Night Train

NIGHT TRAIN. 1999

Director: Les Bernstein

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Night Train comes off as a film noir spoof, if not specifically as a spoof of Orson Wells' Touch of Evil. It's shot in black & white mostly in Tijuana's redlight district, about a guy named Joe Butcher (John Voldstad) who has come to Mexico to meet his brother, who he's soon informed was run over & killed scant days before his arrival. His brother had been involved in snuff films & had ripped off the Mexican mob, headed by a cigar-chomping sadistic dwarf (Pedro Aldana, a glory to watch perform), & now they're after Joe to get their money back.

It could've been a semi-serious film but the story is not very consistent or interesting in itself, so it's played for laughs. This refusal to take the film seriously on any level makes it delightful at times, but also seems to have been excuse to forgo much coherency. For example, when Joe is told his drunkard friend Sam (Barry Cutler) has been killed, Joe by means never revealed just knows the guy isn't dead at all, but buried alive, & he asks the first taxi he encounters to take him to the nearest cemetery, which turns out to be the right one, where he knows by equally inexplicable means which grave to dig up, using a shovel he hadn't brought with him but must have been purchased at the cemetery's shovel store between scenes.

It's rather too bad continuity & story value meant so little to these first-time filmmakers, or they might've had themselves something more than a film that is fun for being so grimy & noirish, rather than fun for being so goofy. I liked that so many of the main characters were pure ugly-ass. I liked that these ugly-ass characters having unbathed unsafe drunken sex with each other. I like that the actors who played Joe & the stripper femme fatale Bobby (Nikoletta Skarlatos) played dual roles with such intentional badness. I liked Joe's fat mentally ill gimpy girlfriend (Donna Pieroni) who is more than she appears. I giggled considerably at Joe's surrealist dreams viewed through the whirl of a toilet & making light of Dali's work for Hitchcock.

For film noir fans this is almost a must-see, not because it's a good film but because it's a satirically charming take on what film noir means. It has independent-cinema panache & visual imagination & demented comic performances sufficiently well done to make up for the silly story's irrationalities.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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