Thursday, September 15, 2011

Death on a Train

A few weeks ago I handed over 99p in a charity shop for bumper fun pack DVD set that consisted of four films: Strictly Ballroom (cheesy fun), Carry On, Doctor (Ooooh, Matron!), Human Traffic (haven't seen it) and ... (dramatic pause)... Alistair MacLean's Death Train. Or to be more precise, Death Train - based on an idea for a screenplay that Alistair MacLean once had that was then turned into a novel by Alastair MacNeil, who probably got the gig because his name sounded a bit like MacLean's.

Wikipedia tells me that Death Train was a 1993 made for TV movie. It starred (get this cast list) Pierce Brosnan (before he was Bond), Patrick Stewart (after he was Picard), Alexandra Paul (before Baywatch), Ted Levine (after Silence of the Lambs) and Christopher Lee! Well, with that line up how could you go wrong? So last weekend when I was home alone I popped it into the player and climbed on board the Death Train.

A disgruntled Russian general (Lee) wants to make Russia strong again by selling a couple of nuclear bombs to Iraq (I know, it doesn't make any sense to me either). One of the bombs is on (you guessed it) a train, and Patrick Stewart has to assemble his United Nations crime stoppers team to prevent Ted Levine from taking the bomb train across Europe and into Iraq. Rather than having some crack Navy Seals unit on hand he has to recruit a motorcycle racer who used to be in the SAS (Brosnan, of course), a desk jockey who was on the US olympic Biathlon team, (Paul) and a couple of Russian helicopter pilots, one cheerful and one who looks sinister and smokes a lot (guess which one turns out to be the mole).

The whole thing is quite atrocious in a so bad that it almost turns out to be good but then turns out to be rubbish way. It may have been a European co-production because some of the actors appear to be dubbed. Christopher Lee (God bless him) appears to have actually done his own lines in Russian. I don't know if he could already speak Russian but if he learnt his lines especially for this low budget disaster then that was above and beyond the call of duty. Meanwhile Pierce Brosnan, whose character was supposed to have gone to Eton, can't decide whether he's using his American Remington Steele accent, his British Bond accent or his natural Irish brogue.

No action movie cliche is left unturned. It even comes down to Brosnan defusing the bomb as it ticks towards zero and dealing with the cut the red wire or the blue wire dilemma. No surprises here, he cuts the opposite wire to the one that the bomb maker tells him over the radio - "Just an instinct." It's a good job that film bomb makers keep putting those coloured wires in there instead of just using all black wires. Speaking of the bomb maker it is quite nice to see John Abineri in there, he's known to British Invaders listeners for Red Dwarf, Survivors and Robin of Sherwood. And the UN physicist who debriefs him is played by a very young looking Clarke Peters, Lester "smooth" Freamon from the Wire.

There's nothing like being home alone with a beer and some fast food and a totally crappy movie. If you can get hold of a copy for 99p or less then I highly recommend it. I'm going to give it 4 out of 5 Joe Bob Briggs terrible movie stars. And I'm amazed to find that this was successful enough to spawn a sequel. I'm sort of tempted. Stay tuned, dear reader.


  1. This film IS complete crap. It just goes to show that, no matter how good your cast may be, it's just impossible to polish a turd.

    If you want an even bigger laugh, they actually made a sequel!

  2. Yes but £14.99 ! and not on Lovefilm.
    Thanks for all the comments