Terror Train

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This article is about the film. For the song, see Touched by the Crimson King.
Terror Train
Terrortrainposter.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode
Produced by Harold Greenberg
Written by T. Y. Drake
Starring Ben Johnson
Jamie Lee Curtis
Hart Bochner
Music by John Mills-Cockell
Cinematography John Alcott
Edited by Anne Henderson
Production
company
Astral Bellevue Pathé
Sandy Howard Productions
Triple T Productions
Distributed by Astral Films
20th Century Fox
Release dates October 3, 1980
Running time 97 minutes
Country Canada
United States
Language English
Budget $4.2 million[1]
Box office $8,000,000[2]

Terror Train is a 1980 slasher film, directed by Roger Spottiswoode and starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Ben Johnson and David Copperfield. It follows the members of a college fraternity who played a cruel prank on a shy kid named Kenny Hampson three years ago. They are having a costume party on a train; unbeknownst to them, someone has boarded the train with them and is killing them all one by one.

Plot[edit]

At a college pre-med student fraternity New Year's Eve party, a reluctant Alana Maxwell is coerced into participating in a prank: she lures the shy and awkward pledge Kenny Hampson into a darkened room on the promise of a sexual liaison. However some other students have placed a woman's corpse in the bed. Kenny is traumatised by the prank and is sent to a psychiatric hospital.

Three years later the members of the same fraternities and sororities hold a New Year's costume party aboard a train. Class clown Ed is disguised as Groucho Marx. Prank ringleader Doc Manley is disguised as a monk. Jackson is disguised as an alien lizard. Doc's girlfriend, Alana's best friend Mitchy, is disguised as a witch. Alana's boyfriend Mo is disguised as a bird. Also along are Carne, the train conductor, and a magician hired to entertain the crowd.

As the train journeys into the icy wilderness, the students responsible for the prank are murdered one by one, with the killer assuming the mask and costume of each murder victim in turn. Carne discovers some bodies and sequesters the students in one car as the train begins its return journey. Alana recalls the prank, and, remembering that Kenny loved magic, suspects the magician is the killer. However the magician has disappeared, and is eventually found impaled inside his sword box.

Alana is sequestered in a locked compartment for her safety, but the killer is still aboard, stalking her. The killer enters the compartment but Alana escapes, and is pursued by the killer through the train. The killer is revealed as Kenny, who was disguised as the magician's female assistant. Kenny refuses Alana's apology and forces her to kiss him, but the kiss causes Kenny to relive his memories of the prank, driving him deeper into insanity. Carne rushes to the scene and beats down Kenny with a firemans' shovel, causing him to fall out the open door of the baggage car to his presumable death. His body lands in the nearly frozen river and floats away as the train roars off.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

To create the train for the film, the producers leased an actual Canadian Pacific Railway locomotive from the Steamtown Foundation in Vermont. The train's engine was renumbered from its original 1293 to 1881, and, along with five passenger cars, painted black with silver stripes. Afterward, the Steamtown Foundation reverted the engine back to its original number and had it restored to a historic color and lettering scheme. As of July, 2014, Canadian Pacific Railway No. 1293 continues to be an "operable locomotive." [3] It currently resides in the private "Age of Steam Roundhouse" near Sugarcreek, Ohio. 1293 can be seen from time to time making runs to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway in northeastern Ohio. Built in June 1948, in Kingston, Ontario, the 12-wheeled (4-6-2) steam engine was one of the most advanced in the late stages of the steam-locomotive age. Diesel powered engines put most steamers out of work by the mid to late 1950's. 1293 is the only operational G-5 Pacific model still in running condition of the half dozen still in existence. 1293 now bears the registered name of the Central Ohio Railroad, the operational arm of the "Age of Steam Roundhouse".

It was filmed in and around Montreal, Quebec, Canada from November 21 to December 23, 1979. Terror Train was the first motion picture directed by Spottiswoode, who would go on to make such films as Turner & Hooch (1989), Air America (1990), and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).

