CineSavant Column

Tuesday February 14, 2023



Last December 3 David J. Schow alerted us to the good news for Leslie Stevens’ 1966 fantasy Incubus: a new and better film source will make possible a vastly improved video remaster.

If you recall from the old, not-so-good DVD, the original film elements for Incubus were lost long ago. When a remaster was desired all that could be found was a 16mm print with burned-in French subtitles, which required boxy overlays to add English subtitles. All viewers needed subs, as the movie was performed in Esperanto.

Writer-director Stevens was looking for an artful, distanced approach, not a way to exploit the untapped Esperanto market.  Filmed by Conrad Hall and Bill Fraker, the show continues the light, filtered visual look those famed cameramen applied to Stevens’ Outer Limits TV show. The Dominic Frontiere music adds even more Outer-Limitsy deja-vu. The cast toplines William Shatner, one good reason that the movie has received exceptional attention.

David J. Schow says that the surviving 35mm print is being scanned in 4K. The production company in charge, Le Chat Qui Fume, reports that the image quality is excellent. Their Stéphane Bouyer forwarded some frame grab samples.



Here’s a real treat: an excellent restored and upscaled remastering of a 1944 WB musical short, posted by Andy Lewis at Vimeo. It’s Jammin’ the Blues, an filmic jazz jam session featuring Lester Young. The director is Gjon Mili, whose status as a noted still photographer becomes immediately apparent.

Mili’s photographic skills really come to the fore — the short is given a progressive style that looks like something an experimental filmmaker might have filmed a decade later. The B&W visuals are terrific — it’s the first Hollywood cinematography credit for Alfred Hitchcock’s future collaborator, Robert Burks. He immediately graduated to feature work.

A special treat are two name performers. Marie Bryant gets a wonderful singing showcase; we know her from her performance of ‘Your Red Wagon’ in Nicholas Ray’s They Live by Night. Dancing with Bryant is favorite Archie Savage, an actor in Vera Cruz and South Pacific, choreographer for Cabin in the Sky and Sodom and Gomorrah, and one of film’s first black astronauts, in the Italian Assignment: Outer Space.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson