(Release Date: April 08, 1975 [Italy])
There's influence and then there's tribute... there's tribute and then there's rip off. There's rip off and then there's PETTY THEFT. Interestingly enough, due to the major splash that Last House on the Left had on the world of Exploitation Flicks (a genre rarely known for its originality), there was an absolute flood of imitators to that film filling up grind houses in all kinds of countries. Does this make Virgin Spring the Godfather of the Video Nasties?
Looking at the Video Nasty List... I dare say... Eh... COULD BE-E!
From Axe to The House on the Edge of the Park to even Cannibal Terror, the film makers may never have watched Virgin Spring, but they sure as hell have ripped off The Last House on the Left! And rarely does an example shine brighter than the Darkly Themed L'Ultimo treno della notte, or, as it was released and subsequently banned in England: Late Night Trains!
Before we even get into the plot of this film, some of the skewed advertising and derivative alternate titles give away this film's pilfered pedigree easily enough. Although this film was commonly released as Night Train Murders (as the current US DVD release calls it), Late Night Trains was also referred to as Last Stop on the Night Train (the literal translation of the original Italian Title) and even The New House on the Left! Subtle. Even the Tag Lines of Last House on the Left were borrowed (and amplified). Whereas the advertisers for Last House used the slogan "TO AVOID FAINTING keep repeating, It's only a movie... only a movie... only a movie... only a movie... only a movie... only a movie...", Late Night Trains opted to declare "You can tell yourself IT'S ONLY A MOVIE - but it won't help!" Take THAT, Wes and Sean! Another ad referenced "Last House" by name, along with Exorcist and Psycho!
If you've ever seen, or even heard about, Last House on the Left or Virgin Spring, it will come as no surprise to you that this one is essentially the same plot, but on a train. I wonder if that's how the producers of Snakes on a Train got the idea.
Two lovely young students, openly discussing sex, hop a train for their Christmas Break. Margaret Hoffenbach (Irene Miracle), the young Party Girl is travelling with her virginal friend Lisa Stradi (Laura D'Angelo) to visit Lisa's parents for Christmas break. Lisa's Dad Giulio (Enrico Maria Salerno) is a Surgeon who openly shares his wife Laura's (Marina Berti) opinions on nonviolence.
So, seemingly, does a lady passenger on Margaret and Lisa's train, identified only as "The Lady on the Train" (or "Lady Passenger", which is convenient), played by Macha Méril. However, it doesn't take much to push this "Lady" into the territory of the Tramps at the hands of Flavio Bucci's Blackie and his nasty little sidekick Curly (Gianfranco De Grassi)! It turns out that this sweet socialite is really a mean sociopath who not only enjoys the direction the boys are going in, but soon becomes their ring leader, egging them on like Last House's Krug, only somehow even nastier (though with better hair).
What direction is the (now) trio going in? We soon find out when they corner our sweet young students in their train cabin and begin to humiliate, violate and torture them for a good run of the tracks. And it gets nastier as time goes on and they include a perverted fellow passenger Franco Fabrizi in their ploys.
Naturally, the last half, especially the final act of the film is the most satisfying part. If you've seen the other films that use this same construction, you know exactly what's coming. If you don't, I won't spoil it for you here. Needless to say revenge and comeuppance play a part, but perhaps not in the way you might be expecting.
Here is where director Aldo Lado sets himself apart from his fellow Filoni thieves and his predecessors. He does (along with co-writers Roberto Infascelli, Renato Izzo and Ettore Sanzo) add a dimension of questionable morality here that remains unsettling, but still interesting on some level. Lado further calculates his disturbance level by using uniform hues where called for in some of the more divergent scenes. He takes advantage of the claustrophobic train car's conditions by using a permeating blue that pops up in other scenes to offset the overall brown and green Earthtones of the homestead. Further, Lado takes full advantage of the expansive scenery to juxtapose the prison-like torture chamber on the train. These things, coupled with a score by Ennio Morricone make this one noteworthy in the overall trashy and derivative subgenre this one finds itself in.
Does that make Late Night Trains suddenly a "Good Movie"? Nope! It's worth appreciating for what is there, but it's still trash with the best efforts of most every player in this game used to fill up grindhouse balconies and disturb the viewer enough to talk about the film the next day... and if everyone's lucky, over twenty-two years later, as I'm doing now.
At best, Late Night Trains would be worth Two to Two and One Half Stars... but in that the only quality elements we get from this trip down rusty-rail transit are wrapped in a mean-spirited rip off of a depraved rip off of a disturbing art film, it's hard to give this one more than just a DOG! Most viewers would find the disconcerting elements to be too much to take, ignoring the more artistic aspects (which admittedly are minor). In this respect, Lado was completely successful. He strove to make a movie calculated to make audiences walk out and audiences walked out... and then it was banned with the rest of the Video Nasties. Unlike many of the rest of its peers with this dubious distinction, L'Ultimo Treno Della Notte has still never been released in the UK. In that respect, too, Lado was successful, as his movie is in good company. Guy Fawkes wasn't released in the UK either. And, like Lado, he knew bombs pretty damned well! See you in the next reel.
Said he didn't even like to fly... he takes trains?
Do you think he'd seen this flick when he said that?
I hope not... I can't imagine they'd still be watching Exploitation Flicks after World War III!
In fact, maybe that's what World War III was fought over.
I can just see it now... it all started when someone clicked HERE for more reviews...
|What's New?||Alphabetical Listing of Reviews!||SearchThisSite:||Advertise With Us!||About...||Lynx Links:||F*A*Q|