SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!
1906, anthropologist Alexander Saxton has discovered the frozen body of a half-man half-ape creature. He believes it to possibly be the “missing link”, and if so it 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 from China back to Europe. On board the train is Saxton's rival anthropologist Dr Wells. But both, although they have their differences, soon have to team up as the creature not only comes back to life but it also escapes and is amongst the passengers. But this one isn't going to be easy to find, it can possess anyone making everyone a suspect.
Horror Express is a 1973 Spanish made Benmar Productions and Granada Films production. It stars Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas. It is directed by Eugenio Martin. 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.
Ah I see that makes sense, Saxton's “fossil” (as he calls it) is evil because the Monk wasn't able to draw a white chalk cross onto the white cloth which is covering the crate containing the creature. Wait a minute, no it doesn't! That doesn't prove anything. How did he ever expect white chalk to show on a white cloth. It's a good theory he has that the cross can't be drawn on an evil object but what he should have done is used a black marker then maybe he would have something substantial.
NO! DON'T LOOK AT IT'S EYES! Ah to late. Whoever looks into the creature's red eyes begin to bleed from their eyes, nose and mouth resulting in their death leaving them with plain white eyes and (as Wells discovers after an autopsy) a completely smooth brain, which Wells explains has been erased of it's memories as all the wrinkles on a person's brain are that person's memories. It is later discovered that the creature boils a person's head resulting in the white eyes and at the same time absorbs the person's memories and knowledge.
Poor Dr Wells just can't get any, he either gets cock blocked or just gets mocked. Firstly, he was about to share his cabin with a nice young lady then suddenly Saxton bounded in with his luggage and informed Dr Wells that they're bunk buddies. Secondly, when he's a having dinner with the young lady some stupid twat comes and sits with them whilst they were enjoying a nice romantic meal with just the two of them. Thirdly, Dr Wells leaves his meal in order to perform an autopsy and says to his assistant Miss Jones “I shall require your assistance” to which she replies “Well at your age I'm not surprised” and looks at the young lady at the table. Dr Wells looks to see what she's referring to and in shock informs her “With the autopsy.” Lastly, there is just Dr Wells and the young lady in the cabin, before going to bed she just pops to the bathroom but...OH NO! The creature kills her. Poor Dr Wells, no one will let him get his end away, not even the Neanderthal creature, what a bastard.
If you thought a Neanderthal creature running rampant on a train boiling people's brains and stealing their memories was bad, well as the story develops it turns out that the creature can transfer it's life force from one person to another. Leading to a situation where no one is safe because anyone could be the creature. This situation allows for my favourite line of the film. One of the passengers talking to Dr Wells and Saxton, claims that as the creature could be anyone it could even be one of them two, to which Dr Wells replies “One of us the monster? We're British you know.”
There's some cool science in this, through taking a sample of blood from the creature's eye and looking at it under a microscope Dr Wells and Saxton are able to see what the creature has seen. They see what the creature saw whilst on the train and what the creature saw before it was frozen, which were dinosaurs and even a shot of the Earth which could only have been seen from space. (GASP) IT'S AN ALIEN! Though the Monk has a different theory, he believes it to be “the evil one” who was said to have looked down upon the Earth from the Heavens. So either way it's still bad, they've either got an alien or the devil on their hands. Bugger.
In 1906 mankind was apparently on the verge of being able to journey into outer space, but the creature kills the man with the knowledge to have it for itself. BLOODY ALIENS! Putting humanity SIX DECADES behind. We could have been on Mars by now!
Telly Savalas' Captain Kazan is the coolest motherfucker ever to have lived. The first time we see him he's in bed with a woman which is in a station office. But best of all, when he kicks into action on the train he casually and with ease throws a knife underarm into the creature's back and then whips out a gun and starts shooting it.
The creature explains to Saxton that it doesn't have a physical form, it is an entity that can possess other physical beings and that it is from another galaxy. It and others have been on Earth a very long time shaping humanity. So it was an alien all along.
The passengers manage to get a Morse code message sent out to a station to switch the tracks so that the train will plummet off a cliff. The people at the station don't seem to really question this request they just say maybe its war. Anyhoo, the end carriage containing all of the passengers gets unclipped from the rest of the train just in time. So only the creature goes off the cliff and dies.
I really like Horror Express, it's just really enjoyable. There isn't a dull moment, even with things like the Monks flawed logic it just adds to the entertainment factor. There's horror, there's a bit of violence and (for 1973) gore, humour, action, interesting characters and a great story. It may not be British made but it's made for the Hammer audience and even stars the two most iconic British Hammer stars; Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. So for me this is a must see, it's very good.
Horror Express 5/5