Blu-ray reviews: Night Train Murders

Starring: Irene Miracle, Masha Meril
Director: Aldo Lado

Like Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left, Night Train Murders (1975) owes a debt to the revenge plot of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring. Two precocious teenage girls take the train from Germany to Italy, only to find themselves toyed with and molested by a pair of thuds and a rather twisted and sadistic older woman. Meanwhile, the parents of one of the girls anxiously await their arrival…

What’s so striking about Night Train Murders in the way in which it carefully builds up to one brutally shocking moment. Early on, there’s some well-observed Hitchcockian scene-setting as the girls are crammed on board the train with various eccentric characters, and some bustling handheld location cinematography which creates a deceptive sense of airiness. And when things do take a turn for the worse, in general director Aldo Lado’s approach is more suggestive than graphic – most of the assault takes place in a wash of deep blue gels, like something glimpsed at the bottom of the ocean. But at the same time, as the train trundles from day to night, a strange, dreamlike atmosphere sets in, one that’s heavy with perversity and a sense of doom, detaching the girls and their attackers from the protections and safeguards of the daylight world.

The three female leads are all very impressive, especially Masha Meril as the chicly dressed lady with dirty pictures in her purse who choreographs the girls’ degradation. Lado helms the whole thing with an intensity and flair that never flags. Fans of Mario Bava and Sergio Martino will feel completely in their element. And I even like one of the baddie’s sweaters. 8/10

TRANSFER
A lovely transfer, just a tiny scattering of grain here or there but otherwise sharp and night-train-murders 1clean. Details of costume and hair come up with crystalline clarity, colours are rich and lustrous, there’s a dynamism to the flickering effects of light and shade and a crispness even to the darkest set-pieces. 10/10

EXTRAS
The film comes in a choice of a serviceable English dub and an Italian version (with unusual blue subtitles). Extras include a lively and outspoken 21 min interview with Irene Miracle, who, talking about her early days as an actress, tells of how she flew to Italy and found herself in a room with Pasolini and Bertolucci. While expressing disquiet over the film’s subject matter, she talks about how friendly and considerate the cast and crew were, and mentions that they had a generous shooting schedule. She talks about her later career in another 4-min piece. 6/10

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