The Death Train (1978)

Article 2953 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-8-2009
Posting Date: 9-14-2009
Directed by Igor Auzins
Featuring Hugh Keays-Byrne, Max Meldrum, Ralph Cotterill
Country: Australia

An insurance investigator comes to a small town to investigate the death of a man insured by his company. The local residents believe his death was caused by his being run over by a ghost train. However, the investigator is sure there is a more rational explanation…

If there were limits to the amount of quirkiness allowed in a movie, this one assuredly would have passed that limit, and those who are allergic to quirkiness should steer clear. Those with a weakness for that sort of thing (such as me) are in for a treat; between the bizarre mystery, the supernatural overtones, the array of offbeat characters, and the surreal comic air of several of the scenes, I was delighted and charmed. Among the strange characters that inhabit this movie are the policeman who uses the hunt-and-peck method to fill out the reports, the carrot-juice swilling long-time companion of the deceased, the overly-descriptive doctor who performed the autopsy on the deceased, and the woman in the Sandman station wagon who picks up stray men. We also have key scenes in which the investigator searches for a pair of glasses in a chicken coop, a scene where the reporter tries to evade a rampaging piece of machinery while dressed in his underwear, and the scenes where he encounters the unhelpful residents of the town, including the barmaid who won’t help him because he’s sitting at the wrong end of the counter. Then there’s the reporter himself, who constantly has a cigarette in his mouth but refuses to light it and constantly lets his suspected murderer know that he’s hunting for the evidence to put him away. Then there’s the tiny hotel room with the spacious bathroom, which may be my favorite gag in the movie. Of course, the big question is whether the final revelation will prove supernatural or merely bizarre, and I won’t give that away except to say that I left the movie smiling.

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