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Train To Hell DVD

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A journalist (Grant) boards the Orient Express to deliver his powerful book which exposes the nascent neo-Nazi movement in Europe. En route he meets and rapidly falls in love with Cera (Welch) a performer travelling with her young daughter. All the while an unusual stranger (McDowell) is watching them. Who is he and may he be connected with a clan of skinheads which are causing terror?

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  • Train To Hell [1993]
    Nick Haysom

    At the time of production Little did poor Hugh Grant know, but years later 'Train to Hell' would appear on programmes called something like 'Before They Were Famous', presented with relish by Angus Deayton to a sniggering audience. The sniggering in this case is richly deserved as it is all aboard for a thoroughly bewildering experience, seemingly an attempt by German producers to make an international film hit. A great deal seems to have been lost in translation, though.

    Grant plays Martin, author of a book on neo-Nazis, travelling to Venice to meet his publisher. On board the Orient Express he encounters a menagerie of characters, including menacing skinheads, a troupe of flamboyant artistes, and a beautiful woman called Vera (Tahnee Welch), who is travelling with her young daughter. It's a promising start which sets up a number of intriguing threads, and it is set aboard the world's most romantic train but, unlike the train, the plot doesn't go anywhere.
    Malcolm McDowall, who has appeared in more than his fair share of stinkers, has little to do but glower menacingly and make gnomic observations. "I know everything about you... I know what you are afraid off," he tells Grant, but no explanation is forthcoming. His every appearance is in slow motion - except when he speaks, because that would be daft, wouldn't it? - an idea which, had it been used sparingly, might have been effective instead of just silly. Vera suffers visions of a child in a grain store at the mercy of a masked character. Is the girl her? Is the man McDowall? Or has she seen Phantom of the Opera too many times?

    Tahnee Welch, although the daughter of Raquel, bears an uncanny resemblance to Liz Hurley and even seems to be sporting an English accent. Venice appears so much in the film it is almost another character, the producer very keen to maximise the use of his expensive location (the film boasts not only a 2nd Unit but a 3rd). This may be the only film to have a 'title song' credited in the main titles but not actually sung over them, and, moreover, when it does appear it's the title song for 'Night Train to Venice' (the film's original title).

    The DVD clocks in at around 75 minutes, but it seems the DVD company hacked out as much as 20 minutes. They should have hacked out more. Much more, for even at 75 minutes it is padded with shots of the train hurtling past, artful footage of Venice, sex scenes, and repetitious and inexplicable dream sequences, when what was needed was more plot and less obscurity. One wonders whether the explanation has been cut out as well.

    Though 'A Tony Hurtreiter Film', in fact he is producer and co-writer whereas one Carlo U Quinterio is director. Or maybe they swapped roles halfway through.

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