Creepy Classics Reader Reviews and Comments
Saturday April 14, 2012 MOVIE - Thriller "HORROR EXPRESS" (1972) A really cool movie with a prehistoric demonic beast. The beast is being shipped via a train with cargo in a giant coffin sized box. It escapes doing very nasty things to people. Part raging monster movie, part "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," part "Murder on the Orient Express!" With Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Telly Savalas. Suggested by Scott Goettel, Radcliff, KY.
Solid acting and a great, great concept....a train with a monster aboard. Sub-plots and gratuitous gruesome scenes (needle in eye, brain sawing, etc.), made it a little less fun for me. It has all the makings of being a great one for me, but just a few things hold it back....multiple subplots, etc. The acting and atmosphere...and general plot keep it going though.
-Ron Adams, Ligonier, PA
This past weekend, I watched my Blu-Ray copy of "Horror Express". Let me start things by saying WOW...what an incredibly vivid and beautiful print of this film, the color is rich, and the images look crisp and brand new. And this particular print is the Italian release, with the opening credits in Italian, but in its original Englisgh language. Plus, a few seconds of extra train footage at the start, and the ends credits show what actor played which role. Most previous prints of this film never show 'rolling' credits at the end...those prints usually concluded with a dark screen for a few seconds, simply followed by 'THE END".
I have always liked this movie from the very first time I saw it in 1978. I remember it being released originally in the Louisville Kentucky area in late 1973 if I remember correctly. Shortly after the New Year of 1974 had rolled in, I had a choice of seeing Horror Express, or a kung fu movie called "The Chinese Professionals" starring Wang Yu. Well, since I was so into martial arts movies back then, especially Bruce Lee movies, I chose to see The Chinese Professionals...and of course I liked it (but later wished I had chosen Horror Express).
It wasn't til the summer of 1978 that Horror Express was on a double bill with a movie called "Return of the Living Dead" (a movie also known as 'Messiah of Evil', 'Revenge of the Dead' and 'Dead People' starring Royal Dano and Elisha Cook Jr., but is obviously NOT the Dan O'Bannon ROTLD film that came later).
Anyway, Horror Express instantly became one of my favorite horror movies, with solid performances from Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Long into the movie it finally occured to me "where is Telly Savalas? His name is in the opening credits, but the movie is nearly over and Telly hasn't shown up yet!" When Telly does show up though, it's really good, and interesting to see him interact with Lee and Cushing, if only briefly.
This movie has some neat elements of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a cool monster, nice plot turns and twists, and a great music soundtrack. One of my favorite lines of dialogue in the movie is when the Russian police inspector says to Lee and Cushing that one of them may be the monster in disguise, to which Peter Cushing replies in an incredulous tone "we're BRITISH you know!", and that, for that reason alone, those two couldn't be the monster! It's a great moment!
Granted, Horror Express has a few grisly moments like the sawing open of the baggage man's skull so that Peter Cushing and his assistant can inspect the brain (the sawing sound of that blade against bone kinda gets ya!)...and of course there's the removal of the creature's eye and later some needle probing in that eye.
In closing, Horror Express remains in my top 20 favorite horror films, and a fun to include during the Halloween season too.
Thanks for letting me share some thoughts. Now I'm anxious to see what other people think!
From Mike's memories:
A Saturday, late afternoon, mid 1970's. I imagine the weather must have been rather unfit for a young boy to be out in. That must be why I was inside on this particular Saturday afternoon. I, no doubt, was harassing my mother with the usual " I'm bored, what's there to do?" and other litanies that an energetic boy is apt to spit out when he's cooped up for to long. I can remember her turning on the TV and saying "let's see if there's anything good on." Silly woman, this was NY TV on a Saturday, in the mid 1970's ....of course there was something good on! She only needed to turn the dial two clicks, from channel 7, to channel 9, and there it was! A man with weird red eyes was wrestling some poor little lady. He was making her eyes turn white......and bleed! My mother actually let out some ghoulish laugh and asked...."what's he doing to her?" I for one did not wish to find out. The sight was too much for a child of my delicate condition.( Yeah... I was about as delicate as Haystacks Calhoun.) I asked her calmly to change the channel and find something else. I never forgot that horrific sight. I didn't even want to know what the movie was.
