Public Domain Puke: Night Train to Terror

Everyone who has ever taken a casual stroll through the movie section of a store has run across one those box sets showcasing as many as 50 public domain titles for an absurdly cheap price tag. They sound so great in theory. Holy cow, 50 movies for $10?! That's an amazing deal, there's no way I can let that pass! I mean, there's got to be at least a few good ones in there. Right? Right?? The experience of slogging through one of these compilations is like some sick scavenger hunt for a gold filling that was swallowed by a dog, shat into a manure truck, and dumped all over Biff Tannen's face. Sure, you could dig through it with your bare hands and maybe come up with something good, but would you want to?

Is it worth enduring that kind of Hell, surrounded by crap with nothing but hope to sustain you? How appropriate a question, because our first splash of Public Domain Puke on Movie Sleuth features none other than Satan himself. 

To describe Night Train to Terror in any serious way is to do it a favor. The plot synopsis for this festering turd makes it sound more interesting than it has any right to be: God and Satan share a compartment on a train destined for eternity, debating which of them will claim the souls of three poor saps who rode that fine line between Heaven and Hell throughout their miserable lives. We see their stories play out in flashbacks while the train is regaled with the kind of rock music and bad dancing that makes you question your own sanity. I would make a Soul Train joke, but a movie this awful doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same context. In capable hands, this could've been a solid idea for a horror anthology. In the greasy hands of Jay Schlossberg-Cohen, there aren't enough drugs in the world to make this level of banality palatable.

I would describe some aspects of the three individual cases up for etherial deliberation, but that might imply that there was some coherence to the storytelling. Without the aid of IMDb, and a plethora of people who clearly have more time to spare than me, I wouldn't know what the hell was even going on. The film is edited as if individual scenes were directed by completely different people to whom English was a second language, and then given to an epileptic with an exact-o-knife in an editing room full of strobe lights and glitchy analog television sets. I've seen ten year old kids create better films in Windows Movie Maker that were shot on their iPhones.

Even taken as a piece of cinematic curiosity, Night Train to Terror doesn't even place in the "so bad it's good" category. At best, I could say that it plays like an experimental high school film compiled by a bunch of braindead jocks, but no... it even rises below that. To put it in the same context as crappy student films is an insult to mediocrity. At least those film students are trying. When you experience the psychotic editing, the middle school playacting, all while getting your ears raped by the startlingly out of place ADR and sound effects, it's self evident that the only thing these filmmakers were trying was mixing alcohol with narcotics.

But the whipped cream on the fecal frosty is the fact that this film is written by Philip Yordan, who won a freaking Oscar in 1955 for Broken Lance, a Western starring the immortal Spencer Tracy. On top of that, he was also nominated twice before that for Detective Story and the original 1945 version of Dillinger. Dude... what gives? Is this like what happened to Stephen King after he got hit by that van, when he wrote Dreamcatcher while he was doped to the gills on pain meds? Because only a truly euphoric drug-addled mind could produce material this godawful.

As for the film made from the script, it should've been titled "Jay Schlossberg-Cohen Wants To See Tits," because that must be where the budget went for this sack of garbage. The best parts of this movie are attached to actresses scraping the bottom of the dignity barrel and coming up drier than a bucket of sand, but even epic breasts can't save this from becoming one of the worst films I have ever seen in my life, and I sat through Jungle Holocaust. The one good thing that can be said of Night Train to Terror is that it's the perfect bad example. Pick any aspect from the film -- from some of the worst acting this side of Spanish soap operas to gore effects that make Microwave Massacre look like The Exorcist. Not only does Night Train to Terror do them all horribly, but it even makes you think you might've been too harsh on The Last Airbender.

Here. Puke in this bag. But share this review first. 


-- Blake O. Kleiner