In 1906, in China, Professor Alexander Saxton discovers an ancient frozen fossil in the remote Province of Szechuan. He brings the remains of the being in a box to Shanghai and boards a trans-Siberian train, where he meets his acquaintance Dr. Wells. During the trip, a life force trapped in the frozen creature is released, killing and stealing the memories of the passengers.
Running Time: 90 Minutes
MPAA Ratings: NR
Though Hammer axioms Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are at hand, Eugenio Martín's Gothic chiller remains a prime staple of the decade's still-unexplored Spanish horror wave, alongside such alluring items as The House That Screamed, The Blood-Splattered Bride and Vampyros Lesbos. Lavish by the genre's standards, the movie introduces the eponymous choo-choo with a luxuriant craning-out visual nod to Von Sternberg's own Oriental ride, and, accordingly, the plot accommodates a clandestine Mata Hari (Helga Liné) and even intimations of wit (Cushing: "Monster?! We're British, you know.") The monster is a fossilized missing-link found encrusted in glaciers, boarded up and sent aboard the express in 1906 Manchuria;Lee plays the stuffy archeologist in charge and, unexpectedly, officious straight-man to Cushing's laid-back traveling surgeon. The cargo's been dubbed "unholy" by a station-platform Rasputin (Alberto de Mendoza) before it's even loaded in, so it's only a matter of time for the hairy, glowing-eyed humanoid in the box to break out and begin draining passengers' brains through their peepers. An entire Cossack regiment, under Telly Savalas' hambone command, is decimated only to roam the cars moments later as bleeding zombies, but Martín is up to more than walking-dead rehash -- the troglodyte is revealed as the latest host for a body-jumping intergalactic shape with an Ice Age slideshow imprinted in its retina and, as a "visitor," of interest to both Lee's chilly, scientific pragmatism and mad-monk de Mendoza's brimstone hysteria. Evolutionary horror, or spiritual unrest? Either way, the express keeps chugging across the snowy expanses, the complacent opulence about to be shaken up by intruding (moral?) forces. With Silvia Tortosa, Julio Peña, and Georges Rigaud.
(Fernando F. Croce)
Picture a frozen ape man discovered by a British archeologist and scientist at the turn of the century, and being placed aboard a Trans-Siberian railway from China to Russia, And you have the beginning of Horror Express. Christopher Lee plays the man who finds this fossil, as he calls it, which turns out to be so much more. The film itself is beautiful as we see this elegant train traveling across snow-covered terrain(actually filmed in Spain). The cast of characters aboard are of equal interest. Peter Cushing plays a scientist named Dr. Wells. For Cushing, this is a fine performance of a scientist less hypnotized by the ethic of science and more worldly. He bribes officials to get train tickets, has a baggage man drill holes in Professor Saxton's(Lee's) discovery, flirts with both his manly lady assistant and a beautiful stow-a-way, and in general seems less serious than many of his former roles. Nice to see him occasionally smile. Lee's professor is quite typical of Lee, burly, officious, obnoxious, and willful. Both Cushing and Lee are extraordinary and sights to behold as they waltz through the script of finding the creature which is wiping the minds of various peoples. The rest of the cast is also very good with a Rasputin-like monk stealing scene after scene. Horror Express is fast-paced action, inventive science fiction, gory thrills, and chilling horror. Indeed it is worth a look!
Alberto De Mendoza
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