The Incident [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Eureka
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (19th August 2019).
The Film

Overgrown delinquents Joe (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage's Tony Musante) and Artie (Badlands' Martin Sheen) rob a "pigeon" of eight dollars and then beat him to death, but the night's still young and they board a subway car teeming with a microcosm of humanity already on the brink: Bill Wilks (Fun with Dick and Jane's Ed McMahon) worried after a co-worker was suddenly laid off and hitting the roof when his wife Helen (X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes's Diana Van der Vlis) suggests they take a cab home rather than risk daughter Susie's train-sickness; puffed-up Tony Goya (The Seven-Ups's Victor Arnold) who is trying to get shopgirl Alice (Play Misty for Me's Donna Mills) to "give it up"; Private Felix Teflinger (The Fabulous Baker Boys's Beau Bridges) who is riding with buddy Private Phillip Carmatti (Robert Bannard) to the bus station to begin thirty-days of sick leave home in the south for a busted wing; Sam Beckerman (Catch-22's Jack Gilford) who is railing to his wife Bertha (Rear Window's Thelma Ritter) about their son's unwillingness to loan him money for a dental operation after all they have done for him; mild-mannered history professor Harry Purvis (Midnight Express's Mike Kellin) and his wife Muriel (Ace in the Hole's Jan Sterling) who has grown dissatisfied with his lack of ambition and regretting that they have no children to distract her; Arnold Robinson (To Kill a Mockingbird's Brock Peters) who is spoiling for a fight with whitey after making a scene at a dinner with his long-suffering social worker wife Joan (Cat People's Ruby Dee); alcoholic Doug (All About Eve's Gary Merrill) who is trying to stay on the wagon in order to get his wife and children to come back; and homosexual Kenneth (They Shoot Horses, Don't They?'s Robert Fields) who mistook Doug's desperate loneliness for something else. Trapping the others on the subway car through a combination of verbal intimidation and physical coercion, Joe and Artie attack their captive audience two-by-two, picking at emotional and psychological scabs already apparent or badgering out reactions from those who try to appear the most civil.

A feature film adaptation of the screenwriter Nicholas E. Baehr's own hour-long The DuPont Show of the Week teleplay Ride With Terror also starring Musante and a young Gene Hackman, The Incident begins like a disaster movie with several couples (romantic and otherwise) introduced already in conflict and bound to converge on a fateful subway trip, but the threat is entirely human yet not entirely external to them. Although the film addresses racial prejudices, homophobia, marital discord, the gulfs between the young and old and the sexes, as well as class resentments part of the reason Joe particularly antagonizes them is because of the notion that he thinks they think they are better than him, but perceived class differences also initially seem to be as much a reason as fear for some to try to ignore the torment inflicted upon the others, while the certainly racist's Joe's specifically racial attack on Arnold might the result of the latter daring to think that they are on the same side and the structure of the narrative is contrived to depict pointed attacks on what has defined each of the victims as characters, it is no social drama preaching tolerance (especially in the face of brute physical violence) so much as an observation of powder keg made up of a bunch of people who have no interest in or understanding of others and passivity as a reaction to the awkward that carries over to situations with greater stakes. It might seem a bit of a cop-out that the conflict is eventually settled with brute violence, but only if the audience interprets the stand taken by one character as a heroic act on behalf of all especially if one believes it a script contrivance that he must wait until Joe and Artie have had a go at all of the other characters but his trigger may not be having had enough of the violence as a threat that touches upon what has come to define him in contrast to the other character with which he has been paired, especially after watching three physically weaker and older characters take a stand and intimidated back into passivity. Refreshingly, in the case of Muriel who admits in the heat of an argument with Harry that she does think they are more manly than he but that does not mean she is offering herself to them; indeed, his jealous projections upon her are what ultimately undermines her attempt to appear unafraid of Joe. The police immediately assuming that Arnold must be the guilty party is just as despairing as the de facto hero's "Where were you, buddy?" when his partner finally springs into action and the lame response, "It all happened so fast." What transpired will likely be remembered by most as a humiliating "unpleasantness" to be forgotten, and the sad thing is that may even be understandable to the viewer. Great cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld gives the monochrome film harsh lighting that likes the gritty urban exteriors to Musante's coarse features in stark contrast to the Universal horror homage black and white photography he would bring to Young Frankenstein half a decade later. The battering score is credited to sixties rocker Terry Knight, but Charles Fox (Strange Brew) receives a "scored and conducted" credit that suggests the more prolific TV and film composer is responsible for the score's sparing deployment. Amidst much episodic television and TV movies, director Larry Peerce would go on to helm a handful of notable films including the Philip Roth adaptation Goodbye, Columbus, the John Knowles adaptation A Separate Peace, the thriller Two-Minute Warning, the Sylvia Plath adaptation The Bell Jar, and both installments of The Other Side of the Mountain.
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Video

