Terror Express (1979)

All aboard the Terror Express! Making stops at Smutville, Whoresburg, and Rapey-Rape-Town. Dining car is in the rear. Please move about the aisles carefully; the entire train is dripping in sleaze. Watch your step!

Italy delivers yet another gem that shines its filth all over us. Terror Express is about as Italian as it gets. It’s the film equivalent of a plate of spaghetti, stuffed in a lasagna, and served inside a wheel of Parmesan. In other words, Terror Express is over the top. It’s filled with nudity. Rape. Double rape. Stockholm syndrome. Breasts. Tan lines. Incest. A prostitute. A dirty old man. A dirtier old man. A hooligan who looks like Bob Ross and quotes poetry. And in classico Italiano form, Terror Express doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but who cares? We’re in Italy!

A train is traveling across the countryside to a tune that sounds like Human League but isn’t Human League. The passengers are all unhappy, which is a bit bizarre because Italy is one of the top 50 happiest countries in the world, at least according to the UN. The passengers include a fighting couple with a teenage daughter, an elderly man and his dying wife, a lewd man and his cold wife, a weary police officer escorting a prisoner, and a detached nubile blonde named Juliet. There are also three ruffians—David, Phil, and Ernie. Not exactly the toughest names, but sometimes you’ve got to play the hands you’re dealt with in life.

Of course, Juliet is a whore. She begrudgingly provides her services to a john. She shows naughty photographs of herself, while sitting naked next to him. The john is torn between looking at the nude photographs and looking at the nude Juliet. He can hardly handle it; there’s just too much of a good thing! The conductor figures out what’s going on and when a passenger complains he can’t sleep, the conductor suggests that there’s a woman who can help. Molte grazie!

Soon the trio of ruffians starts hassling other passengers. One of them blasts a tape deck in the dining car. This is something that happens on the NYC subway too—someone blares their music on speakerphone, and everyone silently wishes that asshole to die in a grease fire. The hooligans put their feet up on the tables to show how tough they are, and they leer at the womenfolk. Naturally, one woman gets turned on, so Ernie starts making out with her in a bathroom. But then, to her horror, another ruffian slips in on the action. It’s a double rape sandwich! This involves a healthy amount butt-rubbing and butt-kissing and an unhealthy amount of butt-licking. It’s very unsanitary. Mamma mia!

Quickly the ruffians take over the entire train car, releasing the prisoner and handcuffing the police officer. The newly freed prisoner just sits there confused, no doubt wondering about the giant plot holes in this movie. It’s unclear why the ruffians are taking over the train car or why they can’t be stopped or why the train engineer can’t throw the brakes. There is some sort of climax and resolution and somewhere in the middle there’s a game of dice where the winner gets to deflower a teenager—and her father is forced to toss the dice. To top it all off, people fall in love.

You can tell that director Ferdinando Baldi reveled in the film’s butt-licking, rape, and incest and then realized the plot was riddled with holes. So he tried to build suspense to a lazy showdown and made half-hearted attempts at character arcs. The themes conflict and go nowhere–one one hand there’s an empowered whore (Women can do what they want!) and on the other hand there’s a ton of raping (Women are victims!). So Juliet’s a hooker with a heart of gold–fine, who cares? There’s no point. We know what this movie is really about (exploitive shock and the expoloitive sex-making) and what it’s not (a meditation on the human spirit and the undying love of a damaged woman). So pass the tiramisu! Terror Express is a sordid ride through trash and you’ll arrive at your destination feeling filthy.

Viva Italia!

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