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Monday, October 4, 2010

Terror Express (1979) review


Silvio Dionisio (Julia), Paul Werner (David), Zora Kerova (Anna), Venantino Venantini (Mike), Gianluigi Chirizzi (Peter), Carlo de Mejo (Elio), Fausto Lombardi (Phil)

Directed by Ferdinando Baldi

The Short Version: Nasty, mean spirited exploitation feature borders on hardcore pornography in Ferdinando Baldi's shocking revenge opus. Definitely not for everybody, die hard Italian film enthusiasts will most definitely want to see it. A good cast of exploitation regulars.

***WARNING! This review contains images of a sexual nature*** 

The passengers on board a train are subjected to sadistic humiliation, rape and murder when three vicious hooligans take over some of the sleeper cars. A prostitute and a prisoner being escorted by a policeman fight back against their oppressors.

Of all the STRAW DOGS (1970) and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) inspired movies, this one is the most unpleasant. Often times bordering on pornography, the production heaps as much salacious scenes and sadistic sadism as the 80 minute running time will allow. If rape and submission of women is something that offends you, than this movie is definitely not for you. Italian genre cinema seemed to revel in the subjugation of females and this is one of the slimiest representations. Even younger, teenage girls aren't safe in this movie.


Some of the passengers themselves are, in some cases, as demented as the thugs that assert their superiority over them. One man secretly lusts for his underage daughter and pays a hooker to wear her nightgown while he has sex with her. Later in the film, the goons roll dice as to who will be the one to take the young girls virginity; shockingly, these guys roll on behalf of the girls father, too, in their sick bid to enjoy some voyeuristic humiliation. Zora Kerova plays one half of a bickering and frustrated couple who doesn't mind having a fling with one of the psycho's, but has an aversion to becoming the cold cut in a sexual sandwich.

Less a horror movie than a pseudo crime film about the diseased youth born from wealthy families neglected and left to whatever cruel vice fancies them. This hatred is dealt to undeserving individuals much in the same fashion as Craven's LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and the succeeding clones. This is quite possibly the sleaziest of them all made all the more shocking in that it was directed by Ferdinando Baldi, the director of adventure and western movies such as TEXAS, ADIOS (1966), the bizarre musical LITTLE RITA OF THE WEST (1967), DJANGO, GET A COFFIN READY (1968), THE FORGOTTEN PISTOLERO (1969) and BLINDMAN (1971) to name a few. 

That great ape, George Eastman (under his real name of Luigi Montefiore) wrote the script. The tone and the lingering scenes of sex in this film seems far more like the work of Joe D'Amato, than the more "lighter" fare from Baldi. I assume one goal of the movie is to show the audience that not everything, nor everybody is as they appear. Those you would think to be unwholesome, lowly individuals (Dionisio's stoic hooker; the selfless prisoner) ultimately turn out to be the most honorable. The classic white bread family unit are the ones that prove to be the most troubled and disturbing (The sexually frustrated couple; the father who has lustful desire for his teenage daughter).

The leader of the three sexual sadists, David, never participates in any of the degrading sequences of rape, or sexual domination. His actions show him to either be impotent, or a homosexual. Whenever an opportunity presents itself, he becomes noticeably nervous and sweaty as if he is fearful his two partners in crime will discover his lack of interest in lechery. He covers himself by threatening the captives with violence, or the promise of cruel things to come.

Even with some underlying themes present, there's scantly any plot to speak of. The exploitation of the cast takes center stage. There's virtually zero gore and when the deaths of the miscreants come, they're all lackluster considering the degradation perpetrated on their targets. Still, the level of sleaze is incredible and some viewers will no doubt find it repulsive despite the lack of blood and gore. Still, the cast is a virtual cornucopia of Italian genre faces.

Silvia Dionisio plays the cold, detached prostitute, the heroine of the piece. It's obvious she despises her profession, but does what she has to to survive. Zora Kerova plays the horny and sexually dissatisfied wife who gets a bit more than she bargained for. Venantino Venantini is her equally troubled husband at the breaking point. The last two worked together on Lenzi's CANNIBAL FEROX (1981), although they didn't share any scenes together. 


Dionisio has been seen in many other sex and sleaze movies including several Italian crime pictures, one (LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN) for her then husband, Ruggero Deodato. Carlo De Mejo featured in several notable Italian horrors including Fulci's CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) in which he was the hero of the film.

Exploitation fans will get a kick out of seeing two participants from another trash favorite, BURIAL GROUND (1981). Roberto Caporali plays the incestuous father. In Bianchi's preposterous, empty headed zombie epic, Caporali played the lover to Mariangela Giordano who had an unhealthy relationship with her son, Michael. The other alumni from Bianchi's triumphantly infantile, yet lovingly alluring shambler-fest is Gianluigi Chirizzi. He played Mark, the hero of the film and the one who effortlessly and conveniently placed a zombies hands around his neck during the sequence where the dead make their presence known.

While I wouldn't recommend this for those who are looking for blood and guts style violence, the movie is awfully sadistic and possesses one of the most irrefutably grim and degrading atmospheres in exploitation cinema. On that, those who are seeking something both sexually oppressive and brutal will get that in abundance here. No doubt this one appeased the grindhouse audiences of the day. However, Italian genre enthusiasts will likely find this a fascinating excursion into depravity.

This review is representative of the Raro Italian R2 PAL DVD. 

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