Loving with a demonic force…
William Shatner woos in Esperanto in this spooky love story.
Incubus Trailer, daak and photos © Contempo III Productions
As a Scottish ex-pat living in Finland, my first thought when entering Cat’s Non-English blogathon had been to watch and review a Finnish speaking film. As naturally, we’ve more than a few Finnish speaking films in our DVD cupboard. They’ve been on my to-watch list since I bought them to practice my Finnish…er more than a wee while ago. As I’ve been distracted by that streaming TV service and all that comes with it.
So at one point, I’d even settled on reviewing the film about the Flying Finn, Matti Nykänen, Matti: Hell is for Heroes (2006). This of interest as I wrote a post with Nykänen – a Finnish ski jumper – as a character in the true biopic, Eddie the Eagle (2016). This biopic, one I reviewed with the very lovely Hugh Jackman. But it was not to be…
When talking with Darlin’ Husband on movies (as we do), he suggested seeking out and reviewing Incubus (1966). This is a horror romance film where William Shatner shows his skills in Esperanto. So with this unusual recommendation, I found a perfect film for this blogathon.
Yup, Darlin’ Husband’s that good at knowing one I’ll enjoy. He’s always is encouraging me to review more random, retro and Realweegiemidget friendly films that I’ve not seen before. Through him, I’ve discovered the delights of films including Avalanche (1978), The Cartier Affair (1984) and Mystery Men (1999).
Darlin’ Husband then told me all things about the language Esperanto, from its inception to pop culture references. Eldest stepdude told me about its flag and the history of the language. So for the interested or uninformed… Esperanto was invented by L. L. Zamenhof in the 1800s in a bid to have a universal second language. It was designed to encourage peace and understanding between countries.
The language has quite a lot of wee pop culture references. In the TV Series Red Dwarf (1988) with a character trying to learn this language. Additionally, many of the signs on this sci-fi shows’ space ship were written in Esperanto. The language was also used in films as diverse as the Charlie Chaplin movie The Great Dictator (1940) and Gattaca (1997).
The film Incubus is named after a male demon who makes love to sleeping women by lying on top of them. The story is narrated at the start and tells us of a fictional village named Nomen Tuum. The village has a cathedral and a famous ancient, drinking well. After drinking the well’s waters you can be cured of illness or injury, and it also can give you an outward “beauty”.
The village also is the home to some oft hooded and cloaked demonesses (or succubi). Whose dress often reminded me a bit of that Scottish Widow’s advert some of you might remember from the 1980s. Anyway, the demonesses appear in human form as pretty blondes, who lure and seduce vain, corrupt and evil men to their deaths and ultimately send them to hell.
The film illustrates this as we see pretty succubus Kia (Allyson Ames) looking for her latest prey. On spotting him at the well, she’s kinda flirty with him. Him being Olin (Robert Fortier) who is a vain and conceited man. Kia luring him to the sea with her seductive wiley demon-womanly ways. This by offering him the chance to see her naked. Which he falls for hook, line and sinker.
She goes on ahead obviously used to this walk, the enraptured one follows stumbling as he goes. He even falls, but she’s unconcerned. She simply tells him he can wash the blood off in the sea. The man – even though he has an apparent head injury! – is so consumed with lust, he doesn’t care. At the sea, he falls over again. She kills him by drowning him by holding his head down with her foot. Then she buries him in the sand.
She then meets up with her sister Amael (Eloise Hardt) and Kia appears more than bored with this job. She complains it is her third victim that day and she feels like a challenge by finding a good and righteous dude to corrupt and then kill. Her sister warns her of the power that good men have… and its called love. After some research checking out monks at the local cathedral, Kia finds even “good” men have their evil ways.
Then she spots a young man with a stick and a woman leave the cathedral. Kia follows them stealthily like a leopard through the fields. She even crawls commando-style through the long grass, she’s that determined! We learn he’s Marc (William Shatner), a soldier who thanks to the well is recovering from what appears to be possible post-traumatic stress disorder with dreams about a battle and an injury.
Unlike her previous victim who tasted salt in the water, it’s sweet for him. He seems a lovely caring guy and he’s a war hero. And a pre-Star Trek William Shatner, so what’s not to
like corrupt?? And bonus! The girl he’s with his little sister, Arndis (Ann Atmar). Amael warns her off, he’s too good. But Kia is adamant she wants this challenge…then she’ll be the best succubus ever!
Pretending to be lost, she visits him and Arndis. And Marc (Shatner) shows her his loving, caring nature he invites her to eat with him and his sister. (He really is a wee soul). The trio watches an eclipse, and by the end of the eclipse, he’s smitten. Kia lures him to go to the sea with her.
