Death Train


‘…Death Train is no masterpiece, but it’s undemanding, slump-in-your-chair stuff…’

The Alistair MacLean cycle of blockbuster action/espionage movies had well and truly run its course by the time 1993’s Death Train came along, dropping this thriller into the dustiest distribution hole imaginable. The copy of Death Train on You Tube, recently removed, had a cool 4 million viewers; using Netflix’s famously shonky calculator, on a $20 a ticket multiplier, that’s equal to an $80+ million opening, bigger than any 2021 release so far. Presumably your friends, workmates and family have been sneaking off and covertly watching this engagingly hokey film without telling you. Either way, it’s time for you to take a free ride on the Death Train, also known by the equally duff title Detonator.

A tv movie with a script based on a novel based on a screenplay sounds less-than-promising; this is a vague sequel to 1980’s laughable Hostage Tower, and features UNACO, the United Nations Anti-Crime Organisation, on the trail of a stolen nuclear bomb held by terrorists on a German train. No longer played by Billy Dee Williams, CW (Clarke Peters) is left to interrogate the scientist who built the bomb for a rogue Russian General (Christopher Lee). Centre-stage are Malcolm Philpott (Patrick Stewart) and his old chum “Mike’ Graham, played by Pierce Brosnan and introduced sympathetically throwing a motorbike-race to avoid running over a bunny-rabbit.

The terrorists in David Jackson’s thriller are led by The Silence of the Lambs’ Ted Levine who plans to smash his way through to Iraq and force the Russians to invade, creating a new adversary for the US. There’s a quite exciting action scene about twenty minutes in when Graham and his team try and board the moving train; MacLean never saw a helicopter action scenario he didn’t like, and the lack of CGI leaves space for some decent stunts. The plot is kind of ridiculous, and resolves itself rather predictably; Maclean seems to have enough top level access to imagine a nuclear crisis, but the mechanics by which things are resolved are ancient Boys Own stuff.

Death Train is no masterpiece, but it’s undemanding, slump-in-your-chair stuff. It just about manages to entertain, mainly by casting a few well-kent faces most of which went on to bigger things, and also by dint of some decent sub-Bond second unit action. If nothing else, the Siberian locations, hopefully labelled either Kentucky, Germany or Russia, provide some mirth, as does the glimpse of LaGuardia airport in New York, which looks remarkably like an empty stretch of Eastern European airstrip. The title on the version reviewed comes up as ‘Death Train Hollywood Action Movie Action Thriller Hollywood Cinema’, which is probably an apt description of the shenanigans contained.


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  1. Can’t really blame Maclean for all the flaws – he only contributed the outline. He proved he could do trains with Breakheart Pass and for anyone with a longer memory The Last Frontier had a terrific train action sequence which Richard Widmark decided to drop entirely when he filmed it as The Secret Ways (1961).

    • Wow, great spot, the last Frontier is completely missing from my knowledge of Maclean movies. I do like a train movie, and this week’s big rediscover was Von Ryan’s Express. Full of praise for that, will write it up soon…

    • After your Battle Boeyond the Stars experience, I watched Ghosts of Mars last night with adverts, and it wasn’t too painful. Free with adverts looks like it’ll be a thing, but isn’t this just tv on the internet?

      • I have a feeling that “free with adverts” is the wave of the future. It’s the cycle returning to it’s network roots. The problem is, I still have to pay for prime. Now, maybe if I could get a free service that did that imdb free with ads thing, I might be slightly more charitable…

        • I have a paid subscription to IMDb. It’s not cheap. So why do I have to tolerate ads on their channel? What more can I give them but money? Why would a website that supposedly loves movies make a point of deliberately ruining them?

          • That’s what keeps people away. Why pay if you have to view the ads anyway? There’s no incentive 🙁
            I’m reaching that point with Prime. Why pay for prime if they only offer complete schlock and I can watch better stuff with ads, for no money.

                    • No. Just that you are both film reviewers and neighter of you have cottoned to my Azure Behind theory.
                      So not the same person, but cut from the same cloth.

                    • And then deny them the right to comment due to a malfunctioning reader! I’m amazed so many people do not use the reader, I’d have thought it was a central plank of the WordPress experience.

                    • Well, most people SEE the post in the reader but then click on through to your website itself.
                      I never read and comment through the reader. It is clunky and not your site, which you’ve designed to enhance your posts.

                    • The comments are the true enhancement. I assumed that most of the comments, if not the views, were from WP community readers using the reader.

                    • Just so you know, if a follower reads your entire post in the reader, you don’t see it as a view since they didn’t actually visit your site.

                      But if followers use it like I do, and how it is meant to be used, as an aggregator of the sites they follow, then when they click through it to your site, you obviously get that as a view.

                      Which is why you have a business plan or some such, then I hear you get “extra” tools which I’m sure can take that kind of thing into consideration and give you much more accurate numbers.

                    • Thanks for this; I feel like I’ve been driving with my headlights off at night. I don’t know if I’ve ever clicked through. I have unwittingly been a bad member of the community, and for this I am truly sorry.

                    • No worries. You’re not the first egregious offender in this manner.
                      It’s actually wordpress’s fault for making this possible. To the point where they’ve provided an option to “read more” in the reader, thus forcing click throughs. I’ve thought about it but decided that if people want to read my stuff in the reader, let them have that choice.

                    • I wondered what that dirty ball at the top of the screen was. So it represents planet earth?

                    • What dirty ball? I have no idea what your talking about. And if you’re being clever, it’s going right over my head. That kind of week 😀

                    • I think it’s meant to be a globe, it appears at the top of the screen while you are in reader. Never use it because you then have a log in screen to negotiate if you want to leave a comment.

                    • I hate the app. It is everything wrong with WP as far as I’m concerned. Things don’t show up, things don’t show up correctly, yada yada yada.

                      Yeah, tough week. Work. Been put in charge of a new kid, who I now call Slow Boy, because he moves at glacial speed. So trying to train him means I have to do both our jobs and couple that with longer days (9-10hrs instead of 8-9) and I’m about ready to crash.

                    • That’s a hard day. Respect.

                      I have nothing to compare WP with and just gobble down whatever is served. I will visit more websites.

                    • one more reason to move to GA. No more winters with 2ft of snow 🙂

                      If you’ve only ever used one service, and it works, you just assume that’s how it works for everyone.
                      I’ll keep a lookout for a spike in traffic from the UK….

                    • We’re still trying to locate Alex’s third British visitor. They can run, but they can’t hide.

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