Demons, Horror, Monsters, Music, Slasher, Supernatural

Night Train to Terror (1985)

Comments Off on Night Train to Terror (1985) 19 November 2013

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Studio: Visto International Inc.

Distributed By: Vinegar Syndrome

Theatrical Release: May 1985

Blu-ray Release: October 8, 2013

Director: John Carr, Phillip Marshak, Tom McGowan, Jay Schlossberg-Cohen, Gregg C. Tallas

Rating: R

Reviewed By James M. Dubs

I’m no stranger to anthology horror (see reviews for Hammer House of Horror & Chiller). Likewise, I love a good Z-grade-movie that can only be classified in the “best worst” genre (see An American Hippie in Israel review). Little did I comprehend that “best worst” filmmaking could collide with anthology horror and give us a hybrid that looks and sounds like Night Train to Terror.

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

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We need to get one thing out in the open. Night Train to Terror is not a film for the masses. It is bad with a capital B, and about as confusing as films come. However, it is also a hell-of-a-lotta fun! Given the right audience, I could conceivably rate this film a perfect 5 stars for its lunacy, and entertainment value.

Night Train to Terror is made up of four different stories:

The first story is the “wraparound” story about a pop-band riding – you guessed it – a train. The band is so deliciously 80s that I feel my cheeks blush with embarrassment just thinking about them. As they rock the night away with the admittedly catchy, but annoyingly repetitive “dance with me, dance with me!” song over and over, little do they know that there are two additional passengers on board who will determine their fate – God (credited as God, but played by Ferdy Mayne) and Satan (credit as Lu Sifer, get it? Actually it’s Tony Giorgio). As the train races toward its final destination, God and Satan negotiate who will keep the souls of the bandmates. But before the train reaches the end of the line, God and Satan spar over the eternal souls of three additional cases…

“The Case of Harry Billings” tells the tale of a man (John Phillip Law) who loses his wife in a car accident and is driven to madness. He is hospitalized in a private sanitarium and through electro-shock treatment is coerced by evil doctors into kidnapping unsuspecting women. Once the women are caught and delivered to the sanitarium, they are imprisoned, disrobed, terrorized by an orderly named Otto (Richard Moll) and…well you’re just going to have to watch the movie to find out what happens next.

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“The Case of Gretta Connors” centers around young Gretta (Merideth Haze), a young woman who is lured into a relationship with a wealthy man, George (J. Martin Sellers), and tricked into becoming a blue-movie actress. Meanwhile, Glenn (Rick Barnes), visiting his fraternity, watches an adult film starring Gretta and becomes immediately smitten with her. Glenn seeks out Gretta and they begin a relationship that angers Gretta’s wealthy and powerful husband. Seeking vengeance, George forces Glenn and Gretta to attend an exclusive club gathering where wealthy elite take part in modernized versions of Russian roulette. The games become more diabolical, the death’s more gory and gruesome, and the question lingers, will Gretta and Glenn survive?

The third story, “The Case of Claire Hansen” is a little harder to summarize as it has very little to do with Claire (Faith Clift). Rather, most of the story bounces between three men – Mr. Olivier (Robert Bristol), an ageless, immortal man who has lived as a Nazi, owns a nightclub in modern society, and seems to have some evil hidden agenda; Lieutenant Stern (Cameron Mitchell), who investigates the murder of a holocaust survivor and has his suspicions about Olivier; and James Hansen (Richard Moll yet again), husband of Claire, author of the new book “God is Dead” and whom is pursued by Olivier. At one point a monk (Juan Luis Curiel) shows up to warn Hansen that his soul is in peril and Claire ultimately has more to do at the end of the tale to help wrap up the third narrative.

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It is quite conceivable that Night Train to Terror will leave you shell shocked. It is disjointed, and befuddling, but unapologetically so. The “wraparound” story with the band is a bad 80s music video instead of a horror movie. The three “cases” are all sloppily edited and cobbled together offering over the top narration to help bridge expansive narrative gaps. Because the stories are so fragmented, the anthology plays like a “Greatest Hits” of bad moviedom, offering little cohesion and story, but plenty of nudity, gore, sleaze, monsters, and even “claymation” for their creature effects!

The explanation for this mess is shockingly simple. The “cases” in Night Train to Terror are actually condensed versions of three existing Visto International feature films…

  1. “The Case of Harry Billings” – Scream Your Head Off, aka Marilyn Alive and Behind Bars
  2. “The Case of Gretta Connors” – Death Wish Club, aka The Dark Side to Love
  3. “The Case of Claire Hansen” – Cataclysm, aka The Nightmare Never Ends, aka Satan’s Supper

The filmmaker’s of Night Train to Terror have literally “trimmed the fat” out of three lesser horror movies, excising extraneous dialogue and plot, and have included the best bits into one 93 minute feature film. It’s a brilliant decision that ultimately turns three turkeys into one massive Thanksgiving feast!

Video & Audio Rating: ★★★½☆

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Print issues and apparent age damage aside, the film looks remarkably good on blu-ray. The film certainly suffers from scratches, debris, irregularities, etc. but with a film this strange, the print quality only adds to the experience. What’s most impressive is the image consistency between stories. Vinegar Syndrome has done a very commendable job offering a disc with satisfactory colors, pleasant film grain, and moderate detail. It doesn’t look like a Hollywood blockbuster, but it replicates the experience that audiences would have had in 1985.

The release also boasts a DTS-HD Master Audio. There’s nothing here to blow you away in the stereo track, but it does offer a very clean and clear audio experience from start to finish. The biggest problem with the audio is the annoyingly repetitive title song “Everybody But You!” that will haunt you in your sleep. Sadly, I’m humming it as I write this review.

Extras Rating: ★★★½☆

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It never ceases to amaze me the level of care obscure movies get in the bonus material category. Vinegar Syndrome deserves their just praise for the helping of goodies that comes with this release. The extras include:

  • Interview with Producer/Director Jay Schlossberg-Cohen (audio track on blu-ray)
  • Commentary track by The Hysteria Continues (on blu-ray)
  • Theatrical trailer

A DVD Copy of “Gretta” aka Death Wish Club, aka The Dark Side to Love is also included.

  • Interview with Assistant Editor Wayne Schmidt (audio track on DVD)

The audio interviews are entertaining for the devout film fanatic, but may come off as a bit dry and unfocused for the casual viewer.

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

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Night Train to Terror is a Frankenstein’s monster of a mess, made up of many parts, but incredibly fun to behold as long as you check your brain at the door. Some will find it unwatchable, some fascinating, and others hilariously fun. The one thing it isn’t is scary, but like other “best worst” cult oddities such as Troll 2, and An American Hippie in Israel its failures are what make it “perfectly bad” enjoyable. Night Train to Terror is probably best experienced with a large group and for collectors with a penchant for this kind of unpolished cinema you should not hesitate in adding Night Train to Terror to your collection.

About the author: James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed – popular, obscure, independent, etc. He’ll watch anything for you.

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- who has written 67 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed - popular, obscure, independent, etc. He'll watch anything for you.

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