Following in the tradition of horror film anthologies like Dead of Night, Tales from the Crypt, and Creepshow; 1985's Night Train to Terror provides an interesting spin by having each of the film's three stories distilled from a feature film. Granted, packing a full-length movie into a twenty-five minute or so segment doesn't leave a lot of room for characterization, motivation, or plot even. The film distills the horror elements of these three features into a concentrated and highly flavorful B-movie paste that goes down well with nachos and beer. The disjointed narratives lend a dream-like quality to the stories, and while they ultimately don't make a lick of sense, they sure make for a fun ride.

To connect the three tales, God and Satan are meeting on the titular train to discuss the damnation or salvation of a handful of mortal souls. The train is also carrying a jaw-droppingly awful pseudo-80s pop band, resplendent in their headbands and Flashdance-style sweatshirts. The young musicians seem perpetually stuck in music video mode, repeatedly singing an infectious (though certainly not good) tune that you'll be humming for days.
The first case up for consideration is that of Harry Billings (John Phillip Law, who earned cool points for life by starring in Mario Bava's Danger: Diabolik) is a distraught man who accidentally causes his wife's death on their wedding night. He ends up in a sanitarium where Doctors Fargo and Brewer inject him with a drug that forces him to go out and retrieve nubile young woman for some nefarious purpose. Exactly what that purpose is has been lost in the editing, though they usually end up meeting a nasty fate at the hands of Otto the sadistic orderly played by Richard Moll. The gory murders and gratuitous nudity come flying at you so fast you won't have time to be confused. This segment is culled from the footage of an unfinished and unreleased film. Trinity Home Entertainment released a DVD this past June called Marilyn Alive and Behind Bars, which apparently also uses repurposed footage from this same source, and I suspect Marilyn is a renamed version of a film titled Scream Your Head Off.

The second film is a truncated version of the 1983 film Death Wish Club and tells the story of Glen Marshall, who falls in love with a porn star named Greta Connors. He tries to take her away from the sordid life she's been living, but her previous boyfriend/manager/deviant George isn't willing to let her go so easily. George coerces the young couple to take part in the goings on at The Death Club, a place where obscenely rich and bored people play highly novel forms of Russian roulette. Poisonous insects, tricked out electric chairs, and wrecking balls all come into play during the club's suicide games. This is the weakest of the three tales, but the offbeat deaths and a star that looks like a time-displaced James Van Der Beek should keep your interest.

The third and final tale is the collected high points from a 1980 film called Cataclysm (a.k.a. Satan's Supper). Richard Moll (wearing a Shatner-esque hairpiece) appears in this one too, this time as Dr. James Hansen, author of a book supposedly disproving the existence of Christ. The book raises the concern of Hansen's devoutly Catholic wife Claire, and a defrocked monk named Papini. Meanwhile, B-movie god Cameron Mitchell plays Lieutenant Stearn, who is on the trail of a seemingly immortal Nazi war criminal who has hooves and can turn into a stop-motion golem. Again, it's all a big mess, but a wicked pile of fun as well.

While Night Train to Terror is easy enough to locate on DVD, you're not going to find a digitally remastered widescreen edition anywhere. It's turned up on enough horror compilation packages to lead me to believe it's probably in the public domain. It's available as a standalone disk from Simitar Entertainment, or as part of a four movie pack called State of Shock from Brentwood. It's also available on the out of print Deadtime Stories 10 movie collection from Brentwood.
categories Features, Cinematical