Horror Express

13 Oct

Horror Express Poster I haven’t been writing reviews of all the films I’ve watched so far for the October 31, although I’ll probably go back and chat them up when I have more of an opportunity – still, I wanted to take a moment to mark the watching of Horror Express, (aka Panic in the Trans-Siberian Train,) as it certainly deserves a bit of the spotlight.

The movie features two of my favourite actors, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, as a pair of scientists traveling back from Siberia, where Lee has recently made a fantastic discovery. Inevitably the find, basically the corpse of something akin to the abominable snowman, almost immediately jumps up and begins murderizing folks.
Horror Express Peekaboo

Filming began very soon after the death of Cushing’s wife, a blow he never entirely recovered from, and the lore is that he only stayed on the set because of the warmth Christopher Lee’s family showed him, and the swapping of stories from previous productions with Mr Lee himself. Lee certainly takes the helm for intensity in this film, although Cushing often gets the best lines, including: “Us? Monsters? We’re BRITISH.”

The cast also includes a Robert Deniro-lookalike as a guy who, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, isn’t at all based on the famous Russian mad monk Rasputin.
Horror Express: Evil Monk

Despite all this fantastic ridiculousness, my favourite part of the film is the barely explained entrance of Telly Savalas in the final act. Kojak comes riding in as a supposed Cossack, spouting barely comprehensible lines and beating people senseless without provocation.
Telly Savalas In Horror Express
The first time I saw this film I thought the director was looking for a Deus Ex Machina to defeat the monster – an American hero to step up and quash the beast – but instead Telly ends up on the floor, dead, no more than fifteen minutes after his appearance.

Terminator Eyes from Horror Express

Who actually quells the menace? Well – I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the truth is that it’s basically defeated by Russian bureaucracy.

You can find the full film on Youtube, if you don’t have the five dollars to fish it out of a Walmart bargain bin – I’ve certainly left enough of the surprises intact to make it worth your time.

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3 Responses to “Horror Express”

  1. bmj2k October 14, 2010 at 00:21 #

    With Lee and Cushing I always assumed this to be a Hammer film, but it appears I’m wrong. At any rate, the warmth of Christopher Lee’s family reminded me of what the host (Robert Osborne?) on Turner had to say about Lee. He was never crazy about playing Dracula after the first one, (and refused to read any of the dialogue in the second- though the scriptwriter says he never wrote him any) and certainly made more money at other studios, but Hammer was very much like a close knit family and Lee loved the atmosphere. At the end of filming one of the Dracula sequals Lee (as Dracula) had been speared through the heart and when the filming stopped he still had the prop stake on. It also happened to be his birthday, and as soon as the director called “cut!” they rolled out a birthday cake. Lee, with devilish glee, pulled the bloody stake out of his chest and thrust it into the birthday cake!

    • JRD Skinner October 14, 2010 at 10:58 #

      Ha, that’s a great story about the cake.

      Lee & Cushing are one of the few non-comedy ‘partners’ I can think of.

      Well, I mean, there are/were plenty of movies where they weren’t together, but I can’t think of any other duos that were brought into projects based on their joint reputation as Lee/Cushing were for their Amicus films and Horror Express.

      It’s really too bad none of the footage was usable so that Lucas could have Cushing digitally inserted into Episode 3 for a last appearance with Lee – or maybe it isn’t, considering the quality of those films.

      • bmj2k October 15, 2010 at 10:38 #

        Yeah, but Cushing’s character made a cameo ar the end. Of course, the way Lucas tinkers with his films they may both end up digitally reimagined as Ewoks.

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