Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
Released on: October 8th, 2013.
Director: Jay Schlossberg-Cohen
Cast: Cameron Mitchell, John Phillip Law, Merideth Haze, Ferddy Mane, Richard Moll
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Rarely has there been a horror anthology film as flat out bizarre as 1985’s Night Train To Terror. What’s it about? Good question, and one that’s not really easy to answer, but let’s give it a shot… keeping in mind that in order to attempt this, there will be some spoilers along the way. Even those spoilers can’t really prepare you for the insanity that is Night Train To Terror, however.
When the movie begins, there is a dude (Bryan Yordan) running up and down the cars of a train breakdancing and singing a song we can safely assume is called Dance With Me, because that’s what he repeats over and over again. Wanna see it? You know you do. Here’s a little taste.
Right. Got it? From there, we realize that this train, travelling through the night to what is presumably a destination ripe with terror, contains two very important passengers: a guy with a nice white beard who is obviously God (Ferdy Mayne) and a sleazy, greasy looking dude who is obviously Satan (Tony Giorgio). Tended to by a creepy conductor (Gabriel Whitehouse), they’re sharing a car and swapping some stories and this, as well as the breakdancing for some reason, is what the filmmakers decided should carry the three separate vignettes that make up most of the movie’s running time. It’s an odd concept to be sure, but we’re really just getting started.
Our first story follows a guy named Harry (John Phillip Law) who gets into a car crash that leaves his wife dead at the bottom of a river and he in a mental hospital lorded over by a Nurse Ratchet type who is really into electroshock therapy. Puzzlingly enough, Harry is conditioned into kidnapping hot chicks and bringing them back to the hospital where a big guy named Otto (Richard Moll… yep, Bull. From Night Court), plays with their boobs, after which they get chopped up and their respective parts tossed into a big freezer or closet or something. Eventually Harry decides to make an escape and someone gets their head cut off, which is kind of cool.
Up next, we meet a guy named Glenn (Rick Barnes) who just happens to stop by his old frat house one day for a beer just in time for catch the showing of a porno movie. He falls instantly in love with the girl that he sees getting boned in the film and he decides to seek her out. Her name is Gretta (Meredith Haze) and she’s pretty cute but unfortunately she’s tried to go legit and get out of the porn ghetto by teaming up with a creepy older guy with named George Youngmeyer (J. Martin Sellers) who makes her play piano at his nightclub. This can’t stop their love, but you know what can? Forcing the young lovers to join his death club! This involves dealing with a giant claymation wasp before getting into a sleeping bag and lying on the floor while a giant wrecking ball spins in a circular motion over top of everyone playing the game. As the rope swings, it brushes against a blade that eventually cuts it. When the ball drops though, it doesn’t kill any of the central characters, it just crushes the head of some lady we don’t know. Once that’s over and done with, God tells us that they lived happily ever after, which is kind of nice. There’s also a black guy who looks like Jimi Hendrix here named Prince Flubutu (Mark Ridley) for some reason and some other random dudes who just sort of pop into the story without any concern for logic. He gets electrocuted and it’s awesome.
Last but most certainly not least, our last story follows an old Jewish guy named Weiss (William Charles) who survived the Holocaust but who has been hassling a police officer (Cameron Mitchell) to arrest the guy who, during their interment, killed his family. The cop is confused, figuring that the Nazi in question is probably long gone, but Weiss insists and eventually coerces the cop to accompany him and see for himself. Here he spies a young man identical to the one he saw in the camp decades ago. The cops walk away from this one but Weiss takes it upon himself to get the justice her deserves. At this point, things stop making any sense and a rad stop motion animated demon shows up and kills some people and then some more monsters show up and kill a few more people. And Richard Moll shows up again, but as a completely different character than the one he played in the first story.
Night Train To Terror was assembled from three separate horror pictures – Scream Your Head Off, Gretta and Cataclysm – and then re-edited into the picture you see here with the footage involving God and Satan on the train serving to bridge the other elements into something intended to be cohesive. It doesn’t work, at least not in a traditional sense. Lots of dialogue seems to have been dubbed over or just taken out of the movie and horrendous narration put in its place. The breakdancing singing guy and his pals appear in between each story for reasons never explained and they sing the same song over and over again – which completely justifies the ending where the train goes off the trails and everyone dies.
I mean, chick this shit out:
Huh? The movie makes no sense. So why bother? Bad karate that can only be stopped by a bearded guy with a net. Flubutu’s amazing electrocution. Boobies. Richard Moll fondling boobies. Decapiation. Giant wasp makes guy’s head explode. Head’s in jars. Closet full of body parts. Giant demons. Crazy spider monster. Breakdancers. Bad eighties fashion. Repetitive music. God and Satan looking out a window and enjoying story time together. All of this sounds completely random and unrelated, and it is, this really just a series of bizarre set pieces strung together but damn it, it’s a lot of fun. You just sort of need to see it for yourself and accept it as is. Don’t question it or you start thinking about how terrible it is, just let the movie take you to places you didn’t know existed in the first place and be thankful for the experience.
Night Train To Terror arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that has been ‘restored in 2K from 35mm elements’ and which is framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. There is some print damage here that pops up from time to time but this easily trumps the various DVDs that have come out in the past in every way you’d expect it to. Detail is pretty solid and colors look really good here. Blacks are fine if never reference quality and texture looks good as does contrast. Skin tones are realistic, they’re never waxy or scrubbed, and all in all the movie looks good on Blu-ray.
