Have you been on a train listening to an audiobook when a random but repeated song plays at the end of every story? This statement is pretty much Night Train to Terror.
Aboard a train, either called “The Heavenly Express” or “The Devil’s Cannonball” depending on your point of view, is heading for Las Vegas where it will crash at dawn.
On board, is God (billed as himself but played by Tony Giorgio) and Satan (billed as Lu Sifer but played by Ferdy Mayne), who are deciding the fate of three people, while a “rock band” are breakdancing to Joe Turano’s ‘Everybody but You’ in the next carriage.
There is a lot of breakdancing.
So, the first image we have on Night Train to Terror is the random group of young adults dancing on the train for no reason.
Damn it. I’m in Rubber territory again.
The thread of the film is the conductor (Gabriel Whitehouse) stating that either God or Devil will decide the soul of everyone in their tales depending on how they behave.
Harry Billings (John Philip Law) is the first to be judged.
Harry awakens in a lunatic asylum after drunkenly driving off a cliff and killing his bride, due to him speeding to wind her up.
The doctors are kidnapping innocent people, torturing them before they’re murdered.
Richard Moll, playing a demented orderly called Otto, has a passion for chopping up patients. And is astonishing to watch.
The vampiric doctors hypnotise Harry to lure women back to the asylum to be sold to either Middle East Sheikhs or as part for the black market.
It’s not clear, and I can revel in that.
It’s hard to describe this plot because, at the time, it wasn’t a complete story.
And this shows.
Gretta Connors (Meredith Haze) is working as a popcorn vendor who is obsessed with death.
She catches the eye of wealthy businessman, George Youngmeyer (J. Martin Sellers). He fulfils her dream of becoming a star by introducing her to a pornographer.
Pre-med student, Glen (Rick Barnes) is at a party where the partygoers are randomly shown a porn film, which, of course, stars the stunning Gretta. Glen’s mission to “have her” is initially thwarted as she belongs to George.
But Glen succeeds in stealing Gretta away from George.
Unfortunately for them, George is a member of a “death club”.
George makes the couple join, playing on Gretta’s death lust, and they go to a meeting that ends with someone dying.
The creative ways that the individuals meet their demise is shocking and gruesome and nothing more than an elaborate version of Russian Roulette, although the electric musical chairs weren’t enough for me to not notice that one of the participants changed gender.
The last one to be judged is Clare Hanson (Faith Clift), a skilled surgeon and devout Catholic who is bombarded with dreams of Nazi imagery and profane monstrosities.
The thoughts are probably a product of the fact that her husband, James (Richard Moll) has recently released a book stating, “God is Dead.”
The book attracts playboy Satanist, Oliver (Robert Bristol) who appears to be ageless and Satan’s right-hand man.
We see he was once a Nazi, which ties into Clare’s dreams, but he appears to be the same age.
As well as drinker at the Fountain of Youth, he is leading a cult of sinful atheists.
It’s left to luckless Lieutenant Sterne (Cameron Mitchell), with help from a Priest (Juan Luis Curiel) and a man called Dieter (Marc Lawrence), to stop Oliver before all hell breaks loose.
Oliver and his many forms, including his claymation spider form, are alarming.
It becomes a tad muddy by all the subplots, but I would love to see the full version of this story.
But after each of these stories, we cut back to the young adults dancing to the same song.
At first, it’s frustrating, but the song is so catchy that you’ll be singing it for days.
It seems to serve as a palate cleanser before you move onto the next course or tale of terror.
But then you delve into the history of the film.
Ultimately, each of the stories are unsuccessful films that had some contact with formerly blacklisted, Philip Yordan.
Harry’s judgement is adapted from the then-unreleased Scream Your Head Off.
Gretta’s judgement comes from several sources (Dark Side of Love, Gretta, and Death Wish Club).
Only Clare’s judgement was a released film, Cataclysm or, as Troma released it, The Nightmare Never Ends. Night Train to Terror is a Frankenstein’s monster of a film.
As it’s “so bad, they’re good” you know that this isn’t an award-winning film.
It’s some badly edited films, forced into one narrative, interspersed with the most 80’s music video ever.
The film is a mess, but that’s its charm.
If I may go back to the food reference, think of this film as a sample menu.
After you’ve sampled, you can decide of which ones you’d like to see the whole of the film.
Night Train to Terror may derail you.
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