Friday, 15 March 2013

Terror Express (1980) - review

Terror Express
Starring: Carlo De Mejo, Werner Pochath, Silvia Dionisio

This obscure sleaze epic is yet another Italian Last House on the Left rip-off, set on a train (a la Aldo Lado’s Night Train Murders), featuring an ‘all-star’ cast: Silvia Dionisio (ex-Mrs. Ruggero Deodato), Werner Pochath, Zora Kerova, Carlo de Mejo, Venantino Venantini and Gianluigi Chirizzi. A group of passengers is waiting to board an express train to Switzerland. Among the commuters are a unhappily married couple - arrogant, bored Anna (Kerova) and her wealthy older husband, a lecherous old businessman who orders his assistant to buy every porno magazine from the newsstand for him, a family: father (Venantini), mother and nubile teenage daughter, Evelyn, an elderly man and his bedridden wife, a prisoner, Peter (Chirizzi), under arrest for ‘political reasons’ and his minder, and a beautiful young woman, Juliette (Dionisio), who we soon discover is a high-class prostitute. At the train station, Juliette is harassed by a trio of obnoxious men, Ernie (de Mejo), Dave (Pochath) and Phil while talking on a public phone. The passengers board the train and it is soon revealed that the trio is also on board. They proceed to make a nuisance of themselves in the restaurant carriage, much to the disdain of the other diners. Dave trips up the waiter and is reprimanded, provoking Ernie to spew out a torrent of inane counter-culture psychobabble, including: “…it was a small and banal accident, provoked by the forces that dictate the destiny of humanity…mysteriousness…the pharaohs…the druids…and punk rock!” Airhead Anna applauds his statements, and soon they are making love in his compartment (de Mejo, who is supposed to be the film’s ‘hunk’ (complete with gold chain, open-neck shirt and big hair, has a not particularly prepossessing nude scene)) They are joined by Phil, who rapes Anna. Meanwhile, Venantini’s unhealthy interest in his daughter is revealed when he obtains her nightgown and asks Juliette to wear it while having sex with her, in a decidedly uncomfortable scene. They are interrupted by Dave, who is fed up with waiting for his turn with Juliette. She refuses him, and all hell breaks loose as the trio take over the train. Dave threatens to rape Evelyn, and her mother pleads with Juliette to comply with his demands. Reluctantly, she does (cue yet another tedious sex scene), then Dave offers her to all the men in the train. Peter, the young prisoner, goes in, but is kind to her. Juliette tells him about her sad childhood and soon they fall in love. Ernie promises Evelyn that no one will hurt her, and gets her a glass of water. The drippy girl is then his next conquest. The train suddenly stops, and the trio panic. Ernie accidentally suffocates the elderly bedridden woman when trying to quieten her, and feels remorse because “we weren’t supposed to kill anyone”. Peter manages to escape from his compartment and predictably manages to dispatch of the trio. End of movie.
This very politically incorrect thriller differentiates itself from the other Last House… rip-offs by being virtually bloodless, instead focusing on the more sexploitative elements of the subgenre (all of the lead actresses have gratuitous nude scenes). The script (written by Joe d’Amato regular Luigi Montefiori/George Eastman) and direction are mechanical, and it is difficult to feel sympathy for the characters, as Ferdinando Baldi has deliberately made most of them as unlikable as possible. The antics of the trio of degenerates provide the most interest, and it is highly amusing to see de Mejo and Pochath (who were obviously at least in their mid-thirties at the time) playing ‘young delinquents’. There’s also a great Kraftwerk-esque electronic score by Marcello Giombini (sadly most of the master tapes for Giombini's soundtracks are believed to have been lost).