NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS (BLU RAY) (1975)
Category : BLU RAY REVIEWS
Directed by Aldo Lado
Review by David Carter
Released by Blue Underground
Running Time: 94 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 2.0 DTS-HD Mono English/English, French, and Spanish Subtitles
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 1.85:1
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Interview with director Lado, Radio spots, poster and still gallery
Trailer Online: Yes
Short Version: One of the nastiest of the “nasties”
The forces of censorship are always with us. This is as true today as it was thirty years ago and, indeed, even three hundred years ago. Unfortunately for them, those who would wish to censor the arts have history working against them. Without fail, every work that has been attacked by censors has become more famous for it. One could even make the argument that there are countless works that would have disappeared into the sands of time unnoticed except for the fact that someone tried to ban them, thus ensuring their place in history. That is certainly true of Great Britain’s video nasties; a grouping that contains some of the most disturbing films ever made and some that have left film historians scratching their heads, wondering what all the fuss was about.
In 1975, Aldo Lado (SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS, WHO SAW HER DIE?) made a film that certainly earned its spot on the nasties list: NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS, aka LATE NIGHT TRAINS or THE NEW HOUSE ON THE LEFT. The alternate titles should give you a good idea of the essential plot of the film, which follows very closely to 1972’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. Some critics have derided the film for that fact, therefore it bears noting that Craven’s film was a remake of Bergman’s THE VIRGIN SPRING, which itself was based on folk tales. Furthermore, LAST HOUSE toyed with audiences, giving its victims a large wooded area which at least gave some hope for an escape, and the viewers were given respite via the infamously poorly conceived comic relief scenes. NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS is much bleaker; treating victim and viewer alike to ninety minutes of terror.
Cousins Margaret and Lisa are travelling via train from Munich to Italy to spend the holidays with Lisa’s parents. They squeeze into the packed train, unaware that two criminals have done the same in order to escape from the police. Blackie and Curly are a pair of teenage psychopaths who we first meet when they rob and stab a man dressed as Santa. Blackie and Curly recognize that Margaret and Lisa are naive and use them to hide from the ticket collector, but the girls quickly end that new friendship when the thugs’ violent side emerges. The criminals aren’t working solo for long, however, as Blackie seduces a well-dressed older woman, who turns out to be more deranged than they are.
A bomb scare provides the girls with an opportunity to switch trains and escape from the evil trio. They settle in to a dark car in the back of the new train but, unfortunately for them, Blackie, Curly, and their female cohort have the same idea and force their way into the car, which, due to a faulty door handle, is now cut off from the rest of the train. Instigated by the woman, the trio begins sadistically taunting Margaret and Lisa and their “games” quickly escalate into full on torture. Things go too far and the woman murders Lisa and Margaret falls to her death from the train in a vain attempt to escape. Meanwhile, Lisa’s parents arrive at the station to pick them up and her father, a doctor, is asked to examine the woman from the train, who injured herself during that tragic train ride. The kind doctor brings them back to his house to treat her injury, but once he learns they are responsible for his daughter’s death, the former pacifist relishes in getting his bloody revenge.
NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS creates a good deal of tension from the claustrophobic setting of the passenger train and the irony of simultaneously travelling towards safety but being unable to escape from danger. These two psychological elements are the only such, however, as the film is far more concerned with visceral terror than anything else. As with all of the LAST HOUSE derivatives, NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS centers on the torture of two innocent girls. In each such film, their killers have nothing to gain from this, and the seeming randomness of the crimes makes them all the more terrifying. NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS expands upon this by removing any sort of transgression on the part of the girls, making them completely blameless. In LAST HOUSE, the girls are chosen because they try to buy drugs from one of the killers, but here the girls do nothing of the sort: they are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Furthermore, NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS increases this idea of a “random crime” by having the unnamed woman who is seemingly not a criminal at all be the primary instigator. She figures prominently into the film’s nihilistic ending; also unique for this subgenre.
Blue Underground has brought one of the more seldom-seen video nasties to Blu Ray in fine fashion. As you might expect, the bulk of the film contains dimly-lit interior shots, but the high quality of this print makes it all crisp and watchable (albeit probably through your fingers for some of it.) An interview with director Lado is included, as are radio spots, one of my personal favorite types of movie marketing. Though much lesser known, NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS is one of the few films that followed in LAST HOUSE’s footsteps that actually compares favorably to that film. Fans of gritty, sleazy grindhouse films take note: you can’t get much bleaker and nastier than this.