break her bond with the dark side.
This sounds really dark. And, indeed, it is considerably dark for its day. This wasn't a campy run-of-the-mill B horror flick with ridiculous monsters which was so prevalent in the day. It's riddled with dark themes and religious imagery. However, it is still in the heydays of The Hays Code. This was a squeaky clean set of moral guidelines to which movie and TV studios had to adhere. It was thanks to The Hays Code that married couples in television shows back in the day were so frequently depicted as sleeping in separate twin beds. The only sexual anything insinuated is when Kia suggests doing a normative activity "naked" though no nudity or sexual activity is otherwise shown or hinted at. There's plenty of talk of demons and such, but it dances around terms they couldn't actually say at the time. "The Dark One" was said rather than "Satan" or an equivalent name. I believe they said "Hell" once, but that was about the worst of it. Any implied killing is handled with the incubus closing in on the camera before a fade to black. It's considered a horror movie, but it's less scary as it is atmospherically creepy. It may adhere to squeaky clean The Hays Code, but it remains thematically dark.
Esperanto is a constructed language. It was created by Dr. L. L. Zamenhof in 1887 as a planned auxiliary universal language to foster understanding among the world's people, and was designed specifically to be easy to learn as a second language. Esperanto is popular, especially on the internet, though it has not as yet achieved its goal. But it is the youngest living language in the world, merely a "baby" in linguistic terms. A test audience of Esperanto enthusiasts watch the movie and apparently laughed their heads off at the actors' poor pronunciation of the language. To me, the language sounds kind of like German with a little Italian. It sounded to me as if the whole cast was trying to sound Italian. Shatner was different; he grew up in Montreal, Canada and probably because of this, he keeps saying certain words with French pronunciations. The international language of Esperanto was used because of perceived greater international sales. Unfortunately, not enough people speak Esperanto to garner adequate interest in the movie. Americans don't like having to read subtitles, even though Incubus was an American film, filmed in California, and featured a predominantly American cast. The film's producers were unable to find any distribution for the film except in France, where it premiered in November, 1966.
Incubus was written and directed by Leslie Stevens, creator of the classic TV series, The Outer Limits. After the show was canceled, Stevens wrote a horror script to make use of the talents of The Outer Limits team he had brought together, intending to market it to art houses. Wanting a device to make the film unique, Stevens chose Esperanto as the film's language. The script was translated into Esperanto and the actors rehearsed for ten days to learn their lines phonetically, but evidently no one was present on the set to correct their pronunciation during shooting. The cinematography work is pretty impressive. There are some shots that make beautiful use of light, and there are a good number of scenes that utilize some low budget effects with outstanding results. For example, in one scene when Kia and Amael converse with "The Dark One" it is depicted as a huge backlit bat creature. We only see a moving silhouette being projected toward the camera through a cloud of mist. It's a cheap effect, but the result is remarkably eerie!
Incubus is an old horror movie starring William Shatner.  This movie is unique because it is filmed in a made-up language. If that's not enough, this film is not for you. It's got an above average crew and a decent cast, Shatner's acting notwithstanding. The camera work is excellent in some parts, and a little awkward in other parts. It's pretty dark, but that shouldn't be too big an issue since it still adheres to The Hays Code. The movie was lost for a number of years and was released on home video in 2001. The novelty of a movie in Esperanto is enough of a reason to see it if you can. It's not a great movie, but it is highly interesting. I recommend seeing it if you enjoy obscure movies, but I don't quite think it's worth the price to own.

Esperanto is an fascinating subject and I recommend learning more about it on Wikipedia:

You can watch Incubus online for free on YouTube:
I doubt it's posted legally, so it may not be there for long. That's how I found it.

What are some other obscure, lost to the ages movie titles that are worth looking up? Comment below and let me know!


  1. I suspect that Esp[eranto itself will be of as much interest to readers of this post as the film itself. I see Esperanto as a remarkable success story by far the most successful auxiliary language. It has survived wars and revolutions and economic crises and continues to attract people to learn and speak it. Esperanto works. I’ve used it in about seventeen countries over recent years. I recommend it to anyone, as a way of making friendly local contacts in other countries.

    Not many people know that Esperanto has native speakers too. See: It was never planned that way, but it happened, and I have met about a dozen native speakers over the years.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Bill!
      As I said, I've only recently discovered Esperanto myself and have since then started studying it. I can hardly call myself conversational yet, but I'm learning.