Flash ahead to another Saturday in 1979. I just got home from church. I was an altar server and had just finished serving a funeral. We were paid $2 each by the funeral home. Only, the other server (probably my brother) was a no show and I got his 2 bucks as well.......that made $4! After mass I of course stopped off at Klein's 5&10 to browse the comics. There on the rack was Fantastic Four Annual #14! I had no idea it was coming, or what it was even about! A quick browse through told me that it had Franklin Richards and Agatha Harkness taking on the Salem's Seven! Best of all there was a Rogues gallery in the back with a file on my favorite Marvel villain, Quasimodo! This was fast becoming a great Saturday! I blew my $4, and some, on comics and candy and sped off to get home for a little Saturday magic! When I got home I was happy to see that the surprises just kept coming.....no one was home! I grew up in an ant colony. If you weren't capable of lifting something a hundred times your own body weight you were cast out! On Saturday there were chores to be done, and no fun was to be had until them chores were finished. With no one home to enforce the law the chores got swept under the rug. I had some serious comics to read. I put the tv on for a little extra fun and sat down with the goods. A movie called Horror Express was coming on in a few minutes and I wanted to see what it was about. My attention went back and forth between the Fantastic Four, and the Terrific Two ...Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing! Eventually I gave all my attention to the movie and saved the comic for the commercials.
I really liked what I was seeing here. The story grabbed my attention and held it. Then it happened! I watched in horror as the monster inside the crate turned some baggage man's eyes white, and caused them to bleed. I realized what I was watching. This was that shocking movie that freaked me out about 5 years earlier! I was ready for it now though! I braced myself for what was to come....and then it came! It was that scene with that poor lady and the white bleeding eyes! I was going on 13 now and I was made of sturdier stuff. As much as the scene still disturbed me, I recalled my mom's ghoulish laugh, and found myself laughing ghoulishly as well. Sometimes a movie will come along and leave such an impression, that one can instantly recall the first time he/she saw it. These are my first recollections of Horror Express.
This movie would go on to become a favorite of mine. Sometimes I wonder if it's because of the memories I associate with it, or that it's just a really fun and gruesome movie. I imagine a little of both. This film can't really decide what it wants to be. It's a big part horror, a part mystery and a part sci-fi. The train makes for a great set! There's really no place to run, and it puts all our characters in such close quarters that they are forced to interact with each other. It's such an eclectic band of characters too. We have distinguished scientists, a gruff police inspector, a gorgeous and loveable countess, and a monk who looks about as stable as middle eastern government. Anyone who trusts their spiritual welfare with this guy is asking for trouble. The minor characters round things out well and make for some good victims. Most of the characters are pretty well developed, and you actually do feel threatened for them. And then there are the legends. Lee and Cushing are so well pitted against, and then alongside each other here. I truly feel it ranks right up there with anything they did for Hammer. Let's not forget Telly Savalas in a role that he, no doubt, did not take very seriously. At one point he exclaims " who are the troublemakers!" Only he says it as if he were from Jersey City, NJ, not Siberia. The script is pretty clever throughout the movie as well. When the monk asks the ( alien controlled) police inspector if he's going to kill him, the reply is " fool....there's nothing of any use ...in there. Telly's reply to Cushing about shooting at the monk is great too " ahh...we got lots of innocent monks!". And of course everyone's favorite. The inspector asks Cushing and Lee.." but what if one of you is the monster?" to which Cushing replies..." Monster? We're British you know".
Horror Express is no doubt a horror movie though. It may have quirky characters and fun dialogue, but it has some gruesome killings as well. That alien is a true threat and makes for on menacing villain. It shocked the heck out of me when I was 8, and held me pretty darn riveted to my seat when I was 13. It also has a pretty cool score. The one scene when the Countess is playing the piano and that eerie other- worldly whistling is heard throughout the train always sent a chill down my spine. Overall it makes for one effective movie. It has remained a favorite of mine, and has taken it's rightful place in some my fondest childhood memories. Thanks for suggesting this one (Scott Goettel)!
-Mike Adams, Cartaret, NJ
Horror Express is one of my favorite Cushing/Lee movies. The music is haunting. Here is an ad from when the movie played in the Chicagoland area in June of 1974. Looks like there were some other good movies that week!
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