Night Train Murders (1975)
By: Mr Intolerance on February 23, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Blue Underground (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 mono. 94 minutes
The Movie
Director: Aldo Lado
Starring: Flavio Bucci, Macha Meril, Gianfranco De Grassi, Enrico Maria Salerno, Marina Berti, Franco Fabrizi, Irene Miracle, Laura D'Angelo
Screenplay: Renato Izzo
Music: Ennio Morricone Tagline: Most movies last less than two hours! This is one of everlasting torment!
Country: Italy
AKA: L' Ultimo treno della notte
Fuck, did I laugh at the beginning of this film. Here we have one of the more infamous Italian exploitation/horror films of the early 70s, and the opening credits are accompanied by a theme song by Demis Roussos – a man whose voice I thankfully hadn't heard since the 70s, and who used to perform on stage in a kaftan and knee-high boots. Doesn't seem to really set the scene any more than two of the villains of the film beating up on a guy dressed as Santa. Kind of like when Krug pops that kid's balloon with a cigar at the beginning of Last House on the Left – not really an ultimate act of evil…

Turns out that isn't the only similarity with Last House on the Left – it also shares an identical plot, which in turn was a rip-off of Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring. It is, however, a superior version to Last House on the Left, and I'm not dissing Wes Craven – it's become all too common in horror circles these days to indulge in Craven-bashing; people seem to forget he gave us Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street. It's just that Craven was a first time writer director with a zero budget, some fourth rate actors and dreadful production values (the film does still pack a wallop in parts, though, but the comedic elements and the Home Alone ending…Christ!), whereas, Aldo Lado was an established director with a budget, production values, and an (admittedly rather spare) Ennio Morricone soundtrack. I can't comment on the acting in Night Train Murders, as the version I'm reviewing has English dubbing, and the voice-acting is pretty dreadful. I hate dubbing – it makes a film seem cheaper and more low budget (and not in a good way) to me, and takes away from the intended effect. Oh, you don't believe me? Check out the craptacular dubs on Cav Distribution's Men Behind the Sun or Force Entertainment's (admittedly totally shithouse anyway) Laboratory of the Devil.

The plot then: two young innocent girls are tortured, raped and killed by some horrible bastards, who then in turn unknowingly seek refuge with one of the girls' parents. An item belonging to one of the girls is discovered in the possession of the killers and the parents exact a bloody revenge. Pretty simple, and quite effective.

The violence is pretty tame in terms of blood and guts here (compared to say, The Descent – a recent, what I would call mid-range, horror film - it's nothing), but the sexual nature of it makes it nasty, and the sexual debasement of the two girls makes this a grimy, sordid affair (a horrible moment: while the virginal character is being raped, the rapist calls out in frustration of not being able to penetrate her: "She's tighter than a frightened asshole"). I did feel quite uncomfortable during parts of this; there's a cold detachment at work – a guy who's perving into the compartment while one of the girls is being raped gets spotted by the bad guys and invited in to "join the action". While he's fucking one of the girls, one of the villains is cleaning his nails, another is touching up her lipstick, the other looking bored. All under a cold blue light – there is no warmth or humanity here. It sort of reminded me of the Dutch businessman in Hostel – after the invited man leaves the train, we see him talking to his family on the phone. I guess it's saying that anyone can have the capacity for evil or violence – the female villain is a stronger example of this – she urges the two young punks into more and more depravity during the torture and rape of the girls, and yet is only kind of "drafted" into their circle by the "glamour" of violence and danger.

As the repulsive nature of the crimes escalates, so does the feeling of discomfort, although nothing is shown explicitly. Believe me, implicitly is bad enough – this is not an easy film to watch. Although I do have to say, the vengeance is a bit anti-climactic. One very notable exception: one of the villains is a junkie, and while he's shooting up and has the needle still in his arm, the father sneaks up behind him and bends his arm, snapping off the needle inside the junkie's arm and breaking it – despite the lack of blood, it's one of the most excruciating moments of on-screen violence I've ever seen. Fuck you – I don't like needles. He then gets stabbed in the crotch with a medical drip-stand – poetic justice, I guess. I defy any man to watch that scene and not wince…

All up, a film that is abjectly depressing to the point of dejection. There's a lack of respect for human dignity, a willingness to rub your nose in filth, and a sense of despondency that even Demis Roussos' jaunty theme song can't lift. Sure, I laughed at the beginning, but I was not laughing at the end.
Blue Underground are the bee's knees with regard to quality re-releases of obscure films. The picture quality is superb, as per usual.
A clear Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track, however the English dubbing sucks. I would have preferred the option, as is the case with my Blind Dead box set, to choose the language of the film. This is my only gripe with the DVD, and the only time I've been let down by Blue Underground.
Extra Features
A bit light on, here. There's a 15 minute featurette (in Italian with English subtitles) with Aldo Lado, some trailers and radio spots and a stills and poster gallery. Not one of Blue Underground's better efforts, but what else could they have thrown in?
The Verdict
If you can find it, buy it. I'm only knocking off a point for the crappy burnt-in dubbing. This is top-notch exploitation horror and is at times genuinely upsetting. It's better than the film it emulates, and will stay with you a lot longer than Last House on the Left ever will. Sorry, Wes.
Movie Score
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