Difference between revisions of "Horror Express"

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Revision as of 12:55, 27 May 2012

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    Uk-flag.jpg Spainflag.jpg

    Also Known As

    • Dödsexpressen (Sweden)
    • Expresso do Horror (Brazil) (DVD title)
    • Kauhun pikajuna (Finland) (video title)
    • Pánico en el Transiberiano (Spain)
    • Panic in the Trans-Siberian Train (International) (English title)
    • Terreur dans le Shanghaï-Express (France)
    • Panic in the Trans-Siberian Train


    • Can it be stopped?
    • A nightmare of terror travelling aboard the Horror Express!
    • Your Non Stop Ride to Hell Boards at 8 P.M.

    Main Details

    • Released in 1973
    • Color
    • Running Time: USA:90 min | USA:88 min | Spain:84 min
    • Production Co: Benmar Productions | Granada Films
    • Distribution Co: Astral Films (1974) (Canada) (theatrical) | Scotia International (1974) (USA) (theatrical)

    Cast and Crew

    • Directed by Eugenio Martin
    • Written by Arnaud d'Usseau, Julian Zimet
    • Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Alberto de Mendoza, Silvia Tortosa, Julio Peña, Ángel del Pozo, Helga Liné
    • Produced by Bernard Gordon, Gregorio Sacristán
    • Original Music by John Cacavas
    • Cinematography by Alejandro Ulloa
    • Film Editing by Robert C. Dearberg

    Film Review

    Horroricon.jpg Crisleeicon.jpg

    Horror Express (1974), stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in one of their many collaborations on film (22, in fact) and is certainly an interesting mix of science fiction and horror, providing a lot more than I would have expected, given this particular version comes from Image Entertainment's Euroshock Collection. I've never been a really big fan of European horror, specifically from the period of the late sixties through the late 80's, as I've found it more often than not a little too visceral, i.e. gory, for my tastes. I can understand the appeal to those who love that kind of thing, but I've felt extreme violence can work just as well, if not better, if it's implied, rather than shown, given that the director is any good at his/her craft. My imagination is a whole lot scarier than anything I've ever seen on screen, but I digress...

    This Spanish production, directed by Eugeno Martin, takes place in the early 20th century, and begins with Professor Alexander Saxton (Lee), an anthropologist, finding an ancient frozen man-beast somewhere in Manchuria, I think...anyway, he crates it up for transport and future study back in his native England, and proceeds to take it with him on the Trans-Siberian Express, where he meets an acquaintance in Dr, Wells (Cushing), and his assistant whose name I forget but she reminded me a lot of that creepy little troll woman from Poltergeist (1982). As they embark on their journey by train across the frozen tundra, murdered victims begin popping up. The method of their deaths is particularly strange, as they don't seem to have been killed by any conventional methods, and their eyes always appear opaque, with a bit of blood emanating from their various facial orifices, eyes, nose, mouth, etc. It's soon learned that Professor Saxton's discovery, a seemingly fossilized creature, has come back to life, and is the cause of the deaths. The exact nature of the creature may surprise you (maybe not, as I think some have already give it away). What are its' motives?

    I actually enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would. I was put off by thoughts of it being a European horror film, my reasons already explained, but I gave it a chance as I really enjoy Lee and Cushing, and having them together is a real bonus. That's not to say every film they been in separately or together is a winner, but this is certainly better than average (if you want to see some real stinkers, check out The Bloody Judge (1970) or the Fu Manchu films of the late 60's. They gained a little from his appearance in them, but not much.) The overall story had a plot, and it did manage to follow it quite well. If you are a fan of early 50's sci-fi, you will probably see a lot of commonalities in this film compared to some of those, one more famous one in particular, finally released to DVD by Warner Brothers in late 2003. The European horror elements (blood!) come in the form of blood emanating from the victim's eyes, nose, and mouth during the process of being killed, and isn't as graphic as I would have thought (no entrails being ate up and such, but there is a little brain exploration as various victims suffer the indignity of an autopsy in the baggage car of the train).

    The real reason to see this film is for Lee and Cushing, as they can often take trash and spin gold. That's not to say this movie would have been trash without them, as I think it's pretty solid, but their appearances make selling this Spanish production certainly a lot easier in the international market. And let's not forget Telly Salavas (Who loves ya, baby?). He appears as Captain Kazan, a brutal, ruthless Cossack who boards the train with his troops in order to investigate the murders. His screen time is limited, which is too bad, as he had one of the more interesting roles, but what he lacks in time on the screen he makes up for in a memorable performance.

    I did feel a little awkwardness in the plot as some elements seemed to be tied in and together in fairly flimsy fashion, and particularly elements arose a bit too conveniently for my tastes, but these issues were pretty minor in the context of the film. The special effects were actually pretty good. The use of miniatures to show the train moving on looked quaint (for better or for worse) and gave a certain charm to the film.

    The claustrophobic nature of nearly the entire film being shot on sets meant to be the interior of the train helped keep the tension throughout, as escape into the vast, frozen wasteland was not a possibility. Also, the elegance of the interiors, specifically the first class cars, played nicely against the horror of the creature originally stuck riding in the baggage car (I thought maybe he was just looking for space in the first class compartments, but his greed was so much more). The creature itself really wasn't that frightening to me, but then I think years of horror films and such have desensitized my reactions to such stimuli. It did remind me of a dirtier, unkempt Grinch, with matted and mottled fur.

    Reviewed by Biohazard - 1/25/08

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