An English anthropologist has discovered a frozen monster in the frozen wastes of Manchuria which he believes may be the Missing Link. He brings the creature back to Europe aboard a trans-Siberian express, but during the trip the monster thaws out and starts to butcher the passengers one by one.Written by
Jonathon Dabell <J.D.@pixie.ntu.ac.uk>
The train interior sets and the train model used for the exterior shots were the same sets used for Pancho Villa (1972), made by the same producer and director, which had just finished production, and which also featured Telly Savalas. See more »
The Russians never had a Concession in Shanghai, for the time this movie takes place the only Russian Concession in China was in Tianjin. See more »
[after Wells buys his way onto a full train]
It's called "squeeze" in China. The Americans call it knowhow.
And in Britain, we call it bribery and corruption.
See more »
In the opening credits of the English-language VHS version, Christopher Lee's name is misspelled as "Cristopher". See more »
In the isolated music and effects track on the Image Entertainment DVD, the piano piece played by the Countess (which the creature whistles back to her) is completely different from what is played in the final mixed track. Oddly, while the piano piece is changed, the whistling is the same. See more »
Undeservedly forgotten horror film - one of the better examples of Lee and Cushing working together in the '70s.
Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The two go together like strawberries and cream, like white wine and fish. One is a glove, the other is a hand that fits perfectly inside. The Lee/Cushing partnership made many movies together during the '50s, '60s and '70s, including some of the finest Hammer horror movies. Of their three decades as screen partners, their work from the 1970s is probably their weakest - Nothing But The Night, Dracula AD 1972, and The Satanic Rites Of Dracula are inferior examples of their films together. However, even in he '70s "low period" they still served up the occasional gem. The Creeping Flesh was a nicely done horror flick with a wickedly unexpected twist ending, and this - known in America and Britain as "Horror Express" - is a powerful and inventive bloodcurdler with a sprinkling of science fiction.
In Siberia, 1906, anthropologist Alexander Saxton (Lee) finds a frozen creature which he believes to be the Missing Link. He transports the being back to western Europe by trans-Siberian train. Aboard the train are the usual assorted types:- a Polish countess (Silvia Tortosa); her husband (Jorge Rigaud); a mad monk seemingly modelled on Rasputin (Alberto De Mendoza); and a fellow scientist and long-time rival of Saxton's, the charismatic Dr Wells (Cushing). Midway through the journey, as the train passes through a desolate snowscape many miles from civilisation, the creature thaws out and begins killing the passengers. Wells carries out an autopsy on the corpses and realises that they are not up against the Missing Link, but a weird alien organism which inhabits the bodies of its victims and steals their memories. As the finger of suspicion falls upon each character, the scientists try to figure out which passenger is "carrying" the shape-shifting monster, while trying to keep everyone safe and alive.
Horror Express has its share of dumb moments (what horror film doesn't?) but in the main it is quite an intelligent and original piece. Some of the supporting actors are quite amateurish, too, giving performances that distract one's attention for the wrong reasons. However, Cushing and Lee are believable as always, and it's their straight-faced conviction which makes the story as spine-tingling as it is. There is also a well-developed subtext in the film condemning religious fanaticism, with Mendoza's character shown to be so unreasonable and misguided that his "Christian" rantings are every bit as disturbing as the teachings of a heretic. The atmosphere is spookily maintained, with lots of eerie scenes (which probably got many a heart fluttering back in 1973, in the pre-Exorcist days of the horror genre). In particular, the climactic sequence in which Cossack soldiers, led by Telly Savalas, board the train only to be zombified by the deadly alien, is a chilling episode. You may need to be a fan of old-school horror flicks to enjoy Horror Express, but if you are it's definitely one worth seeking out.
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