NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS (1975) – The Dungeon Review!
Last year I posted my top 10 favourite horror films for each year of the 1970s. When I posted my top ten for 1975 in March 2011 I had not seen Night Train Murders; now this is my second viewing of Aldo Lado’s intense film. I suppose I should mention that Night Train Murders is a blatant rip-off of Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left. Director Aldo Lado actually discusses it in an interview included on the DVDs special features. I’m not going to bust Lado over it since Last House on the Left is basically a modern horror version of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring written by Ulla Isaksson. So now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s move on to the immensely talented Aldo Lado. Lado is no stranger to my favourite lists; his outstanding Giallo efforts Short Night of Glass Dolls and Who Saw Her Die made my favourite films of 1971 and 1972 respectively. Too bad I hadn’t seen Night Train Murders before making my 1975 list, because it definitely would have made the cut!
Teenagers Lisa and Margaret are travelling together by train to stay with Lisa’s parents for the Christmas holidays. The girls giggle and talk about boys, smoke cigarettes and flirt with a pair of delinquents named Blackie and Curly. Much to their chagrin the girls end up in a train car with Blackie and Curly who have hooked up with an older distinguished looking woman. Blackie and Curly are petty thieves and shit disturbers but nudged on by the mysterious woman they cross a line. How far will they go?
We are given a brief introduction to each of the central characters before the train is boarded. We see the girls interacting with Margaret’s parents as they are getting ready to go to the station. We meet Lisa’s parents on the verge of a divorce but ever so polite to one another. We see Curly and Blackie robbing someone and escaping and than slicing a woman’s fur coat up the back just for laughs. We meet the mystery woman buying a fancy bag from a boutique and saying good-bye to an attractive man before boarding the train. Night Train Murders is well-paced throughout building its story up gradually to its violent climax.
Night Train Murders is a slick-looking film with a wonderfully cloying atmosphere. I dug how Lado moves between scenes of the girl’s on the train and scenes of Lisa’s parents; Professor Giulio Stradi and his unhappy wife Laura. Ennio Morricone’s score is perfect and I particularly enjoyed how he incorporated Curly’s harmonica playing into the music. There are strong performances from the entire cast. Lisa played by Laura D’Angelo and Margaret played by Irene Miracle were likable and natural and had good chemistry making them easy to empathize with. Flavio Bucci and Gianfranco De Grassi who plays Blackie and Curly are a couple of bastards to be sure. Blackie is the more aggressive of the duo and Curly is a harmonica-playing addict who is along for the ride. As obnoxious as these two are I almost felt a little bit of pity for them in the end. The real villain of the film is Macha Méril who plays the lady on the train. In an early scene she is in a crowded train car and reaches for her bag knocking it over and revealing some of its contents. Amoung them are several photographs of naked men and women. It turns out that our attractive well-dressed woman is some what of a pervert, or a nymphomaniac or a government employee; in any case, she is certainly a sociopath. She was an extremely intriguing addition. The finale Lado gives Méril’s character is knowingly frustrating but I loved it! Enrico Maria Salerno and Marina Berti who play Lisa’s parents Giulio and Laura Stradi both do a decent job also.
Night Train Murders has its share of uncomfortable and impressive moments of intensity. The girls are humiliated, violated and brutalized and the scenes are well-executed and horrifying. If you are familiar with the aforementioned Last House on the Left and/or The Virgin Spring than you have probably guessed there is a revenge twist. For everyone else the revenge twist in the films finale is brutal, unforgiving and disheartening. The finale will be sure to irritate some but I thought it was perfect. Night Train Murders is so stylishly presented you almost forget you are watching an exploitation flick. Despite the fact Night Train Murders “borrows” its premise I nonetheless thought it was pretty bloody great! Highly recommended.
Dungeon Rating: 4/5
Directed By: Aldo Lado
Starring: Flavio Bucci, Macha Méril, Gianfranco De Grassi, Enrico Maria Salerno, Marina Berti, Franco Fabrizi, Irene Miracle, Laura D’Angelo