Cinematographer John Alcott devised a unique method of lighting Terror Train. He rewired the entire train and mounted individual dimmers on the exteriors of the carriage cars. Utilizing a variety of bulbs with different wattages, and controlling them with the external dimmers, Alcott could light the set in a very fast, efficient manner. At times, Alcott also used medical lights - "pen torches" - to hand light the actors' faces.[4]

Taking a cue from director John Ford, veteran actor Ben Johnson originally asked director Spottiswoode to give his character Carne less dialogue in Terror Train, rather than more.[4]

There was no stage show magician in the original script, but Canadian producer Sandy Howard was a big fan of magic and admirer of David Copperfield, who was also Canadian, and a magician character was written in. Copperfield's character becomes the suspect at one point of the movie, but it turns out to be a red herring when the real killer is revealed to be Kenny Hampson, nicknamed "Ken", prompting some sources (such as IMDb) to list Copperfield's character name as "Ken the Magician." At no point in the script, movie or credits is Copperfield's character named anything aside from "The Magician."[5]

Canadian actor Derek MacKinnon, who played the masked killer, appears in 11 scenes in Terror Train, wearing a different costume or masked disguise in each scene, including his real character of Kenny.

Release[edit]

The movie was picked up for theatrical release in the United States by 20th Century Fox. They spent an estimated $5 million on advertising[2] and the film grossed an estimate $8,000,000 at the box office.[6]

The film was first released on VHS home video in 1988 by CBS/Fox Video.[7] The film was released twice on DVD by 20th Century Fox; once in 2004 as a single edition release[8] and again in 2008 in a triple pack alongside Candyman 2 and the original The Fog.[9] Shout! Factory has released a new collector's edition Blu-ray Disc under their sub-label, Scream Factory, in addition to a new DVD release.[10]

In March 2010, the film screened at the New Beverly Cinema.[11]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received a mixed to negative response from critics. Roger Ebert gave the film one out of four stars, writing "The classic horror films of the 1930s appealed to the intelligence of its audiences, to their sense of humor and irony. Movies like Terror Train, and all of its sordid predecessors and its rip-offs still to come, just don't care. They're a series of sensations, strung together on a plot. Any plot will do. Just don't forget the knife, and the girl, and the blood." However, he also conceded that "it's not a rock-bottom-budget, schlock exploitation film."[12] Variety called the film "competent" in a mildly positive review.[13] Allmovie praised John Alcott's cinematography, but concluded, "Terror Train is too mediocre a piece of work to raise interest from anyone but the genre's most devoted fans",[14] while Time Out London called it "better than most of its kind."[15] Leonard Maltin concurred, claiming that the "stylish photography and the novelty of the killer donning the costume of each successive victim lift this slightly above most in this disreputable genre".[16] The film currently holds a rating of 36% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, signifying "rotten".[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p259
  2. ^ a b THE NEW DEALMAKERS: KILLING THEM AT THE BOX OFFICE: DEALMAKERS--KILLING AUDIENCES KNOEDELSEDER, WILLIAM K, JR. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 09 Nov 1980: n3.
  3. ^ Steamtown NHS: Special History Study. "Canadian Pacific Railway No. 1293", www.nps.gov, 2002-02-14. Retrieved on 2009-12-30.
  4. ^ a b "All Aboard...If You Dare!: An Interview with Roger Spottiswoode - April 2011". The Terror Trap. 
  5. ^ Destination Death — with Daniel Grodnik, Terror Train Collector's Edition 
  6. ^ "Terror Train". the-numbers.com. Retrieved 2011-04-09. 
  7. ^ "Company Credits for Terror Train". imdb.com. Retrieved 2011-04-09. 
  8. ^ "Terror Train". dvdempire.com. Retrieved 2011-04-09. 
  9. ^ "Triple Feature". dvdempire.com. Retrieved 2011-04-09. 
  10. ^ http://www.shoutfactory.com/browse/470/scream_factory.aspx#axzz1wfCLxVlH
  11. ^ TONIGHT: Revisit 'Terror Train' On The Big Screen!
  12. ^ Roger Ebert. "Terror Train". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ Donald Guarisco. "Terror Train (1980)". Allmovie. Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  15. ^ "Terror Train (1979)". timeout.com. Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  16. ^ http://blogs.indiewire.com/leonardmaltin/
  17. ^ "Terror Train (1980)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 June 2012. 

External links[edit]