Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
A memorable journey with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 09/25/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Horror legends Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are booked on the Trans-Siberian Express? There's a beautiful Countess onboard, too? And Telly Savalas shows up and absolutely steals the show? You'd better believe I bought my ticket for this wild ride. Despite a really, really hokey premise, a rather dark movie print, and a lack of major special effects, Horror Express somehow comes off quite well as a traditional sort of horror film with a quality all its own. The setting is the winter of 1906; Sir Alexander Saxon (Christopher Lee) has discovered a two-million-year-old "man" in the frozen wastes of China that may very well be the crucial "missing link." Before his men can even get the precious cargo loaded on the Trans-Siberian Express, a nosy little thief ends up dead, his eyeballs completely white. It just so happens that a Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing), a scientist not unknown to Saxon, is also a passenger on the train, and his curiosity about the strange crate leads to the baggage man's death. When the remarkably living creature escapes and begins a real killing spree aboard the train, rivals Saxon and West team up to try and stop the rampage of the monster. After they saw the heads off of several white-eyed victims, they are amazed to find brains that are wholly smooth. You know what this means, of course - the creature is somehow sucking the very thoughts out of his victim's brains through their eyes. This helps explain the bleeding from the eyes that also seems to accompany death. Just for kicks, the two scientists take a look at a sample of eye fluid from a victim - and what should appear on the slide but the spitting image of the last thing the victim saw. Then they look at a sample from the monster's eye (the monster has transferred his consciousness to another human being by this point, having had his initial host body pumped full of several holes); visions of ancient creatures and a vision of earth from space leads to the obvious conclusion that what we are dealing with here is a living intelligence who came to earth eons ago. In the movie's defense, the idea that the last image a person sees before he dies would be imprinted upon his eyeball was actually entertained by some thinkers as late as the early twentieth century.
From here on out, it's basically a struggle for all the panicked train riders to avoid meeting up with a pair of glowing red eyes until such time as our heroes, Saxon and West, can identify and kill the creature in whatever form he now possesses. A gorgeous Countess and her annoying Rasputin-like associate add to the fun, but it is the appearance of Telly Savalas in the role of Captain Kazan that breathes new life into the final half hour of the film. Savalas gives an unforgettable performance, obviously enjoying the role of the campy Cossack to the hilt. He doesn't appear for very long, but he packs loads of entertainment into that short time period, doing everything but bringing out a lollipop and asking someone "Who loves you, baby?"
In a sense, this is not one of Cushing's or Lee's better performances, in my opinion. Together as allies for once, though, their dual presence carries this film on its shoulders. Other than a filthy creature sporting the worst case of pinkeye you've ever seen, many shots of "ping-pong ball for eyes" victims, and a couple of cranial autopsy procedures, there's not much gore to be found here. The story sounds rather weak but holds itself together quite well, thanks largely to the inestimably grand performances by the great Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Horror Express, aka Panic on the Trans-Siberian Express, is definitely a ride worth taking."
From Manchuria to...?
Robert Buchanan | Wisconsin | 06/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"An arrogant, ambitious anthropologist (Christopher Lee) encounters a kindly physician (Peter Cushing) while boarding the Trans-Siberian Express in the early 20th century. His cargo consists of an ancient corpse obtained in Manchuria that contains an unimaginable power. Before long, this entity develops a body count and a set of surprisingly lofty goals...
This British/Spanish production has quite a lot to recommend it: an excellent cast, fine cinematography and a cunning story that moves at a satisfying pace, defies expectations and provides no small number of surprises. Even though "Horror Express" isn't schlock-free by any means, it does produce a few creepy scares and has atmosphere to spare. While this is hardly a classic, it's a cut above the average Hammer or Amicus production.
Lee and Cushing are typically excellent in their respective roles. These two screen veterans appeared in quite a few films together, usually as adversaries; Hammer enthusiasts will likely be pleased to see them playing allied characters. Much of the supporting cast consists of Spaniards and Argentines portraying Russians and Poles. While they do nothing to conceal their obvious accents or fake Slavic alternatives, their performances are proficient; Alberto de Mendoza is especially good as an unstable monk obviously inspired by Rasputin.
Weirdly, Telly Savalas appears two-thirds into the film as a brutal Cossack. He tries and fails to affect a Russian accent while speaking his first few lines, reverts to his trademark Long Island intonations and spends most of his screen time pushing people around. Though Savalas was even more egregiously miscast here than he was in Eugenio Martín's prior effort ("Pancho Villa"), his screen presence is so overwhelming and his performance so enjoyably over-the-top that it's hard to care. I almost expected him to start swilling vodka while sucking on a lollipop, and I wouldn't have minded if he did.
For the most part, "Horror Express" is beautifully shot; the ornate interiors and costumes are embellished by vibrant Technicolor stock, and the darker scenes obscure all but the most necessary (re: macabre) elements. In this way, Alejandro Ulloa's photography alternates between florid and minimalist aesthetics in order to exploit the most effective aspects of both. The frigidity of the Siberian tundra is simulated in exterior shots that are often underexposed and color filtered. The effectiveness of this technique varies from one shot to another; this film's Siberia often looks a lot like Spain!
Digiview's DVD edition is quickly becoming ubiquitous in dollar stores and secondhand shops in the States. The advantage that this release has over the numerous other available editions is its low price, but it's hardly a poor release. The aspect ratio is a full screen 1.33:1, the picture is grainy and the sound mix is a bit muddled, but to the right pairs of ears and eyes, these factors are hardly detrimental; no gritty '70s B-movie should be pristine.
The main menu's background features film stills of Lee and De Mendoza, which border a clip of one of the film's more memorable scenes; it's also scored by some light, funky music. The scene selection menu is an attractive arrangement of nine video thumbnails. A "Previews" sequence (which also follows the end of the film) displays titles and brief clips from every release in Digiview's catalog at the time of this disc's release.
One quibble: while the case's insert appropriately credits Lee, Cushing, De Mendoza and Juan Olaguivel in their roles, it omits Savalas, even though his zombified profile dominates the imagery of both the insert and the disc!
This disc contains the 84 minute cut of the film presented for the Spanish theatrical release."