Freddie Francis is pretty dependable. Throw in the Amicus name, plus Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and things get much better. This is the first official Amicus film, all about five men on a train from London to Bradley who meet the mysterious Doctor Schreck (Cushing), a man with a name that literally means terror. With his Tarot cards, he’ll soon reveal the fates of the men on the train.
Inspired by Dead of Night, Amicus producer Milton Subotsky used this movie as his opportunity to reinvent that film. Once the formula was set, he’d follow it again and again.
In Werewolf, an architect learns that yep, a werewolf lives inside his new home and is already killing people.
Then, in Creeping Vine, Alan Freeman (the host of BBC’s Top of the Pops) plays a man who can’t stop a vine from growing in his garden. Look for Jeremy Kemp, M from the James Bond films, as a Ministry of Defense (spelled Defense, because we’re on England, guvnah) scientist.
Voodoo is all about Bigg Bayley (Roy Castle, who broke nine World Records himself while hosting the show Record Breakers from 192 to 1994. including the world’s fastest tap-dance 1,440 taps per minute, a record that is still unbroken today), a jazz musician who tries to bring a theme he’s heard in a voodoo ritual into his songs. Bad idea.
Disembodied Hand is all about Christoper Lee as an art critic so harsh, he drives Michael Gough (Alfred in the Tim Burton Batman films) to suicide. Then, the man’s hand comes back to life, living up to the title.
Finally, in Vampire (yes, this movie has some literal titles), Donald Sutherland is an American doctor with a new French wife who may or may not be a vampire.
Setting up the Amicus tradition, everyone on the train is already dead and Dr. Schreck is, of course, Death itself.
Also, thanks to IMDB, I have learned that Dr. Schreck’s deck is the 1930 Paul Marteau version of the Marseille Tarot, which was based on the 1760 woodblocks by Nicolas Conver. You can tell this version as industrialized printing eliminated the softer tones of the original deck and replaced them with primary colors.
You can’t really go wrong with these movies. And you can see how Night Train to Terror was inspired by this, too.
Grab a blu ray of this from Olive Films.
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