Blu-Ray Review: The Incident (1967)

On the evidence of The Incident, more people should know the name Larry Peerce.

A lesser known product of the burgeoning New Hollywood Wave that emerged out of the classic studio system, The Incident is filled with well known players from earlier eras and projects to come – Brock Peters, Ruby Dee, Gary Merrill, Thelma Ritter and principally a vital turn by a young, emerging Martin Sheen, some years away from the career and life-defining experience of Apocalypse Now. As a character drama, it hangs on performances which belie the fairly low-fi, low-budget, almost TV movie approach Peerce was forced to employ, yet he frequently evolves beyond in his direction. This ends up theatrical, close-quartered, tense and to an extent ground-breaking in what it achieves with so little.

The Incident feels quite ahead of its time in how it brings together an ensemble cast and places them inside a bottleneck; a nightmarish, relatable situation filled with people in the wrong place at the wrong time, terrorised by a pair of wayward, New York thugs played by Sheen (this was his first film role) and Tony Musante, who is particularly mesmerising in how he physically and psychologically breaks down an assorted collection of late night travellers on a New York subway train. Peerce introduces the incendiary pair and then allows his film to steadily build, casting a pallor of dread over the first forty minutes as we await the titular incident.

What follows, in the final hour, ranks among the most nail-chewing, protracted escalating dramas of brewing violence and social deconstruction committed to celluloid.

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