Horror Express

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.

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About scarina

I like scary movies a little too much. I thought I'd share my obsession with you.
This entry was posted in 1970's, 50 chilling classics, aliens, foreign, media, possession, zombies and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Horror Express

  1. Crypticpsych says:

    First, just to throw it out there, this one got an bluray/dvd combo release in HD last year by the company Severin. It’s still in the public domain, but they took a swing at a fairly definitive release with some extras and such.

    Also, I loved Sweeney Todd….unfortunately my only experience was with the Depp/Burton version. I wish I’d known what it was about when my college (I think) was doing a performance of it so that I could’ve seen it live. And I would like to see some of the originals because i’ve heard Angela Lansbury was really great in the Broadway version of it. I never knew Christopher Lee had tackled it, but he’s kind of a natural fit for it! It’s odd, the Depp version, upon hearing this, sounds very over-the-top, deranged, and over-produced (though not in a bad way). Lee’s version is a lot more subtle in his psychotic tendency. He’s singing, but he’s not SIIIIIIIIIIIIINGING if you get my meaning. It really feels like he could avoid detection better than Depp could have just comparing their versions of the same song.

    • scarina says:

      I don’t know if I could watch this movie again. There’s a good 30 minutes in the middle where it’s just Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing walking back and forth on a train, looking for something. The extras would interest me, though.
      My advice is to trust any musical theater with Angela Lansbury because the woman is amazing. The thing that irked me about the Burton Sweeney Todd is that Sweeney is supposed to be a big, imposing man. Someone who is built like a stevedore and can handle slitting people’s throats and disposing of their bodies. Johnny Depp is more like the wispy hipster Sweeney Todd. My issue with the whole movie is that none of the principals were singers and the vocals sounded very thin to me. Lee’s version of “Epiphany” is more restrained but it feels like the character is really pissed and has just had enough, whereas Depp’s version sounds like he’s having a tantrum.
      It’s been so long since Tim Burton’s produced something really original, it’s such a shame.

      • Crypticpsych says:

        Yeah, it didn’t seem you liked it as much as the other ones you liked from the set, I was just throwing it out there.
        Burton and originality in the most basic sense of the word haven’t really gone together in a long time. I like his visual style, so I’m more accepting of some of his most recent stuff but they never seem to come close to surpassing the original. I like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for its visual style and being closer to the book, but the original mops the floor with it as a movie. I’m a little more receptive to his Alice in Wonderland than many people were, but that’s a REALLY flawed movie. *checks*….yeah, just about EVERYTHING he’s done since Edward Scissorhands has been either based on someone or some previously existing property….normally his askew style can be enough for me, but it’s starting to get really tired.

      • scarina says:

        I’m fond of it. I think that’s the right word. Mostly, I view it as a missed opportunity to be really scary.
        I went to the Tim Burton show at MOMA and it was quite amazing. I think he definitely has a spark of originality. But his movies really are running together. They all look very similar and don’t really have a message, other than Johnny Depp likes to play in pancake makeup. I read a lot of scathing reviews of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but I liked it because it was more true to the source material. I can’t compare it with the original film, though, because it terrified me as a child and I’ve refused to watch it ever since. I think the last movie of Burton’s that I really enjoyed was Sleepy Hollow and I started actively disliking him around The Corpse Bride.

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