Monthly Archives: February 2014

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 13

It’s been a while so here’s a reminder how this works.

About ten years ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

Train To Hell

Carlo U. Quinterio

(1996)

Rating *

train-hell-dvd-cover-art

Train To Hell! Look at that title. Train! To! Hell! It’s a film, about a train, that’s going to hell!

I think everything’s going to be alright after all.

Wait, what do you mean the film’s alternative title is ‘Night Train To Venice’? That doesn’t make sense. Is it going to hell or to Venice? Oh, Venice you say? Well that is a disappointment. My Mum and Dad went to Venice and said it was very nice. You still want a review? Fine!

The film opens on a child balancing precariously on the edge of a fourth floor balcony, cut to a tree, back to the girl, the tree, the girl, a leaf falls at a man’s feet. Cut to Hugh Grant in a library. Wait, what? Sadly this is a portent of the ADHD style editing this film will employ throughout its mercifully brief 72 minute running time.

Hugh (merely a year away from making ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ and assuring he never has to star in dreck like this again) is a writer who has just penned a shocking expose on Neo-Nazis, so he’s off on the Orient Express to Venice to visit a publishing house called Inferno (geddit?!) who are interested in his book.

He is joined on this journey by a bunch of colourful misfits including an actress (ironically played by a terrible actress) and her daughter, a bunch of stowaway skinheads who just might be Neo-Nazis (spoiler: they are), and a creepy gentleman known only as The Stranger. Said stranger is played by Malcolm McDowell who, apart from during his brief scenes of dialogue, appears entirely in slow motion. A curious directorial choice, especially considering he is usually standing fairly still in all of these scenes.

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Actual footage. Not a still!

Anyway, Hugh seduces the actress by dropping a winner of a pick up line on her (“I like books actually, I’m an intellectual”) and that’s pretty much the last moment this film makes even the remotest sense.

Hugh and the actress have visions, possibly flashbacks, possibly caused by the stranger, possibly related to something relevant. The Neo-Nazis cause a modicum of trouble, and a terrifying, white faced, chanteuse sings La Vie En Rose, and this is all before we even get to Venice (or hell, I’m still hopeful).

Once in Venice, Hugh finds the publishers building to be empty save for some dusty papers and a Doberman chewing on some meat. He is then chased on motorcycle by the Nazis who crash into a truck and explode while Hugh merely crashes and gets amnesia (you heard me). He wanders the streets of Venice, contemplating who he is, until we come full circle. The girl on the balcony was none other than the actress’s daughter in a cunning flash forward. She falls, Hugh saves her, this cures his amnesia, he and the actress make love over a dreadful song called Night Train To Venice (I’m starting to think there’ll be no hell in this movie at all). The end (dammit!).

"Is that a coherent plot up ahead?" "No I think it's a pigeon"

“Is that a coherent plot up ahead?”
“No I think it’s a pigeon”

Well, I’ve had some hard times trying to describe some of the plots to the movies in this series but man alive! Un Chien Andalou made more sense! People phase in and out of visions that are never fully explained, characters come and go without motive, plot points are hammered into the narrative and then forgotten about (seriously what was the point of the amnesia?).

For a film of such brevity there’s an incredible amount of padding. Extended scenes of people gazing at each other in slow motion and frankly bizarre montages that are supposed to show the passing of time fill up a lot of the space where perhaps a coherent plot might have gone.

Messieurs Grant and McDowell aside, the acting is horrible. The Nazis have weird, American sounding accents that sound like they were dubbed on as an afterthought. The actress playing the actress is amusingly stiff as a board, but nothing compared to her daughter. She reads lines so monosyllabically that I at first wondered if she was supposed to be possessed. Especially when she has been given such dialogue as “When we get back home to Venice I’ll show you all my pretty pigeons. They all have little red shoes and white wings”. Try reading that in a creepy child’s voice. Chilling!

Overall it felt like the film had been written using that game where each person writes down a sentence then folds the paper over and the next person has a go. It tries to be some sort of gothic mystery but remains so resolutely unfocussed that it feels, for the most part, like a particularly odd episode of Poirot. Hugh Grant has publicly stated that this is the worst film he’s ever been in. He was in Love Actually. Just let that sink in.

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