Wednesday, 31 January 2018



At the end of last year I looked through my lists and spreadsheets and concluded that I'd watched way too many terrible movies for any (nominally) sane mind to endure, and would therefore try to avoid the obvious stinkers. Many of these, sadly, were horror movies, dropped out of the obscurity vaults onto Amazon Prime with no warning except for the titles, artwork, trailers, synopses and whatever can be gleaned from three minutes on the IMDb. Nevertheless, I persisted and got repeatedly kicked in the nethers like an idiot. I am definitely making the effort this year to wean myself off films which clearly weren't going to be worth the wettest of Wednesday evenings (yes, I said that last year and the year before that and the year before that). Happily, it seems to be working: I've had no one-star movies so far and the least enjoyable things I've seen have mainly been disappointments or simply not to my taste. But the cravings for obviously trash films aren't always defeated that easily: just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

Luckily, Devil's Express just about scrapes its second star, though it's a close run thing. Nominally it concerns a mysterious creature on the New York subways, lurking in the tunnels and ripping apart any idiot wandering onto the tracks. The cops think it's either a turf war between the black and Chinese gangs (this was made in 1975) or a series of attacks by mutated animals in the sewers, but it's actually a Chinese demon inadvertently released by an idiot when he removed the protective amulet from its 2100-year-old coffin.

Most of the movie isn't actually concerned with the demon monster killer stuff, which is a pity because that's the most interesting angle: Barry Rosen seems more interested in making a martial arts movie in which a bunch of impressively muscled guys take their shirts off and lamp each other. I've no particular objection to that, but they go on for far too long and in the main they're nowhere near bone-crackingly vicious enough, so they're the least engaging scenes in what is supposed to be a horror movie. And female presence is minimal: there's one barmaid, who beats up a couple of morons in a scene which has nothing to do with the rest of the film, and a rambling bag lady on the train. Otherwise the film is pretty much undiluted testosterone.

Yet, as cheap, dull, stupid and terribly acted though it is, the demon in the subway stuff is more interesting and provides a few of the better moments in the film. It's not much fun, but it's presented in nice widescreen rather than a cropped video, it has the grimy 70s New York feel to it (including brief footage of old 42nd Street trash cinemas showing Tower Of Screaming Virgins, Kung-Fu Cops and, er, The Italian Job) and some agreeable music over the opening and closing titles. Plus, the lead actor's name is War Hawk Tanzania and you've got to give it a second star just for that.


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