Released theatrically in 1967 the United States by Twentieth Century Fox but rejected classification in the U.K. the following year, The Incident was released on tape stateside by Fox in 1989 and laserdisc the following year but bypassed DVD here while finally becoming available in the U.K. on that format from Simply Media in 2014. Stateside, the film made its digital debut last year on Blu-ray as part of the Twilight Time limited edition line from a brand new 4K scan of the film. Eureka's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.84:1 widescreen Blu-ray is presumably from the same master, free of dirt and debris, with deep blacks in the studio sequences and the night exteriors while the variable underexposure in some of Hirschfield's guerilla shots inside the actual subway station and cars seems suited to the look of the film. Details is crisp in clothing and hair and there is some unnerving depth in the shots in which a sneering Musante lurches into the camera while the text and graphics of ads in the background now provoke speculation as to whether they are meant to comment on the action.
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Audio

The LPCM 2.0 mono track is incredibly clean with clear dialogue and effects as well as the revelation of some music cues mixed unnervingly low in the mix while most of the film goes without underscore into some equally unnerving tense silences. The optional English HoH subtitles are free of errors but have some issues like a few effects designations being underlined while most are in brackets.
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Extras

Eureka carries over the Twilight Time audio commentary by director Larry Peerce, moderated by film historian Nick Redman in which Peerce recalls that the film started as an independent production before it ran out of money a week into the shoot. They had been shooting in sequence and had already covered all of the scenes introducing the characters and building up to the rest of the film in the subway car, and producer Monroe Sachson (Slaughter) had a working relationship with Fox's David Brown (Jaws) who liked the script and had initially expressed interest in working with him. The footage so far was shown to Fox and, despite some pressure to shoot the film in color, production resumed six weeks later. Peerce discusses casting Musante and Sheen who had been working on the stage and how he used improvisation to help the rest of the cast understand the intensity they were trying to achieve since some of the cast did not get that from the script itself (noting that Joe's verbal assault on Arnold provoked a real reaction out of Peters, and that the slap Ritter deals Musante in the film also came out of workshopping her character rather than the script directions). Peerce also discusses how his experience in live television an episodic television in the intervening period in which he could not get hired for another feature after his well-received debut One Potato, Two Potato prepared him for the complex shoot since the subway system insisted no such events ever took place on their trains and would not allow them to film on them (they had to let them film shots of the actors entering the subway stations that were shot on the street while a studio set was build for some scenes, and Hirschfield placed a camera inside of a suitcase to shoot some guerilla shots on the train), and praises the subway car design of Emanuel Gerard (Shaft). Of the finished film, he notes that the only change recommended by Fox was ultimately a good one, moving Joe's and Artie's attack on the "pigeon" to the start rather than just before they board the train to introduce tension as the audience anticipates the convergence of the other characters and the danger they face. New to the Eureka edition is an audio commentary by film critic and writer Alexandra Heller-Nicholas who conveys a lot of the same production anecdotal information but within the context of a discussion of the film as playing with tropes of disaster movies yet to come while also addressing racial and social issues in a manner unlike the Hollywood issue films her most recent example being the controversial and reductive Oscar winner Green Book with the hero here not being the usual "white savior" since no one in the film learns anything from the experience and the audience is left with a sour view of humanity. Also carried over from the Twilight Time edition is the film's isolated music and effects track (here in LPCM 2.0), but another Eureka exclusive is the post-screening Q&A with director Larry Peerce, filmed at the 2017 Wisconsin Film Festival (31:10) in which the first question asked of him was whether the Kitty Genovese murder was an influence which Peerce suggests may have been so for the writer (although the crime took place a year after the initial teleplay), while much of his talk with the moderator and to the audience is made up of his stories from the commentary. The theatrical trailer (1:56) is also included.
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Not provided for review was the collector's booklet featuring new writing by film writer Samm Deighan, and critic and journalist Barry Forshaw, as well as "Welcome to Fear City: A Survival Guide for Visitors to the City of New York," a reprint of the notorious pamphlet distributed at the height of New York's crime epidemic.

Overall

Starting like a disaster movie and addressing issues of age, race, class, and sexuality, The Incident offers up a despairing view of humanity for a studio film.

 


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