Get on the choo-choo for 1972’s Horror Express, another movie from my Mills Creek 50 Chilling Classics set.
It’s 1906 and Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee) has found the missing link in a cave in Manchuria.
He crates it up and takes it on the Trans-Siberian Express. His professional rival, Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing), happens to be on the same train.
The missing-link is up to no-good from the beginning. A thief tries to steal him and ends up dead with creepy white eyes.
A Rasputin-alike named Father Pujardov (Alberto de Mendoza), who’s employed by the Countess Petrovski (Silvia Tortosa), declares whatever’s in the crate to be of Satan.
Anyone who looks at the missing link while in a dark space gets zapped with his red Terminator eyes and grabbed by his jerk chicken arms. It’s not the missing link’s fault, though. He’s just a host for a parasitic organism from outer space that jumps from body to body and absorbs knowledge. And you can see the knowledge in the creature’s eye goo! It’s all laid out like slides in a View-Master.
Once Inspector Mirov (Julio Peña) shoots the creature, the movie becomes like a mystery and you have to figure out who’s hosting the alien. Yes, it becomes The Thing on a train, ten years before The Thing was released (but twenty-one years after The Thing From Another World, the basis of John Carpenter’s The Thing. I’m on to you, Carpenter!)
The movie culminates with Telly Savalas as a drunk Cossack captain commandeering the train while everyone whose memories were stolen become zombies.
Does this sound like an awful lot for one movie? Yes, yes it is. Was it kind of a hot mess? Absolutely.
There were some parts of the movie that worked and some that just didn’t work. The white-eyed victims with smooth, marshmallow-y brains were genuinely creepy.
Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing can make paint drying look entertaining. Cushing has some of the best lines, like when someone accuses him and Lee of being monsters, his retort is, “Monsters?! We’re British!” Gosh all fishhooks, I wish that I could use that retort.
Telly Savalas is manically over-the-top as the Cossack captain and somehow manages to have a Russian-via-Brooklyn accent. You know who loves you, Telly? I do. If elected president, I will pass a bill requiring Telly to be in every movie.
There were a few genuinely creepy moments. What got to me is when they were extracting eye-goo from the creature, although I’m pretty sensitive about eyes.
What didn’t work is that the movie just meanders while Saxton and Wells try to solve who is infected. Especially since the audience knows who’s infected. There are stretches where it feels like nothing happens. Frankly, any moment without Lee, Cushing, or Savalas seems pointless. Aside from the alien-parasite-missing-link plot, there’s a subplot with a spy and an engineer and it’s just all too much. I wish they’d kept the film as alien on the train or cursed missing link but not cursed missing link alien on a train with zombies.
Finally, the music is really all over the place ranging from someone’s cat walking on a Casio to seventies “wakka-chikka” music. It enhances nothing.
When I looked up this movie, I noticed that it had a pretty high rating for a Mills Creek flick on IMDB, as of now it’s at 6.4 stars. The only movies off the set that I’ve watched that come close are A Bucket of Blood at 6.7 and The Ghost at 6. Plus, while looking up info about this movie, I read a lot of recollections of people watching Horror Express on late-night t.v. This movie is beloved to a lot of people and that gave me a bit more respect for it. Everyone needs a gateway horror drug, so if a movie like Horror Express can get people into horror then I can support it.
And, just because it gives me the happy, here’s Christopher Lee singing the epiphany from Sweeney Todd. THIS is how Sweeney Todd is supposed to sound.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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