Sunday Night Movie: Incubus (1965)

So yesterday my sweetie-wife and I watched a film called Incubus, from 1965.

Now this was a film I had heard about, but one I had never seen. It stars — as you can see from the screen cap — William Shatner just a few years before he began his five– no three — year voyage as Captain James Kirk.

As the title suggests, it is a horror film and a demonically based horror story. (Though much better than Shatner’s other foray into devil worship The Devil’s Rain.)

What made this film so utterly mysterious and difficult to see is two factors.

One, it was thought that all know prints had been lost and or destroyed. The film failed miserably at the box office and this was before there was a home-video market to rescue turkeys like Manic Cop 2.

Second this movie was and is the only film to be entirely in Esperanto a wholly artificial language invented in the late 19th century.The story centers in a young Succubus name Kia (pictured here with William Shatner). (no, she does not make cars.) The Succubi find tainted souls and through trickery and temptation lead the weak and corrupt people into eternal damnation. Kia has tired of this. There is no challenge and no glory in shoving another weak sinfully person into hell. Kia dreams of finding a true noble soul, one without sin, and bring that soul down to hell for torment.

Enter William Shatner’s character of Marc — though in esperanto it’s rendered as Marco — a noble solider recovering from wounds in battle. Marc is truly noble and selfless. he thinks of others always and loves his sister with a fierce devotion. In temperament you can see a lot of Captain Kirk in Marc and frankly Shatner does a good job playing the part. There are few scenes where he gives in to his enormous appetite for scenery and in general he plays the part in a wholesome and credible manner.

Naturally this is the test that Kia wants for herself and we enter into a contest where only one side knows that a struggle is even underway much less the tremendous stakes involved.

I really liked the exploration of the demonic point of view and particularly how the demonic forces look at strength and weakness and corruption. This film was written and directed by the creator of The Outer Limits and except for length and the Esperanto would have made for a suitable episode.

At a mere 78 minutes this is a short film and easily viewed in a single seating. The use of black-and-white photograph and stark composition along with the Esperanto give this movie a European art-house feel, and an other-worldly atmosphere. It would have remained lost except in the late 1990s a print was found in France where a theater was showing it at midnight, Rocky Horror Picture Show-style. This french subtitled print is the only known print. It was restored and for the dvd the French subtitles were blanked out and replaced with English. this has created clumsy looking subtitles, but it is the best we will have unless a clean print is someday found.

If you have an interest in bizarre off-beat films, give this one a spin. Here’s a taste—


6 thoughts on “Sunday Night Movie: Incubus (1965)

  1. I have been an “Esperantisto” (a speaker of Esperanto) for 30 years, and I am a second generation Star Trek fan, so I was thrilled when this film was found and have copy myself.

    I see Esperanto is often called an “artificial” language. This is not correct. It is a “devised” language. Artificial languages have no etymological roots and Esperanto is based largely on Latin, German, Greek, and some other language roots. Every word in Esperanto has a etymological root. (Klingon would be a good example of an “artificial” language).

    Like many Esperantists, I kind of cringed at some of the pronunciation, but over all it was not too bad. Shatner seemed to have a bit of a French inflection, which was not a bad thing, and possibly reflection on his Canadian origins.

    Two of the main characters were Kia and Marco. I did have an issue with the spelling and pronunciation of their names. “Kia” actually means “what kind?” in Esperanto and is pronounced “kee-ah.” Yet in the movie they pronounce it with a long “i” … as “kai-yah”. In Esperanto this would more likely be spelled as “Kaija.” (The J is like an “i” in Esperanto).

    And then there is Marco. The letter C in Esperanto is pronounced like the English combination of TS. So “Marco” would be pronounced as “Martso.” The correct spelling for Esperanto should be “Marko.”

    Just a few tidbits I hope are found interesting…


    1. Lee:
      Thank you for your comments and you peek inside Esperanto. I speak and write only English, myself but I enjoyed the feel the Esperanto gave to this film. I think it helped sell the unreal nature of the time and place.

    1. I haven’t had a chance to look at the trailers yet, but there’s been a lot of talk about this series on Aint It Cool News.

  2. I have added it to my cue.

    Now that Shatner tends to play caricatures of himself, people forget that he was/is actually capable of really good work. Much of the work on “Twilight Zone” (& did he not also work with Hitchcock?) is darned good acting. Thanks for the suggestion!!

    1. I really found the demon;’s warning about tears and compassion very interesting. I think you;re going to like this movie.

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