It started when producer Bernie Gordon wanted to maximize his investment in a train he bought for his 1972 film PONCHO VILLA, this Corman-esque move lead to HORROR EXPRESS. This may be better known as the Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing movie that almost wasn’t. Shortly after agreeing to be in the film, Cushing’s wife passed away and the happy-go-lucky actor plunged into depression. It was his old friend and co-star Lee who heavily leaned on Cushing’s notorious work ethic and got him back in the film. The result is a fun as hell 90 minute rail ride full of Lee/Cushing goodness, blood, thrills, chills, and Telly Savalas aka The Bald Headed Bastard.
Christopher Lee plays Sir Alexander Saxton, an explorer who discovers a frozen man/monster in the wastelands of Manchuria. The popsicle with legs is loaded into a well packed Tran-Siberian express train headed to England when things go from snooty to bloody real fucking quick. The creature thaws out and starts absorbing the brains of the passengers by giving them the ol’red eye and turning the victims into zombies. This is essentially another version of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD on a train with a little Savalas along for the ride.
This flick is fucking nuts. It’s not perfect: some of the acting is clunky, some scenes are random and appear to exist only to increase the gore score but it moves so fast that when it starts to go off the rails another scene comes along to smack the hell out of it and right the ship… or train in this case. So how can I be this far in the review and not talk about Cushing? Well, the dude is kind of a non-factor in this. Cushing isn’t bad in this flick, he’s just not the Cushing of the Hammer films. This is Lee’s film. He dominates HORROR EXPRESS end to end, he even waxes Savalas off the screen. You get a sense that Lee was picking up the slack for a distraught Cushing. One man doing another man a solid.
HORROR EXPRESS has been a midnight movie staple for as long as I can remember thanks to its status in the public domain. Severin has gone back to the film’s original 35mm negatives and it goes without saying that it has never looked better. Having said that, it never looked great in the first place and the source print looks like it has some scratches but who the hell cares? This a Severin release doing what Severin and only a few others could do; take a genre favorite and roll out the red carpet on the extras which includes a 1973 audio interview with Peter Cushing. This a solid release for film that was long overdue for a little respect. Since BMX BANDITS, Severin has slowed down a little bit. It’s releases like this though that show how fucking money they are as a distributor. Nice work Severin.
- Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express: New interview with director Eugenio Martín
- Notes from the Blacklist: Producer Bernard Gordon discusses the McCarthy era
- The Guardian 1973 audio interview with Peter Cushing
- Telly and Me: New interview with composer John Cacavas
- Introduction by Fango editor Chris Alexander
- Theatrical trailer
VERDICT: BUY IT…SEE IT…AND PREPARE
FOR CHRISTOPHER LEE TO KICK YOUR ASS.
SEE YOU ON FORTY DEUCE,
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