Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Burning Train (1980)

In 99 % of the cases a good disaster movie has a title that tells it all. Earthquake has earthquakes, The Towering Inferno has an inferno in a tower, Meteor has a meteor coming towards earth, Avalanche has an avalanche threatening Rock Hudson, City on Fire has a… city on fire! You get my drift. The perfect title of a movie about a train on fire could be The Burning Train, and it is – even if my partner suggested the title Train on Fire as something catchier. This was the most expensive movie ever in India and flopped. Wonder why? I’m far from an expert on Indian movies, but this has romance, dancing and singing, adventure, bad guys and crying children. Maybe it was too much for the Indian audience? Maybe it was, with the Indian history of train accidents, too sensitive? I have no idea, and I won’t analyze it even further.

After the electro-funkiest theme music ever (where a female voice and a hilarious “monster”-voice sings “The Burning Traaaaaain” over and over again) we’re introduced to the movies main characters, for more or less ninety minutes. Vinod (Vinod Khanna) works for the Indian railways and his dream is to create a super express train which can go from Delhi to Mumbai in 14 hours! Another dream, which he makes come true, is to marry his sweetheart – which also is the sweetheart of another employee at the railways, Randhir (Danny Denzongpa). This makes Randhir plan for revenge, something he does for six years until the train is ready and everyone is aboard. He fucks up the brakes and plants a bomb on it, which seem logical. I would probably also kill hundreds of people of someone stole my sweetheart from me ;) The disaster becomes even worse when the kitchen staff forgets to turn of the gas, and turns the whole train into a flaming inferno (which means it’s like The Towering Inferno, but horizontally!).

I don’t mind long movies or excessive character development and massive build-ups. Just look at the Soviet masterpiece Air Crew, which take its time to create the characters before killing them off. The Burning Train takes a similar approach, but never succeeds in the same way. It still feels a bit to shallow and there’s a lot of repeating in the first half of the movie (It’s three hours long). But wait, I can’t say I dislike it. It’s colourful and entertaining and never really boring, it’s just don’t have “it”. But after 80-90 minutes it finally kicks into disaster-mode and never stops after that.

First of all, Danny Denzongpa (who also plays the bad guy in last years Robot) is awesome in his part. He’s probably the best actor of the bunch and gives it all as the man filled with madness and revenge. He also sports a nice hair-cut and moustache. The rest of the cast is the usual disaster-fodder: the good-hearted thief, young lovers, older couple, the policeman, a couple of different holy men, the unselfish hero, the wacko, innocent children and the crazy guy who wants to save himself before all others. Yes, it’s the same cast of characters like in all disaster movies with a multi-cast (like Towering Inferno, Earthquake, Poseidon Adventure etc). It’s very familiar and also very welcome, because I demand safe and non-original entertainment when it comes to disaster epics.

If you manage to get through the first half you’re treated to a lot of awesome stuff in the second half. The Burning Train has a lot of nice stunt work (some look very dangerous), explosions and impressive fire effects. It’s on the same quality-scale as the Hollywood movies, where only the slightly primitive miniature train in the end betrays that its non-Hollywood. I love scenes when people are hanging on the outside of trains or fighting on the roof, and its all here! The fire stunts looks very dangerous and there are some explosions in slow-motion that are closer than, I guess, they was planned to be from the beginning. Like most of the Indian movies I’ve seen there is also some comedy, and here it’s – and I can’t say what they’re meant to be – two silly men who seem to be in the toilet together several times. They also sit beside each other when they eat. Not sure if they are meant to be some comic relief gay men? No explanation is given to us.

The Burning Train is a very entertaining and spectacular disaster movie. If you gonna buy it, go for the version from Eros Entertainment. It’s in widescreen and it’s the long version.


Crippa said...

Never heard about this one before but it sounds really entertaining -- if a bit long. Will have to check it out. Thanks for the tip!

Todd said...

I think "The Horizontal Inferno" would be a much better title for this movie.

Anonymous said...

When the 2 men from toilet open the door for the second time, 1 guys says to another in the toilet "It is not the Ticket Collector", indicating that they are travelling without proper tickets and hence hiding in toilet all the time.