Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pardon Me, Boy, Is This the Crappanooga Choo Choo?: "The Death Train" (1978)



Clematis, New South Wales has seen some problems, one of them being the script to this television film. Insurance investigator Morrow arrives in town to look into the death of one of the local homosexuals. It seems the old boy was walking home one night when he was struck by a train. The problem is the closest set of train tracks is fifty miles away. Dead Herbie's lover, Johnny, mourns the loss and prepares to sell the house they shared to local construction company owner Murdoch. Morrow begins checking into the case.

Morrow finds out Herbie's father and grandfather also died under mysterious circumstances. Also, when Morrow arrives in town, entire crowds of townsfolk appear and disappear right in front of his eyes. With the help of convenient love interest Vera, Morrow and local cop McMasters set their sights on Murdoch. Johnny holds a seance and senses his dead lover is angry at him for wanting to sell the house, evident by a hurled glass against a wall. As Murdoch closes in on the land deal, Morrow closes in on the truth, and disproves the entire ghost train theory as he solves Herbie's murder.

"Fine, Charles, but what about the disappearing crowds? The seance? Herbie's dead ancestors? Are all these plot points tied together into a neat "X Files"-type finale?"

I'm glad you asked, poodle. In a word, no.

Morrow is a quirky enough detective, trying to quit smoking by never lighting the ever present cigarette in his mouth. He must catch rides with Vera because he cannot afford the taxi service in the small town. He also bares a striking resemblance to porn star Ron Jeremy, which adds to the fun when discussions of long tube-like modes of transportation pop up. However, the screenwriter and the director never address any other supernatural goings-on except to prove a ghost train does not exist. No reason is given, the film just ends.

"The Death Train" plays like an unsuccessful pilot for a "The Night Stalker" type show (it came out in 1978). It is also an hour long crime drama stretched beyond its comprehension limits to ninety eight minutes. It was solid average until I started questioning the wheres and whys when the thing ended.

You won't die if you take out "The Death Train," but you will experience motion sickness. This is just another lazy effort, and surprising that no one bothered to read the script closely or edit it correctly. Leave it at the station. (* *) out of five stars. Get this movie now!: Death Train [VHS]