Greetings and felicitations once again, faithful dungeon denizens, followers and fiends. It is I, Zillagord-- from beyond the grave, I have returned! And by that, I mean I have deigned to descend from the ivory tower of academe, where it’s more sterile and medicinal smelling than the bottle of formaldehyde on Bela’s nightstand, to once again proffer the offal only a first-class maven turkey knocker such as myself would dare deliver. And brothers and sisters, lemme tell ya, tonight’s feature is one steaming heap…
NTTT is a misguided mélange of an anthology culled from remnants of three grade-Z exploitation flicks all written by Phillip Yordan. This cat won an Oscar for 1954’s BROKEN LANCE, and also penned a buncha other titles, including the outstanding 1951 Kirk Douglas vehicle DETECTIVE STORY and Humphrey Bogart’s last film, 1956’s THE HARDER THEY FALL. Yordan must’ve been a pretty tall drink of water hisself, cuz boy did his career take a nosedive with this stinker! NTTT is such a mess, it’s credited to 5 directors, contains an overabundance of expository narration, and needs not one but two framing devices just to make a scintilla of sense.
FRAMING DEVICE ONE: THE THEATRE CAR
This train might be bound for terror, but the on-board entertainment is enough to provoke en route shrieks of agony. Refugees from BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, including head lipsync-er Byron Yordan (do I catch an acrid whiff of nepotism amongst the stench here?), belt out the derisively ironic “Everybody But You” over and over. And over. “Daddy’s in the living room/sorting through the news/Mama’s at the shopping mall/Buying new shoes/Everybody’s got something to do/Everybody but you/Dance with me, dance with me….” I believe they are mocking us, dear readers. A catchy little number, kinda like cholera: main symptom, diarrhea. This shit, however, will stick to yer innards, you’ll be singing it for days. Download & listen at your own risk, it’s "Pure Hell". And speaking of which…
FRAMING DEVICE TWO: THE THEOLOGICAL DEBATE CAR
Somewhere, presumably in the first class section, sit God and Satan (can you guess who’s who?). They are debating the eternal fate of the characters in the vignettes, and of the Solid Gold dancers doin’ the Neutron Dance. Satan on musicians: “I usually get most of them anyway.” Can you take Bieber now, puh-leaze??? In the credits, Satan’s role is credited to “Lu Sifer” while God is simply played by “Himself”. See this film, you can claim you’ve seen The Almighty! People will probably think you are crazier for watching this dreck than for your holy vision. (Note: It was revealed to me that God was actually played by Ferdy Mayne, veteran actor and chief bloodsucker in Polanski’s FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS. So much for epiphanies!) Now, on with the show….
PART ONE: The Case of Harry Billings
Aka SCREAM YOUR HEAD OFF and MARYLIN ALIVE AND BEHIND BARS. I might’ve called it NEKKID NUTHOUSE! This segment stars John Phillip Law (DANGER: DIABOLIK, BARBARELLA, SPACE MUTINY), as Harry, who does the bidding of the sadistic quacks at the laughing academy, seducing young women, who are then stripped (natch) and dismembered (double natch), their body parts sold for scientific ‘speriments. A business plan worthy of THE APPRENTICE—Trump would be proud!
Best part of this segment, besides the requisite exploitation trappings of gore ‘n’nipples, is that the murderous booby hatch attendant Otto is played by NIGHT COURT’s Richard Moll. Here’s he’s credited as “Charles Moll,” and who can blame him for altering his moniker? This film is no resume builder, folks. This segment is nearly incomprehensible due to the editing, but preverts and gorehounds will be happy, and at least it gives us a break from….
Dance with me, dance with me!
PART TWO: The Case of Gretta Connors
Aka CARNIVAL OF FOOLS and DEATH WISH CLUB. You will feel like a fool and may wish you were dead after this segment. Hunky Glen (Rick Barnes, also of MARYLIN ALIVE ), while engaging in the All-American pastime of circle-jerking to skinflicks with his frat buddies, falls head over dick in love with scantily-clad starlet Gretta (Merideth Haze, an awesome name which didn’t help her career, as this is her only screen credit). He tracks her down and finds her tickling the ivories, baring her soul and more…
“Now I’m here to remind you, of the mess you made when you went away…”
As so often happens when boy meets porn star, they settle down and start a home. Ah, the American dream. But Gretta’s manager isn’t through with her yet, and he forces her and Glen to join a twisted group called the Death Wish Club.
Among its members, apparently, is Jimi Hendrix, who unleashes something called a Tanzanian Winged Beetle at one of the club’s get-togethers. Sure beats horseshoes!
Check out the phony hand here, I’ve seen better on a coat rack! The stop-motion animation in this film is hi-larious, makes those old “Davey and Goliath” cartoons look like CGI!
Hendrix finally answers his own question, “Have you ever been to Electric Ladyland?”
Gretta and Glen are abducted by Blue Oyster Cult and subjected to one final stunt, this one with a wrecking ball that (actual dialog) “is used for knocking down buildings two and a half foot thick.” Impressive, couldn’t the big bad wolf do the job with a huff and a puff? Before you can mull over that one, though, there’s this:
Dance with me, dance with me!
PART THREE: The Case of Claire Hanson
Aka CATACLYSM, appropriate cuz it’s a total disaster! Dungeon fave Cameron Mitchell (TOOLBOX MURDERS, FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND, KUNG FU CANNIBALS) appears to drunkenly stagger through this. I think the producers may have found Cam on some corner in Glendale holding a “Will Act for Booze” sign. Don’t worry folks, he wasn’t drinking on an empty stomach: he chews the scenery here like it was jello at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Cam’s investigating Olivier, who appears to have just gone solo from the Bay City Rollers. Actually, he’s some kind of demonic, eternal Nazi, with cloven hooves and feathered hair! Whadda heady combo! There’s also some nonsense with Richard/Charles Moll as a Nobel prize winner/atheist. What does this have to do with Claire Hanson? Well, she’s a doctor and …aw, skip it, it’s too idiotic to recount. There is, of course, more gore, laughable stop-motion effects, and some other weirdness….
“I told the caterers to offer a vegetarian option! The wedding is ruined!” At least it diverted us from…
“Everybody’s got something to do, everybody but YOU!”
Finally, a happy ending: the train reaches its final destination: destruction! Well, at least we see an obvious model train explode. Hello, stock footage?!! Unfortunately, God in his infinite wisdom (?) spares the band, and the choo-choo chugs into the ether, bound for its eternal reward. Yeesh, if this is the lounge band in the great beyond, I’ll gladly spend eternity in hell. “S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y NIGHT!”
Well, it was great to be back here at the Dungeon, thanks to EEGAH!! and TABONGA! for letting me sit in and allowing me to torture you fine readers. For all the fun I poke at it, NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR is really one of the more ludicrously enjoyable bad movies I have come across: I requested this assignment! I don’t normally recommend this, but NTTT is probably better with a bottle or two of its namesake fortified wine. Look for the bottle in the brown paper bag. Next stop: Stuporsville! Maybe you’ll see Cam Mitchell there!!