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William Shatner Sings in Esperanto!

Well, he didn’t sing.

But William Shatner DID star in Incubus, the only horror film ever shot entirely in Esperanto.

Most English speakers have given the film good ratings and reviews, likening it to the work of Ingmar Bergman, while Esperanto speakers are generally disappointed by the actors’ dreadful pronunciation — in particular, Shatner’s dialogue was delivered with a very noticeable French accent

In the annals of Shatner criticism, “delivered Esperanto with a notable French accent” is a little like saying “Punched a Klingon while holding pinky at inappropriate 35-degree angle.”

Incubus actually has a fine pedigree: director Leslie Stevens had already created the sci-fi TV show The Outer Limits. The cinematographer, Conrad Hall, is a three-time Academy Award winner who shot a million movies you’ve heard of, including Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man, and American Beauty. Shatner himself was just a year away from the star-making role of James T. Kirk.

The producer, Anthony Taylor, was a one-film wonder who chose Esperanto either because he wanted to capture the global Esperanto audience or because he figured the unfamiliar language would give Incubus an extra chilling kick.

Whichever. All negatives of Incubus were lost in an unfortunate fire, but a spare print turned up in France in the 1990s. The Sci-Fi Channel, god bless ’em, restored the film and it’s now available on DVD.

The Daily Show gave it a snark-take review in 1999, with Shatner playing along for laughs:

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YouTube also has this trailer, just slightly tongue-in-cheek, for the re-released film:

Somewhere, Ludwig Zamenhof is smiling.

We should have said that Incubus is the only horror film to date shot in Esperanto. It would still make a great hook for Scary Movie 5, wouldn’t it? And Shatner could sing in that one.

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