FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Feb 3, 2010

choo choo, all aboard, etc etc

Imagine if The Thing (or The Thing from Another World for you purists) took place on a trans-Siberian train, and it starred Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Go ahead, imagine it- we'll wait.

Wouldn't that movie be rad? It would, I know. Well, friendo, you're in luck. You don't have to imagine it anymore! You simply have to pop in a copy of Horror Express (1972) and watch your dreams unfold on your TV screen. Life is so sweet sometimes.

Captain's Log, Stardate 1906! In China, Professor Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee) is exploring a cave in search of fossils when he comes across the mother lode of fossilized old stuff: a frozen ape caveman guy.

Saxton crates it up in preparation for a train trip across Siberia, refusing to let anyone know of his great discovery. Before it's put on board, however, a sneaky thief-type picks open a padlock and tries to get his hands on the goods...he's found dead a few moments later, his eyes turned into something straight outta The Beyond.

The crate, however, is once again sealed up on board the Horror Express it goes.

Prof. Saxton maintains his silence about the contents of the crate, even when his colleague Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing) shows up asking questions. Not to be thwarted, Wells bribes a baggage man to drill a hole in the crate and take a peek inside. The best part of that plan? The baggage man is the Andorran Marty Feldman himself, the innkeeper from The Witches Mountain!

It may surprise you to learn that his name is not actually The Andorran Marty Feldman. Nope, it's Victor Israel, and he had a rather prolific career (working with everyone from Sergio Leone to Bruno Mattei) before he died this past September at the age of 80. Cheers, Mr.'ll always be The Andorran Marty Feldman to me.

The baggage man quickly learns that prying open the big mystery box was a mistake. The ice man's eyes glow red which, as you can imagine, is not good for the baggage man. He bleeds, his eyes turn white, and he dies.

The ice man is now on the loose, running (or perhaps shuffling) around the train showing off his red eyes to passengers...much bleeding and eye-whitening and dying ensues. It's all a creepy delight.

Saxton finally admits what was in the crate; the authorities get involved; Wells conducts an autopsy on one of the victims and is startled when he opens up the skull and spies and brain that's gone completely smooth. This can mean only one thing: the monster drains the memories of his victims. While this gives the brain a wrinkle-free, youthful appearance, it's ultimately fatal. Dubious science, you say? Piffle. I'm sure Horror Express is 100% accurate in its scienceology.

Inspector Mirov (Julio Pena) pursues the monster and manages to shoot it in the eye; before the monster dies, however, he ensnares the Inspector in a one-red-eyed stare. This transfers the monster's spirit or soul or essence or whatever into the Inspector himself. The ice man is still on the loose, only now he's disguised as the Inspector.

Dr. Wells performs an autopsy on the monster and is startled yet again: the creature's memories are stored in its eyeball, and dubious science dubious science it's actually an alien! From outer space!

Chase chase, red eyes, crazy priest, white eyes...things get really haywire when Telly Savalas climbs on the Horror Express as Captain Kazan, a man who's going to whip and shoot his way to the bottom of things. Kazan has a delightful Telly Savalas-ian New York accent, despite the fact that he's a Cossack.

So, what will happen to this ancient alien intelligence? Will Professor Saxton satisfy his scientific curiosity at the cost of human lives? Why doesn't Oil of Olay look into these brain-smoothening techniques? Who builds train tracks that lead off a cliff?

Most of these questions will be answered by the time the Horror Express pulls into its last stop, which just so happens to be in Fuckingawesomeville. There are many versions of this film available on DVD, as I believe it's fallen into the public domain. Picture and sound quality are sure to vary, and when you get your hands on a copy it may well be a cruddy transfer. Mine was, but then the DVD only cost $0.79, so who am I to complain? The murky picture didn't diminish my enjoyment of this superior monster movie- I mean, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and an alien that makes people bleed from all of their head holes? That's a good time, if you ask me. Actually, that's a good time even if you don't ask.

Horror Express counts towards Category 9 in Operation: 101010!


Bill Walsh said...

Holy cats, I've not only seen but own this movie. I don't know how to deal with having actually seen one of Stacie's features…

But, hellz yeah. Fun as all get out.

Jeff McMahon said...

I love this movie. It's bonkers!

matango said...

Oh wow. I was excited when I saw Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, but then you add Telly Savalas.
Where do you get $0.79 DVDs?

Anonymous said...

I always loved how the alien's memories looked like a blurry view-master reel. As usual, Cushing wields the scalpel like a pro.

Craig Blamer said...

Poached eyes and blood... how can you go wrong?

Rhubarb said...

Like a lot of public domain films you can download this for free off the Internet Archive. Yes, this is completely legal.

It's kind of astonishing how many classics, pretty good films and fun b-movies have been allowed to lapse into the public domain.

Chris Otto said...

This is a really fun film, which I saw on the 50-pack, too. ... My only quibble (and I'm not complaining) is that there was actually TOO MUCH plot. This movie had about 100 different ideas going on and that's before you even threw in the Cossacks and the zombies. Fun stuff! Remake fodder?

Robert H. said...

Although riddled with flaws that would totally kill a lesser picture, HORROR EXPRESS holds up a lot better than most contemporary horror films - they don't make 'em like this anymore, and that's just due to the fact that there aren't many actors like Cushing, Lee and Savalas anymore. A remake of this would be pretty much pointless - and much less fun.

There is a release of this (OOP, probably) that is in widescreen and a decent transfer - well worth looking for, although I think it may have been released only in the UK.

Less Lee Moore said...

I just saw this movie for the first time last year. Actually, I had seen part of it on TV late one night but had forgotten all about it.

At any rate, I don't know how it managed to escape a proper viewing for so many years. It's fantastic!

I love the creepy musical motif in particular.

The Trick said...

I also own this movie. My expectations were as low as the price tag, but I remember finding it surprisingly entertaining.