The film is set in 1906, in China anthropologist Alexander Saxton has discovered a frozen body of a half-man, half-ape creature. He believes it to possibly be the “missing link” and if so would be the discovery of the century. So Saxton loads the creature onto the Opulent Trans-Siberian Express in order to get himself and his find back to Europe as soon as possible. On board the train is Saxton's rival anthropologist Dr Wells. But both, all though they have their differences, soon have to team up as the creature thaws from it's icy prison and begins killing passengers by absorbing their knowledge from their brain out through their eyes.
Horror Express is a 1973 Spanish made film directed by Eugenio Martin. It stars Christopher Lee as Alexander Saxton, Peter Cushing as Dr Wells and Telly Savalas as Captain Kazan who unfortunately doesn't appear until over half way through the film. The film wasn't successful in Spain, but in the UK and other countries where the Hammer style horror audience was pre-established the film did rather well. When Peter Cushing arrived in Madrid to begin filming he told one of the producers that he couldn't do the film as he was still distraught over his wife's recent death. But Christopher Lee stepped in and put him at ease just by talking to him about their films together and changed Cushing's mind.
I was intrigued to see a foreign take on a British stylised horror sub-genre that had been created by Hammer and the like. This Spanish take on this type of film works, it succeeds in making a horror film in the spirit of it's British counterpart. It is different to the British ones, it does have that feel but it is in no way negative. It's very enjoyable, it has horror, violence and even humour. The actors are great they are playing roles they are best at; Christopher Lee as a more angry, non-social person, a person who is dedicated to his work. Whereas, Peter Cushing plays a more approachable friendly character, a perfect rival for Christopher Lee's Saxton, an almost polar opposite style character the only thing they have in common is their profession and thus their passion. Peter Cushing delivers one of the best lines in the film in response to “The two of you together. That's fine. But what if one of you is the monster?” with “Monster? We're British, you know.” But a special credit has to be said for Telly Savalas, who portrays the “coolest” character in the film, the brilliant Captain Kazan, who with ease can slowly swing underarm throwing a knife almost effortlessly into another man's back. It captures what Hammer did best but shines a different light on it to give us another perspective, a perspective that is new and fresh as it is from a new audience's view of British horror films, an audience from a different part of the world.
Horror Express 4/5