Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Night Train Murders

I watched The Night Train Murders, a giallo by Aldo Lado.

It's my understanding that in Italy, the term giallo means pulp mystery/thriller/crime stories in a very broad sense. The is a group of supposed fans here who seem determined to put it, as a genre, in a very small box, such as this definition. Personally, as a fan, I'd like to see it defined by more than its clichés.

I've been meaning to see this movie for a while. I very much enjoyed Lado's Who Saw Her Die?, a kind of precursor to Nic Roeg's Don't Look Now. I liked Short Night of Glass Dolls less, but it certainly presented a lot of intriguing material.

L'Ultimo treno della notte (or The Night Train Murders or Last Stop on the Night Train or Don't Ride on Late Night Train or Torture Train or Violence of the Last Night Train or The New House on the Left or whatever) commits the greatest crime I can imagine for a story about rape and murder. It's boring. Not just boring, but kind of uninvolvingly tepid.

This subject matter should evoke some reaction. In the best case, I should be moved to shock and horror at the act, but I should at the least be shocked by ineptitude and/or crassness of the filmmakers, even that reminds me of the horror of such acts.

The movie is basically a knock-off of Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left. I had pondered if it had any specific connection to The Virgin Spring instead, but in the interview, Lado essentially acknowledges the comparison to The Last House on the Left, which he says he didn't see, but the producer had and wanted to imitate. I'm guessing the producer had a significant role in casting as well, since many of the leads bear striking resemblences to their counterparts in the earlier movie.

The contribution Lado takes credit for is an added character, a well-dressed upper-class woman who leads our thugs in the wrong direction. This could have been an interesting look at classes, but its sloppy and unsuccessful. The thugs were thuggish before meeting her, to the extent that they team up after one of the thugs attempts to rape her in a lavatory.

Honestly, I think the closer example of something that could have made it rise above being a cheap knock-off of a surprisingly successful movie would have been the mysterious character of the voyeur, played by Franco Fabrizi. He's left with little to do and little screen time, but is the only thing that ever threatens to bring the movie alive.

Ultimately, it doesn't ever add up to much.

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