**** Out of 5
Tagline- You Can Tell Yourself It’s Only a Movie, but It Won’t Help!
Release Date- April 8th, 1975
Running Time- 94-Minutes
Screenplay- Renato Izzo & Aldo Lado
Director- Aldo Lado
Starring- Flavio Bucci, Macha Meril, Irene Miracle, Laura D’Angelo, Gianfranco De Grassi, Enrico Maria Salerno, Marina Berti
Released in 1975 under such titles as New House on the Left, Second House on the Left, Last Stop on the Night Train, but best known by most fans as Night Train Murders there is little doubt where this movie got its influence from and even the various titles make that fairly obvious. Night Train Murders is often called Last House on the Left on a train and it follows the same basic premise from start to finish with a few changes here and there. Night Train Murders is probably truer to Last House than the actual remake was released in 2009. According to co-writer and director Aldo Lado at the time he made Night Train Murders he didn’t know of the Wes Craven classic and states the producer is the one who presented him with the story. I suppose that could be legit, but regardless Aldo Lado’s film owes a lot to Last House on the Left.
Some people have said Night Train Murders is better than Last House on the Left and I have to totally disagree. I thought Night Train Murders was an excellent movie and from a pure filmmaking aspect this is the better movie as its better made and features better production values, but that also hurts the movie. The grittiness and sheer brutality of the original Last House more than make up for the ok production values and whereas Last House on the Left almost feels like a documentary Night Train Murders very much feels like a feature film. I do get why some people would rate this higher, but it lacks the ugly graphic feel that made Last House on the Left such a shocking piece of cinema at the time of its release and the decades that followed.
The script by Renato Izzo & Aldo Lado is many ways can be seen as a remake of Last House on the Left as I stated this film follows the basic premise and the only real difference is there is no comedy in Night Train Murders unlike Last House on the Left; everything here is played straight. The characters aren’t the most developed, but the two girls Margaret (Miracle) & Lisa (D’Angelo) come across as real people and both girls are quite likable and sympathetic. They may not be the deepest characters created, but Izzo & Lado give them enough of an identity to be likable and sympathetic. The villains of the movie also lack any real depth, but are quite vile and unlikable and I think the best part of the movie was that the most vile character of all was the Lady on the Train (Meril) who was pretty much the ringleader and the fact another woman not only sits back and watches, but encourages the events against two other women for me is the most disturbing thing in the movie. Overall the script is better than most exploitation films and only brought down by following Last House on the Left a little too much.
Director Aldo Lado delivers a solid movie with stylish production values that is mostly well-paced through the first half of the movie. There’s a nice build up to the attack on the two girls and he’s almost always able to keep an uneasy feeling. The first half of the movie doesn’t feature much in the way of action, but I again felt Lado handled these scenes very well with an uneasy and isolated feel. The attack scenes on the two girls might feel a little tame when compared to many other exploitation flicks of the era, but Aldo still handles them well. The scenes are a little held back in my opinion, but they still have this certain nastiness to them. I suppose due to how much this movie is a take on Last House it’s difficult to rate this movie as its own and one cannot help, but compare the two movies and while the assault on the two girls is quite gruesome its tame when compared to Last House on thr Left. There is a really brutal scene involving a switchblade and while it isn’t very graphic it is highly effective and easily has to rate as one of the most twisted scenes ever and rivals anything Wes Craven did in Last House on the Left; besides that scene while there are some shocking moments and the torture scenes are unpleasant Night Train Murders is though a little tame compared with many movies with this style.
What I love about European cinema is each part of Europe has a little something different to offer; the French create these really shockingly disturbing death scenes, the UK had at one point this great Gothic look to their films. Spain has great use of eerie atmosphere and the Italians are able to create such visually stunning movies and this is on full display in Night Train Murders. The attack scene is very well shot and beautifully lit. The blue lighting used really is amazing and adds to the tension. Even though as I stated as disturbing as the movie was it does at times feel a little tame, but the visual look of the film really raises the stakes and Lado makes up for things with a great feel of claustrophobia and I think the visual aspect does perhaps make things feel at times a little more disturbing than they actually were. Don’t take anything here wrong when I say tame. That’s just compared to other exploitation films as the assault on the girls is quite disturbing, but the more hardcore fans won’t find it too shocking. The 2nd half is when Night Train Murders does begin to drag in a few spots. The buildup to the revenge does feel like filler scenes and while at first it works, but the longer it goes on it does get slightly drag. Once the revenge scenes start the movie does pick up and while the revenge scenes are brief they pack enough of a punch, but don’t expect anything as shocking as Last House on the Left, which again due to how much this film copies it that does make it tougher to rate this as its own. Aldo does his best to keep things interesting, but the 2nd half could have used some editing to get to the revenge scenes a little quicker. But when all is said and done Aldo Lado makes a highly effective film.
In real life not everybody will pay for their crimes, but more often than not the lower class always will and even if they are deserving it’s unfair how the upper class a lot of the times get away with the same crimes simply because of their status and Night Train Murders raises some good commentary on that issue and at first you might be a little disappointed by how things end, but if you think back to it I think most will realize the power it has.
The casting for Night Train Murders is quite solid with many recognizable faces for fans of Italian cinema; Flavio Bucci appeared in Argento’s Suspiria and Meril Macha was in Argento’s Deep Red and Irene Miracle was in Argento’s Inferno.
Basically if you’ve seen Last House on the Left you’ve also seen Night Train Murders and while again I understand why some might favor this movie, but I cannot agree. More stylish and better production values, but in the end that is what also takes away from the movie as it lacks the shocking brutality of Last House on the Left and does lack when compared to other rape/revenge movies, but with that said Night Train Murders is still a nice piece of exploitation cinema, but just don’t expect anything too hardcore.