Night Train to Terror (1985)
Directed by: John Carr, Phillip Marshak, Tom McGowan, Jay Schlossberg-Cohen, Gregg C. Tallas
Starring: Ferdy Mayne, Tony Giorgio, Earl Washington, Byron Yordan, John Phillip Law, Richard Moll, Sharon Ratcliff, J. Martin Sellers, Merideth Haze, Rick Barnes, Cameron Mitchell, Faith Clift, Robert Bristol, Maurice Grandmaison
1/2 (out of 4)
God and Satan are sitting on a train. That’s the setup for the huge joke that is Night Train to Terror, an incompetent three-story horror anthology that really doesn’t have a point to make other than offering up disjointed sequences of gore, boobs, and frightfully bad claymation trying to pass for special effects. The opening of the film instantly dates it – a bad 80s rock video insidiously inserts itself as Flashdance rejects take over a train car, wearing sweatbands, star studded black belts, and bright colored leggings, with the lead (Byron Yordan – one of writer Philip Yordan’s sons, maybe?) singing “Daddy’s in the living room/sorting through the news/Mama’s at the shopping mall/buying new shoes/Everybody’s got something to do/Everybody but you!” It’s like the audience is being mocked mercilessly for having nothing to do but watch horrible movies (guilty!) It’s part of the movie’s framing device, but the tonal shift is so jarring as to be surreal. In the meantime, God (Ferdy Mayne) and Satan (Tony Giorgio) sit at a table conversing (the exposition is basically a Cliffs Notes version of the Bible), as Satan again reminds God why he’s so cool: “I offer adultery, alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, greed, rape, murder, war… all the fun things!” The two have taken up what appears to be a daily meeting over the fate of various souls (it’s the 80s, so there are no Powerpoint slides/Flash presentations yet). While they sit there, a magical train-car window then shows us three horror stories – one original, edited from a then-unfinished film, and two others stolen from 80s bombs at the time, mostly directed by John Carr and written by Philip Yordan, naturally.
The first entry is entitled “The Case Of Harry Billings”, which is actually a composite of juicy bits from a movie called Scream Your Head Off, unreleased at the time. It has since been seen on VHS, but nobody seems to have noticed. (Trivia: John Carr would mess with it again, at a later date, releasing it as Marilyn: Alive and Behind Bars, but again, nobody would notice.) Anyway, the segment stars John Phillip Law as Harry Billings, a womanizing type who is kidnapped, given shock treatment, and turned into a stooge who seduces beautiful women, drugs them, then brings them to a sinister asylum where they are tortured and killed. Their body parts are then shipped off to various medical schools. See, it’s sex and violence in the name of Science! Co-starring Night Court‘s Richart Moll as a crazed orderly, it’s haphazardly edited, which probably works in its favor, simulating a drug-fueled dream filled with images of tied up nude women and body parts. The best bit is a Grand Guignol style trip through a freezer filled with amputated limbs and chopped off heads, while a poor woman screams in the background. Otherwise, it’s nonsense, but I did get a chuckle out of a lobotomized doctor shaking his head back and forth, performing surgery on a lady villain who made him that way. It’s ironic, see, and also dumb, but the segment did make me interested in seeing the finished product, which I may try to do one day when everybody has something to do, everybody but me. (More Trivia: you might remember John Philip Law from the immortal Space Mutiny. His performance is about on the same level as that film. Take that however you like.)
The middle section of Night Train to Terror starts off with an evil train conductor smiling at the camera when asked by the 80s rock band rejects why their train might be delayed getting to Vegas. It’s the kind of forced smile that screams “get me out of this shitty movie!” After that, God and Satan take a look at scenes ripped from Death Wish Club, which concerns a man getting revenge on the girl who left him and her new lover by forcing them to play death games along with members of a secret club. Some of the games include: standing still while a cheesy looking bug flies around, eventually biting an unsuspecting kid in the woods and causing his face to explode. There’s the random electrocution game, Russian Roulette-like, which results in a guy getting fried, well done. Finally, there’s the wrecking ball bit, where it flies around before crushing somebody’s head. That’s basically it – a string of set-pieces for the amusement of deities who decide the fate of souls in the manner that one decides whether to eat the meat or fish for dinner.
The final sequence is the longest – it’s an edited down version of 1980′s Cataclysm, starring Richard Moll (this movie might be considered his own personal hell) and Cameron Mitchell (also seen in Space Mutiny!) This segment is all over the map, featuring Robert Bristol as a demon (with goat legs) who battles people chosen by God to take him down. (They fail miserably). Moll is amusing as an atheist who writes a book called “God is Dead”; he’s eventually turned into a fake dummy which is then torched and sent to hell. A monk resembling the one from Horror Express (was that an accidental homage?) is turned into claymation before being killed by a giant claymation insect. There’s some gore involving heart-removal procedures and then Bristol’s character gets the last laugh, although due to the choppy editing we are not sure how or why. Again, God and Satan deliberate, where Satan laughs about how his man wins, God says that he let him win, and I ask why the hell would he do that? The man who plays God in this film plays it just like Merlin from Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders, and just like in that film, I wonder why a powerful being would let so many supernaturally evil things just roam free on Earth.
The ending of Night Train to Terror results in a spectacular wreck (well, it’s implied) and the death of the rock band. But God has mercy on their souls, and we see the train continue on a magic track into the stars while the ditty “Everybody but You” plays on and on. The movie is the ultimate in Z-grade anthologies that don’t make any sense but in retrospect I wonder if they were meant to. It’s inept and horribly edited, but it does feature enough blood, boobs, B actors, and bad 80s music to make it somewhat worth watching – like a train wreck. Train wreck, get it?? I would approach the film with the same frame of mind I would approach those flicks made for parties that just feature all the gore scenes from various horror flicks, like Terror in the Aisles and Terror on Tape. I think in this movie, Satan probably gets all of the best lines (“They’re musicians… I usually get most of them anyway”). I also think that, after watching God and Satan staring at bad horror movies and talking about them, they should immediately pick up the torch left from Siskel and Ebert.
- Bill Gordon
Night Train to Terror was just recently released on a special Blu-ray + DVD Combo. Yep, believe it or not! Bonus features:
- Restored in 2K from 35mm elements
- Bonus feature film: GRETTA (DVD only / Sourced from 1 inch Master)
- Interview with Producer/Director Jay Schlossberg-Cohen
- Interview with Assistant Editor Wayne Schmidt
- Commentary track by The Hysteria Continues
- Theatrical trailer