Have you ever seen Night Train to Terror and wondered — what would one of that film’s portmanteau sequences be like if they were expanded to an entire movie? Good news! Well, maybe. Your wishes have come true.
The final story of Night Train, “The Case of Claire Hansen”, was really a film called The Nightmare Never Ends (alternatively known as Cataclysm and Satan’s Supper). It boasts three directors. Amazingly, it was written by Philip Yordan, who not only won the Academy Award for Broken Lance in 1954, but also provided a front for blacklisted Hollywood writers (he was Bernard Gordon’s front for The Day of the Triffids)!
This is my favorite of all kinds of movies — a film I discover at 5 AM when the rest of the world is asleep and wonder if it can really be true and if I am not still asleep. To say that this is a batshit insane film is to do a disservice to the phrase batshit insane. I feel ill-prepared to share its wonder with you, but I’m sure going to try.
There are two stories going on here:
Nobel Prize-winning author James Hansen (Richard Moll of TV’s Night Court and House) and his devoutly Catholic wife Claire (who is a surgeon, which totally comes into play later) decide to go to Vegas to both celebrate James’ new book and to get away from Claire’s nightmares. Wondering what James won the Nobel Prize for? He wrote a book that proved that God is dead. Now, he’s planning a TV special to tell the whole story to the whole world (he’s preaching the bad news!). Well, alright. And that Claire — seems that she’s been dreaming about volcanoes. They decide to go see a magician, who puts Claire into a trance in seconds.
That’s when we learn the real secret of what has been bothering Claire — Nazis! She dreams of a handsome young officer who kills a room of other officers and an all-female string orchestra. After the show, Claire invites him to dinner after he tells her that a demon is after her. He never makes it — he is killed and a 666 tattoo is left on his scalp.
Remember when I said there was a second story?
Mr. Weiss is super old and out of it, but totally recognizes a Nazi when he sees one. Pretty and rich Olivier is being interviewed during the intermission of the New York Ballet and he looks exactly like the Nazi officer who killed Weiss’ parents at Auschwitz (and he’s also the Nazi from Claire’s dream). Weiss is a Nazi hunter, believe it or not, and he calls in his neighbor Lieutenant Stern (Cameron Mitchell, who has been in more movies than there have been movies, but let’s call out Blood and Black Lace as one of the best of his films). They go to the ballet and follow Olivier to his extravagant mansion, all the while Stern tries to convince the old man that this cannot be the man who tormented his childhood. Weiss grabs his Luger and goes to kill Olivier, but an unseen demon kills him and leaves a 666 on his body.
Oh yeah, there’s also a priest named Papini who is a homeless man that tries to protect James and Claire, even telling her how to kill Olivier.
There are also numerous characters who show up and just die, like Stern’s partner and Claire’s nephew. Even better, there are numerous disco scenes, which feature some wonderfully horrid songs and Olivier seducing Claire’s nephew’s fiancee (so many degrees of separation) until he takes off his shoe to reveal a furry hoof!
As to not skip any exploitation genre — we’ve already had Nazis, tough cops, disco and the occult — Claire goes to visit a black spiritualist who unexpectedly goes off on a ramp, pushing the film toward blaxploitation! “I am a black man–a (N WORD) in your country. You are a rich woman, I’m sure you have many powerful friends…but they couldn’t help you! You had to seek the help of a (N WORD)!” It’s so insane and doesn’t fit into the movie at all.
Neither does the scene where Papini is killed by Ishtar, Olivier’s assistant (who is only in this one scene). It’s the chance to add some skin to the film and even more blasphemy.
Seriously — this film has blasphemy in spades. If you’re in a metal band that needs samples about religion and the devil, you should totally give this a watch. You’re going to find tons of samples.
Every single actor in this film either reads their lines in monotone or screams them as loudly as possible — sometimes within the same sentence. The lone exceptions are Richard Moll, who is the best actor in here and Mitchell, who is the gruffest cop of all time.
Nearly everyone in this movie (and the related Night Train to Terror) was somehow also involved with another movie that destroyed my brain cells, Cry Wilderness — which was featured on the latest season of Mystery Science Theater. A Bigfoot meets E.T. epic of pure maniacal weirdness, it was also written by Yordan and was directed by Jay Schlossberg-Cohen, who created the wraparound story for Night Train to Terror. Seems that Visto International Inc., a small theatrical motion picture production and distribution company, produced these films in the early 80s magical era of cheaply made independent films. Plus, both films (or all three, if we can cross-over between Night Train, Nightmare and Wilderness) feature the acting skills, if you will, of Tony Giorgio, Maurice Grandmaison and Faith Clift.
Let me see if I can summarize the ending of this — after Oliver kills everyone else, Claire hits him with her car. She throws the body in the trunk and takes him to surgery, where she and her nephew’s girlfriend give him open heart surgery, complete with blood spraying and puking. Oh yeah, there’s also stabbing and slapping and screaming. And the bad guy wins!
Holy fuck — this is certainly a slice of cinematic goofball awesome that I won’t soon forget. Make no mistake — it’s a horrible film. But at the same time, it’s also a great one!
Will you like it? Just take a listen to the disco song and if you enjoy that, well then prepare yourself for The Nightmare Never Ends!