Director Leslie Stevens said he filmed his 1966 film Incubus in Esperanto to give it an “otherworldly” feeling. If what he meant by “otherworldly” was stiffly delivered dialogue and bad acting, he succeeded. There were no dialogue coaches or Esperanto speakers on set, so each character in the film had to generate their own way of awkwardly pronouncing a language they probably had never heard. William Shatner, Mr. Suave, sounded like an Italian with a speech impediment.
Incubus is bad, but unlike other bad horror movies from its time, Incubus had aspirations of greatness. From the beginning, you can see that Stevens and his cameraman Conrad Hall were watching a lot of Bergman movies.
A little Seventh Seal here,
a little Persona there…
The filming was derivative, but it was still the best part of Incubus. Hall would go on to work on films like In Cold Blood, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, American Beauty, and Road to Perdition.
In 1966, Stevens had just finished work on the TV series he had created called The Outer Limits. Shatner had not yet begun starring in Star Trek, but all the hallmarks of his acting style were already there. The halting delivery, the randomly placed emphases, the staring into the air with open hands, as if he could see his Emmy floating in front of his eyes.
I was amazed when Shatner fought the villainous incubus at the end. The incubus was played by Milos Milos. I don’t expect you to know who Milos Milos was. I just wanted to mention his name because it’s awesome and to relay that Shatner once said that "when I first met Milos Milos I called him Milos and he told me to call him by his first name". Anyway, Shatner fights the incubus, and in an amazing foreshadowing of his upcoming role as Captain Kirk, his shirt rips open on his right shoulder! This would become a standard event in Star Trek. Every other episode, Kirk would get in a tousle with some ornery alien and the right shoulder of Kirk’s shirt would be ripped, revealing his creamy, muscled man-skin. Usually, this was accompanied by a neat little trickle of blood coming out of the left corner of his mouth.
Yes, I admit it I am a Trekkie. I was raised on the stuff. I even owned a toy tribble. Did you know that in Riverside, Iowa, where Captain Kirk was born, they have been celebrating Kirk’s negative number birthdays for years? He's -210 this year. If your family name is Kirk there is still to move to Iowa.
There are several movies about Incubi. It’s a subject well suited for cinema. An incubus is an evil creature that comes to its victims in the night when they are in their beds. It arouses them, and seduces them into ungodly acts of sexual abandon, leading them inexorably into damnation. That sounds like it could make a pretty good OK Cupid profile.
In Stevens’ Incubus, Shatner plays Marc, the good boy with God in his heart. He is seduced by some lower-order incubus-like demon named Kia. Unfortunately for Kia, Marc’s pure heart and true love seduce her before she can seduce him. She summons the big bad boss incubus and calamity ensues.
It’s meant to be some kind of deep parable about good and evil and the redemptive power of love, but it’s just a romance movie that happens to be in a made-up language. If you want to see an interesting film about an incubus, try the female version depicted in the 1989 film Sukkubus — den Teufel im Leib.
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