Thursday, September 6, 2012

Movie Review: Night Train Murders (1975)

I'm slowly becoming familiar with the Italian filmmakers. Aldo Lado is not as prolific as a director as some of the others like Argento and Fulci, but even though I've only seen two of his movies, I really enjoy his style and approach to different stories. I loved his earlier 1972 film Who Saw Her Die? and this one, Night Train Murders (a.k.a. Last Stop on the Night Train, The New House on the Left, Last House on the Left 2, Don't Ride on Late Night Trains...) was much better than anticipated.

Friends Margaret and Lisa are taking a train from Germany to Italy to visit Lisa's parents for Christmas. A delay and a run-in with two thugs makes them change trains in the middle of their trip. The second train is far less crowded - but the thugs are still there and they've brought with them an equally sadistic woman who talks the boys into humiliating the girls. But the situation doesn't turn out like any of them imagined.

Yes, this movie has similarities to Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left. Don't think I wasn't mentally taking note of all the parallels: two pretty girls, a couple of aggressors including another woman, rape and humiliation, murder, attackers end up with one of the girl's parents, father is a doctor, mother notices one man wearing an item belonging to her daughter, father gets revenge on attackers for daughter's murder. And just as Last House had its share of ups and downs, so does this movie - although I would say that it has a few more ups than Last House did.

One thing I like that Lado did with Night Train Murders was the controversial slow build of tension. Half of an audience will say this makes the movie too boring and the other half will appreciate the time the director took to really tell the story. The opening scene is a long 4 minutes of an outdoor Christmas celebration where we are introduced to both the two main girls and the two criminals (they even jump and rob a man dressed as Santa Claus). It's enough to get the basic idea of who these characters are.

Then when we finally get on the train, there are some seemingly unimportant short scenes of different passengers on the train, including the woman known only as the "Lady on the Train." I didn't find any of these points slow at all but was rather more intrigued at how this whole scenario was going to play out. The attackers' motives for tormenting and killing the girls seem to be nonexistent - like they are just doing it for fun - and that should be enough to make the audience think they deserve the harshest punishment for it, but these earlier scenes of the three of them leave a bad taste in your mouth from the beginning. These people are immoral and frankly, they suck as human beings. And apparently, so do some other people on that train...

Remember during the rape scene in Irreversible where there's a shot of a person approaching the end of the tunnel, stopping, witnessing what's happening, and then walking away again? Didn't that piss you off?! Well, it sure pissed me off, but oh boy, does Night Train Murders have a scene to top that. After making Lisa jack off one of the guys, they strip Margaret. A well-dressed older man is standing outside the compartment watching all this and when the woman discovers him and invites him in, he gladly and immediately starts raping Margaret. Then when he's done, he just leaves and jumps off the train at the next stop. Shocked face! Oh my gracious, what kind of people exist in this world?

The violence, including the rape scene, is mostly subdued. There is no nudity and all the slapping and hitting is not as bad as it could have been. Even the most brutal act in the movie - i.e. stabbing a girl in the freaking vagina - is done in a way where the focus is on the victim's pain and the horrific look on her face during her eventual death, giving you more reason to hate these loonies. The revenge that the father takes on the harmonica-playing baddy is actually rather silly and not that satisfying, though. Nor is his chasing the other guy around with a gun for a while before finally fatally shooting him off-camera. NOR is the fact that the most vile one of the group, the woman, gets away with it all in the end.  That probably pisses off everybody who watches this movie.

Harping on a few bad things, though, won't really make me reconsider my initial reaction to Night Train Murders. I like it. It is well shot and directed, and does not show anything all that explicit to titillate any viewers who may just root for the bad guys as I know some of them do. The acting is pretty good, I guess, but it's always hard for me to judge somebody's acting when they're being dubbed over so horribly.


  1. ...Nah, I rather have all of the bad guys killed in my rape and revenge flicks, especially if it involves microwaves or getting their heads pulped with a fire extinguisher. If any of them survives, it's not my flick. But glad you enjoyed Night Train Murders, though!

  2. Michele, how can you watch a cinematic abomination like this ?, violence against women always sickens me (especially sexual violence of the kind depicted so graphically here), i know you enjoy watching and reveiwing horror movies but i really do think you should draw the line at this kind of loathsome and odious garbage.

  3. Michele, you didn`t reply to what i said, i just wondered why ?.

    1. I will not disregard a movie simply for its subject matter. And there are far worse movies than this.