But he’s not falling for her seductive lines and wants to make things legal. Even rebuffing her offer to see her naked first. He takes her to the cathedral, where the religious relics and paintings and his goodness torment and disturb her… and she runs away.
He’s heartbroken. At night he hears Kia calling him. He goes to her. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to him Arndis has gone blind with the eclipse. So it’s up to the demoness Amael to try to save Kia from the clutches of this good guy.
Amel fears Kia will be corrupted and defiled by his love. She even goes one better by using her demon-womanly appearance to
freak out advise Arndis to call him away from her.. and later she and Kia call on the help of the Incubus (Milos Milos)…
The story behind the film, like the film Starcrash (1978) is an interesting one. Directed and written by Leslie Stevens – then Ames’ husband and the man behind The Outer Limits (1963-65) and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-81). Cinematography comes from Conrad L Hall for the film which was reportedly filmed at Big Sur Beach and the Mission San in Monterey County, California in less than 3 weeks.
Incubus was deliberately filmed in black and white. And with what appears to be very little extra lighting this adds to the ambience. For me, it was reminiscent of the chills I felt watching another horror from this decade, The Innocents (1961). This film was also chosen to be filmed in black and white over a colour film.
The theme and opening credits reminded me of those old Hammer horror movies. The title music was almost at odds with itself, the luring harp (?) music and intermittent church bells. This strikingly like the film where it felt both contrastingly both a love story and horror.
The speaking of Esperanto added to the supernatural nature of the film. Having watched so many films and TV with subtitles, this only seemed strange when William Shatner starts talking. But only as I’m used to him speaking in English. Not knowing the rest of the cast they were easier to accept their lack of English immediately. But after a while I adjusted, Shatner speaking a different language.
It made it easier when I was reminded by my Darlin’ Husband that this is the man who spoke fluent Klingon in a Star Trek movie. This a quite common thing for me as on a work placement here, I once nearly complemented a Finnish speaking teacher in his use of Finnish. This as had been so used to him speaking English in the school day.
I can’t comment personally on Shatner and others – pronunciation as I don’t speak this language. It’s said that Esperanto speakers are reportedly disappointed. However not knowing how things should be said, meant I could accept it as it was and I enjoyed the film as it was. Rather than how it should have been. But I can understand their disillusionment.
As it must feel as frustrating as it felt for my stepdudes who spoke only Finnish when I met them. On one occasion, my Finnish pronunciation led to a few odd moments. One of the best being when I called them for pudding but had said the Finnish for the diseased foot. So I’m impressed the cast learned their lines – albeit as it’s reported phonetically – over a few weeks.
The post Incubus film story also has some sad and tragic moments for many of the cast members including divorce, suicide and murder. This according to Adam Epstein at Quartz were reportedly due to a curse from some Esperantists. This group was said to be upset about spoken Esperanto and not being consulted in the making of the movie.
Also, they were concerned that there was no consultant on set to advise actors. However, this curse was reportedly given by a hippy in IMDB’s Trivia pages. Either way, it adds an interesting dimension to the story. Although despite this “curse” others had highly successful careers such as William Shatner and Conrad L Hall.
Also, all but one copy of the film were lost – again there are conflicting events surrounding this – and its only copy was rediscovered in 1996 in Paris. The film itself has a stipulation from Stevens that the film should never be dubbed, so it has been restored with subtitles. Shame they didn’t do this with Dorian Gray (1970) and other dubbed movies from this time.
But to conclude, this may sound like a guilty pleasure heaven movie and a back story which I’d love to read more of. As to me, both are compelling, eerie, bizarre and to be treasured. In the film, as Marc’s side of the love story unfolds after the eclipse, things take a more horrifying turn.
Marc declared his love for Kia in so many lovely, sweet and romantic ways, I often felt like shouting warnings to him. Or for his on-screen colleague, Dr McCoy from Star Trek, who was often there when Shatner’s James T Kirk fell in love to suddenly appear and tell him “I’m a Doctor, not a demon hunter… but goddamnit
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: /10
This post was added to Thoughts of All Sorts Non-English Blogathon. Other films with this cast include William Shatner in Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country, Star Trek The City on the Edge of Forever and Horror at 37,000 Feet. He also starred in Suspicion, The Twilight Zone, Columbo, One Step Beyond, The Kidnapping of the President and Thriller. Robert Fortier also appeared in a Star Trek episode and an uncredited role as a dancer in Singin’ in the Rain. Eloise Hardt appeared in Dynasty, Hotel, Dallas and Columbo.