Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Blu-ray Review: NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985)


Label: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Code: Region Free 
Duration: 93 Minutes 
MPAA Rating: Unrated 
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Jay Schlossberg-Cohen
Cast: John Phillip Law, Cameron Mitchell, Richard Moll, Marc Lawrence, Tony Giorgio, Ferdy Mane

What the fuck did I just watch? Oh sure you laugh now but when you watch you will ponder that very same question. Night Train to Terror (1985) is a horror anthology stitched together from the three separate unfinished films with a wrap-a-round framing device featuring God (Ferdy Mane) and Satan (Tony Giorgio) on a doomed train headed towards Las Vegas. En route to their final destination the two exchange stories of spiritual corruption and redemption, the fate of three people hang in the balance... and the most 80's new wave sounding band play the same song again and again, that song is a diabolically catchy tune. 

The strange vignettes begin with "The Case of Harry Billings" a man named Harry (John Phillip Law) causes an accident which kills his new wife, in the aftermath he ends up at an asylum where undergoes electro-shock therapy and is brainwashed by an evil doctor to go out into the world and seduce women, bringing them back to the asylum where they are raped and butchered by wierdo orderly (Richard Moll, Night Court) and sold to medical school as body parts. 

Next up is "The Case of Gretta Connors," wherein a young medical student Glenn (Rick Barnes)

watches a porno and falls in love with porn star Gretta (Meredith Haze), but her jealous ex-lover initiates them into a "death club" and are subjected to different near-death experiences including electrocution, deadly insects and an 2 ton swinging ball of death.

The third and final vignette is "The Case of Claire Hansen" featuring Holocaust survivor Olivier (Robert Bristol) whom tries desperately to convince a tough-nosed cop (Cameron Mitchell) that an ageless WWII Nazi ghoul is menacing the city, meanwhile a surgeon named Claire and her atheist husband James (Richard Moll again) are pulled into the shenanigans and gruesome hilarity ensues.

Watching Night Train to Terror unfold is like trying to remember a half forgotten nightmare or viewing of a poorly edited and dubbed Italian horror movie, it just doesn't make a lick of sense, you have a vague idea of what happened but you just cannot put the pieces together in a way that is coherent, and there's a good reason for that. Night Train To Terror (1985) was assembled from three separate movies and edited town to anthology length and stitched together with the God vs. the Devil wrap-around framing device with the new-wave performance thrown in.

The acting for the most part is utter shit, particularly Meredith Haze in the "Gretta' segment. Richard Moll who portrayed "Bull" in TV's 'Night Court in two of the tales, that was fun. His weirdo orderly in the first segment was super-sleazy, most of these tales have a some sweet sleazy moment, while the producers may have not crafted a decent film they new enough to throw in a lot of boobies and and some fun special effects. We get a fun array of cheapo gore, dismemberment and some awesome claymation stop-motion effects from the same guy who created the beast in Crater Lake Monster (1977) - the stop-motion wasp and gruesome meltdown are fantastic in 'Gretta' - a definite highlight if the movie. 

be prepared for some cheese and poor editing - the three films were hacked to pieces and from scene to scene do not expect continuity or logic to be part of the experience. 
Blu-ray: Night Train to Terror (1985) arrives on a dual format release from Vinegar Syndrome

with a brand new hi-definition transfer restored in 2K from 35mm element. Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) for the first time on home video, the new transfer is quite an improvement over previous budget collection versions. There's some print damage and softness from time to time but this is a pretty solid presentation, colors are solid and the black levels are decent, not great. Vinegar Syndrome keep things pure with an image that doesn't suffer from grain scrubbing, there's plenty of film grain with some decent fine detail and the skin tones look natural. While there's some minor print damage throughout when you consider how previous versions  appeared this is pretty solid image from Vinegar Syndrome. 

The only audio options is an adequate English Language DTS-HD Master Audio Mono with no subtitle options. It's a pretty cheap film and the dubbed audio and canned effects will only ever sound decent at best, it sounds like the cheap production that it is. The bizarrely infectious new-wave tune "Dance with Me" sis damn hard to shake it once you've had a taste, you'll be singing it for days. 

The Blu-ray disc special features begin with an audio commentary track from The Hysteria Continues podcast crew and it's a fun one, they have a true appreciation of just how awful and awesome this movie can be and they drop a lot of trivia and production notes about the film and nuggets about the three films cut-up to make it. 

Another audio option is an interview with with Producer/Director Jay Schlossberg-Cohen moderated by Joe Rubin which runs for the duration of the film, it's pretty much a second commentary option without being scene specific - in fact it doesn't even get to Night Train to Terror until after the hour mark but Schlossberg-Cohen is character and quite a storyteller - it's all over the map but it makes for an interesting listen. 

The Blu-ray extras are finished-up with a theatrical trailer and for some less intrepid viewers this might be all they need ever see of this awful film, ha ha. The second disc is a DVD mirroring the exact same extras as the Blu-ray plus a few more.  Another neat bonus is the inclusion of the uncut version of the second entry "Gretta' sourced from a 1" master and it looks pretty good. Its an interesting watch to see the extended story play out, noticeably many of the effects shots and deaths are different and the insert claymation shots added to Night Train to Terror are missing. 

In addition to the inclusion of the film 'Gretta' there's a 30 minute audio interview with Assistant Editor Wayne Schmidt also moderated by Joe Rubin. Schmidt speaks in depth about his involvement on this film plus the movie 'Harry' which later became 'Scream Your Head Off' and eventually cut into one of the vignettes on this nutty anthology, it's a solid interview by Rubin who brings up a fabled black and white segment missing from the film. 

Special Features:
- Restored in 2K from 35mm elements
- Bonus feature film 'Gretta' (91 Minutes)
- Interview with Producer/Director Jay Schlossberg-Cohen
- Interview with Assistant Editor Wayne Schmidt (30 Minutes)
- Commentary track by The Hysteria Continues
- Theatrical trailer (2:40) 

Verdict: I love these obscure and often times junky movies that Vinegar Syndrome have been putting out on Blu-ray. Night Train to Terror (1985) is quite a nutter, a schlocky anthology crammed together from the corpses of three separate movies with a goofy wrap-around story. it's awful but it is certainly entertaining with a bizarre mix of nudity, claymation, awful acting, death clubs, Nazi vampires and God vs. the Devil on a train ride to oblivion, plus Vinegar Syndrome give this one some quality extras that help explain what lead to this disaster of a film. 2 Outta 5