Year – 1975
Decade – 1970s
Cinematographer – Gabor Pogany
Director – Aldo Lado
Aspect Ratio – 1.85
Genre – Horror
Lenses – Spherical
Format – 35mm
Other Key Words – Video Nasties; Color (Blue); Zooms; 180 Degree Pan; Shot/Reverse Shot; Phone Calls
Click on any link for a list of other films featuring frames from that category.
“Every seat in this theater becomes a coach seat to hell!” – tagline from the Night Train Murders trailer
A pair of college students is terrorized by two hoods and a bourgeois woman during a Christmas train ride to Italy. Once the train arrives, circumstance finds the perpetrators taken into the home of one of the victim’s parents.
If that plot sounds familiar, it’s because Night Train Murders lifts its story from Wes Craven’s 1972 shocker The Last House on the Left – which in turn borrowed its structure from Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring.
I often use Last House on the Left as an example of the type of horror film I don’t particularly like, but I’m more permissive when it comes to this Italian rip-off. That’s partly because its stylishness creates the illusion that it’s less voyeuristically sadistic than Craven’s technically crude film, and it’s partly because I prefer the blatancy of Night Train’s class exploitation subtext to the vague nastiness-by-proxy association between Last House and the era it was made in.
Also known as Last Stop on the Night Train and The Second House on the Left, Night Train Murders was one of the original 72 genre flicks on the British censors’ list of “Video Nasties.”
I see Last House on the Left, in a way, as a protest film. There was an initial stage in horror cinema, during which Last House was made, where gore stood for everything that was hidden in society. Guts stood for issues that were being repressed, so the sight of a body being eviscerated was exhilarating to an audience, because they felt, ‘Thank God, it’s finally out in the open and slopping around on the floor.’ – Wes Craven, from the book Camp Crystal Lake Memories
I first became aware of Night Train Murders from a list of “The Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen” complied by director Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever), who cites the film as an influence for Hostel II.
Groups of Frames
Night Train Murders’ most aesthetically interesting moments are also its cruelest. The film’s unsettling sadism begins with a lighting change – seen in the three frames directly below – as a candle is blown out, leaving the train compartment bathed in blue light.
An extended, right-to-left pan across the train compartment, landing on the character of Curly as he plays an Ennio Morricone-penned harmonica riff that repeats throughout the film.
(Below) Enrico Maria Salerno’s character learns the fate of his daughter from a car radio news report in this 60-second slow zoom in.
(Below) A snap zoom into Curly (left two frames) and the reaction shot of his partner in crime.