Sunday, 8 May 2011

Terror Express - the Camera Obscura DVD

This Italian quickie from 1979 was dashed off by its writer Luigi Montefiori (aka George Eastman) when a train carriage set became available at a film studio. The result was La Ragazza del Vagone Letto, or under its more succulent English export tile, Terror Express. In the film a sleeper train bound for Switzerland is boarded by 3 thugs looking for some cheap thrills. At first, their behavior is irritating but after raping a female passenger, the situation gets out of control, and the men effectively take over one of the carriages, terrorizing the passengers with abuse, intimidation and a gun snatched from a cop on board...


Terror Express is something of a curiosity. Comparisons with Night Train Murders are inevitable, but whereas Aldo Lado's film has just the right mixture of sex and shocks (giving Last House on the Left a good run for its money), Terror Express is a curiously muted affair in terms of bloody violence - strange considering Montefiori was devouring an unborn foetus the following year in Joe D'Amato's anti-classic Antropophagus. But if its sleaze you want, the film will more than satisfy - when the male cast is not slobbering over their frequently nude actresses, there's plenty of softcore grappling and forcible sex. If the 3 thugs are broadly obnoxious, their long suffering passengers are not without their own flaws - a slimey businessman with a taste for pornography and prostitutes, an in-house hooker who plies her trade on the train, a sluttish wife into brief encounters in the toilet, and a father with a less than healthy interest in his beautiful teenage daughter (a shameless bit of plotting which sets up a jaw-dropping sequence later on in the film that will have sleazehounds writhing in spasms of ecstasy)


Journeyman director Ferdinando Baldi's turn behind the camera is pedestrian at best - his direction doesn't quite wring out the tension required, but at least the film looks suitably claustrophobic taking full advantage of the cramped set. And there's enormous fun from the cast which reads like a who's who of Italian exploitation - Zora Kerova (Cannibal Ferox, The New York Ripper), Silvia Dionisio (Waves of Lust), Carlo de Mejo (City of the Living Dead), Gianluigi Chirizzi (Burial Ground), and Fausto Lombardi (Hanna D: The Girl from Vondel Park). Special mention too for the excellent Austrian actor Werner Pochath as the leader of the thugs. With his striking looks he certainly has a face for villianry. Pochath also turned up in another memorably sleazy film, the 1977 Swiss/German production Bloodlust (aka Mosquito the Rapist).

Werner Pochath - would you sell this man a train ticket ?

Terror Express made its arrival on DVD in 2009 courtesy of German label Camera Obscura, and the results are very impressive. The disc coded for R2 is housed in a stylish digipak slipcase complete with English and German film notes. The 1.66 anamorphic transfer is very strong, sharp with good color. The print used for the transfer shows some minor wear and tear, and there are some fleeting instances of shots imported from an inferior source, but overall this is a very strong effort. Audio is Italian only with optional easy to read English and German subtitles. Extras include the English and Italian trailers, a gallery of still of promo art, and best of all, a superb 24min making-of entitled Tales From the Rails (in Italian with optional English or German subtitles), featuring cast members Zora Kerowa and Carlo De Mejo reminiscing about the shoot. Also interviewed is Luigi Montefiori who offers a very frank opinion on his work and Italian Exploitation Cinema in general. No self respecting fan of European Cult Cinema should be without this one in their collection and the disc can be ordered from Diabolik DVD from the US, or D & T Mailorder from Europe.

3 comments:

  1. Great write up Wes, I do like Italian horror but not usually this type of movie, you do make it sound interesting though.

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  2. Thanks Martin. Terror Express is no Suspiria that's for sure, but its one of the few sleazy Italian films from this era with plenty of gorgeous naked Euro-babes and not a concentration camp in sight... Seriously though, this is one of those films I tend to watch when my wife is not around - to paraphrase Barry Convex in Videodrome - "Why would anyone want to watch a scum show like Terror Express ?"

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  3. I like a good dose of sleaze now and again - so this one is on my list to watch now.

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