- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2001

Dedicated "Trekkies" and William Shatner fans who have longed to hear their idol mouth off in Esperanto score their chance with Incubus, available now from Winstar Entertainment ($19.98 VHS, $24.98 DVD). It's our …

Video pick of the week

According to one of two DVD audio commentary tracks, back in 1965 "Outer Limits" director Leslie Stevens learned that more than 7 million people worldwide spoke the artificial "universal" language of Esperanto, so why not exploit that market with the first Esperanto movie?
What Mr. Stevens failed to calculate was the fact that these Esperantonians were spread exceedingly thin throughout the world, and distributing prints for the five in Detroit, the two in Des Moines, et al., proved a less than profitable proposition. Still, while the concept may have fallen short commercially (with the notable exception of Paris, where "Incubus" ran for years), it resulted in a striking little chiller.
A pre-"Star Trek" Shatner (handling his own Esperanto chores quite expertly) plays Marc, a noble medieval soldier tempted by beautiful blond Kia (Allyson Ames), a succubus who's tired of the too-easy task of leading corrupt folk to their doom. Model citizen Marc who, between unspecified battles, lives with his loving sister Arndis (Ann Atmar) on a tranquil farm provides a far more formidable challenge than the usual drunks, cowards and lechers who comprise Kia's spiritual prey. Will our hero succumb to Kia's deceitful charms, or will his pure heart win out?
Brilliantly shot in shiny black-and-white along California's scenic Big Sur coastline by cinematographer Conrad L. Hall (who would become known years later for his work on "American Beauty") and artfully directed by Mr. Stevens, "Incubus" overflows with startling, oft-haunting imagery very consciously in the vein of Ingmar Bergman's "Seventh Seal." Mr. Hall admits he would have preferred to imitate Federico Fellini, but Mr. Bergman's style proved much easier on the budget, and perhaps the eyes.
The production boasts an honestly otherworldly quality, one further enhanced by the foreign tongue and English subtitles. Withal, "Incubus" can take its rightful place beside such similarly Euro-flavored indie thrillers of the era as Herk Harvey's "Carnival of Souls" and Curtis Harrington's "Night Tide."
Meantime, we're still waiting for the equally bizarre and effective vampire shocker "Deafula," the only movie made in American Sign Language, to join the video ranks perhaps on a future DVD double bill with "Incubus."

Killer thrillers

In the upcoming video suspense arena, bored businessman Jeff Goldblum assumes a dead criminal's identity in Beyond Suspicion (20th Century Fox), co-starring Anne Heche, while homeless genius Samuel L. Jackson seeks to track down a murderer in The Caveman's Valentine (Universal).
Steve Railsback impersonates infamous serial killer Ed Gein (First Look), featuring Carrie Snodgrass as Ed's ill-fated mater. The ubiquitous Eric Roberts tries to save terrorist-trapped tourists from a burning building in Heaven's Fire (York Entertainment). Rider Strong and John Heard appear in the teen-themed thriller The Pact (Avalanche). Corbin Bernsen stars in the futuristic Tomorrow Man (MTI).
Two critically acclaimed theatrical releases also make their home-video debuts: William H. Macy stars as a hitman undergoing a midlife crisis in Panic (Artisan), with Neve Campbell and Donald Sutherland. Kevin Costner and Bruce Greenwood (as JFK) topline in the fact-based Cuban missile crisis drama Thirteen Days (New Line).
All of the above are priced for rental and also available on DVD.

Milestone movies

The ever-eclectic archivists at Milestone Film & Video (800/603-1104) offer a quartet of vintage titles making their home-video debuts. They lead with Michael Powell's exotic 1937 drama The Edge of the World ($29.95), filmed on Scotland's Outer Hebrides islands. The tape includes Mr. Powell's later documentary Return to the Edge of the World, along with his World War II short An Airman's Letter to His Mother.
Milestone also introduces Rolando Klein's mystical Mexican 1974 cult movie Chac: The Rain God ($39.95); Ernst Lubitsch's 1929 historical drama Eternal Love ($29.95), starring John Barrymore and Camilla Horn; and Edoardo Winspeare's 1996 World War II Italian romance Pizzicata ($59.95). The titles are available in VHS only.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: A friend told me about you and suggested you might be able to help locate a movie for sale. I'm looking for Quality Street, Katharine Hepburn, circa 1937. I may be entirely out of luck, but if you can suggest merchants that might have this title, I would be very grateful.
Megan Heriford, via e-mail
Unfortunately, that classic Katharine showcase, based on James Barrie's play, is not currently available on video.

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