The only audio option on the disc is a DTS-HD Mono mix in English, there are no alternate language options or subtitles provided. The audio, for the most part, is good. The film’s ridiculous dialogue is perfectly audible and that goddamn Dance With Me song? It sounds great. The effects are hokey and goofy and the post dubbed sequences and narration still sound like they’re from another planet, but that’s how it goes with this movie. Just go with it.
Extras on the first disc start off with a commentary track by The Hysteria Continues – the podcast guys who have made quite a name for themselves by taking on some pretty challenging pictures. There’s obviously a sense of humor behind this track, and while it never descends into MST3K style parody, these guys are well aware of the film’s problems. Early on one of the commentators notes that he would gladly buy the soundtrack, and there’s no reason to doubt his sincerity. As the picture plays out, they point out the film’s countless bizarre details and then try to offer up some trivia – such as who actually sang the Dance With Me song that should be more or less permanently burned into your brain by this point. They offer up plenty of information about the cast and crew and talk about the strange history of this picture, they talk about the origins of the pictures that make up the ‘anthology’ bits in the movie and what may or may not have been added to it and how, shockingly, many of the actors in this movie have only this picture credited in their filmography. It’s a good track, the right mix of facts and humor, and quite listenable. These guys do a good job with this type of picture.
The disc also includes an interview with Producer/Director Jay Schlossberg-Cohen that plays as an alternate audio track. Conducted by Joe Rubin, the track starts off by letting Schlossberg-Cohen discuss his background and how he got into film after focusing on acting until around the eleventh grade when he decided to focus more on the technical side of things. From there, he decided to go to film school and how the OPEC oil embargo at the time affected his decision! He talks about how video he was involved with was used, for the first time, in a federal court case in Brooklyn and then how he got his start working in the film industry on a project for the Armenian Archdiocese Of America, which oddly led to different work and different projects. As the interview goes on, he talks about how he met Andy Warhol, his adventures in the New York City of the 1970s, and brushes with Hollywood. Throughout the interview, he doles out some marriage advice, how those with talent start going ‘off the path’ to keep working and how working on film is more fun for him than any other ventures he’s had in the arts. He expresses admiration for Kubrick, what it was like moving west and how an exploding Space Shuttle can wreak havoc on a production. At this point we’re over an hour in, and it’s then that he starts dealing in some details of Night Train To Terror. He notes the influence of Ray Harryhausen on the claymation scenes, the use of music in the movie, and how the movie wound up being sold once it was done. Other notes? The storyboards were done in pastel chalk, how an X rating will kill your distribution and the importance of watching as many movies as you can. Rubin asks a few questions to keep him on topic but more or less just stays out of the way as Schlossberg-Cohen talks and talks and talks some more. It’s actually quite a bit of fun and if it isn’t always on topic as a commentary might be, well, it’s billed as an interview, so deal with it.
The first disc also includes the film’s theatrical trailer, which is pretty great.
The DVD included in the combo pack release includes the feature and both the commentary and interview included on the Blu-ray but also a bonus feature film in the form of Gretta. Though it was sourced from 1 inch Master, the only available elements, it generally looks pretty good. It’s presented in anamorphic widescreen and while it’s obviously softer than the HD version of Night Train To Terror on the Blu-ray disc, detail is alright and there isn’t a whole lot of print damage to note. It’s interesting to watch this, the full lengthy version of the second story from Night Train To Terror, as it plays out in a considerably more serious way. There’s still plenty of wackiness, including a great scene in a porno shop run by a leather-daddy type, complete with copious dildos and lubes in the background! The plot follows a similar idea, in that our hero falls in love with Gretta and she in turn introduces him to a collection of oddballs, which in turn leads them into the ‘death wish club’ seen in Night Train. There’s more to it than that, obviously, but you get the idea. Not so surprisingly, it’s far more cohesive in this version than in the chopped up craziness that is Night Train To Terror.
Also included on the DVD is an interview with Assistant Editor Wayne Schmidt. This also plays out as an alternate audio track and it runs about thirty minutes or so. Once again moderated by Rubin and seemingly conducted over Skype or some sort of VOIP service, Schmidt talks about how he got into film initially by writing and producing a movie for Charles Band. From there he talks about the producer named Ed Beaudine who formed a corporation with a few other backers who started out making the movie on a local scale. They also made Harry, so there’s some odd back and forth here about what came from which movie and how that was all involved, and Schmidt actually offers up quite a bit of information about where the original material used in Night Train To Terror came from. Rubin asks some pretty solid questions here about the alternate versions of the movie, the elements that exist or don’t exist, and the existence of a black and white section – and Schmidt has no idea what it was made for, though he presents the idea that it might have been made with the intention of being used as a phony porn movie. He talks about how the movie Harry that he was involved in became a move called Scream Your Head Off and then got cut into Night Train and how the ‘complicated financing’ lead to the movie not being properly released, and just generally gives us a great history of some of the material that wound up being used in the main attraction.
Both discs feature static menus and chapter selection.
The Final Word:
You’ll find yourself wondering, when this movie ends, just what the Hell it was you just watched. And you won’t come up with any reasonable answer, and yet, you’ll want to watch it again, if only to try, as futile as it might be to do so, to make some sense out of all of this. You won’t be able to, but you might have a whole lot of fun trying. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release for this turkey is a good one and it shows some serious dedication to the preservation of cinematic oddities. Offering up the movie in far better shape than it’s been offered up before with an amusing commentary, some informative interviews and an alternate version as a second feature, it’s pretty much the final word on Night Train To Terror, and a special edition in the truest sense of the word.