Saturday, September 4, 2010

INCUBUS (1965)

William Shatner battles mod/hippie nuns who sacrifice innocent men's souls to the devil.


Three things you need to know about this movie right away:

1. William Shatner.

2. Its dialogue is entirely in Esperanto, the "universal language" that is spoken all over the world but by not very many people in a given spot.

3. It was shot by Conrad Hall, the DP who later won Oscars for his work on BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID, AMERICAN BEAUTY, and ROAD TO PERDITION.

Big Sur, the years of thick liquid eyeliner and cotton macrame pullovers. Also the years of moody black-and-white high contrast film stock. Under the supervision of her Mother Superior-type person Amael, mod/hippie nun Kia spends her days like a more active/less cerebral version of THE SEVENTH SEAL: She lures unsuspecting young fellows to drink from a roofie-filled well, then coaxes them into the sea with promises of doing it - only to drown them beneath her sandaled foot. Once their prey are dead, the ladies donate the bodies to their Dark Lord, Milos Milos in an ill-fitting button-down shirt. Which, creepy for real: Shortly after they wrapped, Milos Milos killed Mickey Rooney's wife and then himself*. So perhaps playing evil was...not a huge stretch.

Be that as it may, Kia's scheme works fine until she tries it on The Shat, whose soul cannot be bought because it is made of pure love. He has looked Death in the eye and wished him rainbows and kitten kisses and well-won chess games, warns Amael, but Kia must have him. She happens upon his homestead pretending to be a lost traveler, bats her liquid eyeliner at him during an eclipse until he gives her a blanket, and then seduces him away from his sister (sister in incest? hard to tell, and again, creepy), who has been dumb enough to look straight at the eclipse with her own liquid eyeliner even after The Shat specifically tells her not to.

While the sister is discovering her new self-inflicted disability and getting kidnapped to the satanic nunnery, Kia leads The Shat to the roofie well, which doesn't doesn't work on him due to said purity of soul. She goes straight to the hard-sell - some good times beneath the trees - but he doesn't just want a roll in the hay, he wants, like, romance and eternal whatnot. Naturally, she redoubles her efforts, during which The Shat carries his jacket with him everywhere. Kia and Amael use the kidnapped sister as bait to lure him and his jacket. At some point Kia passes out and The Shat brings her unconscious body into a church, where she wakes and runs screaming - only to get attacked by a goat head puppet interspersed with an actual goat menacingly licking its lips**. There is of course a climactic battle between good and evil, complete with large bat wings, and you can probably guess who wins but it's worth watching to find out, and PS the sister gets her sight back, Praise Fred B. Phillips, credited makeup artist.

Subtitles are available in English and French.

*More about this and "the curse of INCUBUS" in this Salon article from the 1999 re-release.

**This turned out to be the stuff of nightmares, probably thanks in large part to the late night chicken mole tacos and goat head sized Diet Coke.

Special thanks to Amanda Jude for hosting.

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