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Horror Express

Movie poster.
Directed by Eugenio Martin
Produced by Bernard Gordon
Gregorio Sacristan
Written by Arnaud d'Usseau
Julian Zimet (as Julian Halevy)
Starring Christopher Lee
Peter Cushing
Telly Savalas
Music by John Cacavas
Cinematography Alejando Ulloa
Editing by Robert C. Dearberg
Release date(s) December 3, 1973 (UK)
January 1974 (USA)
Running time 90 minutes.
Language English
Budget $300,000

Horror Express, also known as Pánico en el Transiberiano, is a 1973 Spanish horror film directed by Eugenio Martin, written by Arnaud d'Usseau and Julian Zimet (credited as Julian Halevy), and starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas.

The film is now in the public domain.

Contents

Plot

Professor Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee) is an anthropologist returning home to Europe via the Trans-Siberian Railway bringing with him a 'fossil' in a crate. The 'fossil' is the frozen remains of a primitive humanoid creature, which Saxton is sure is the missing link in the evolutionary chain. Also on board is Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing), another Briton and a colleague of Saxton's.

Mysterious deaths occur even before the train sets out. A known thief is found dead on the platform after having looked into the crate, bleeding from his eyes, which have turned blank and white. A slightly unbalanced monk (a Rasputin-esque figure, played by the Argentine actor Alberto de Mendoza), who acts as a spiritual advisor to the Count and Countess waiting to board the train, claims that the crate is evil.

Saxton is eager to keep his find a secret from everyone, especially Dr. Wells, but Wells pays the baggage man to look into the crate. When he does, he is also killed by the glowing red gaze of the creature, which escapes the confines of its crate. The murders continue while the humanoid fossil haunts the moving train, the victims found with blank white eyes, and an autopsy leads Wells and his assistant to hypothesize that the brains of the victims are being drained of memories and knowledge. When the fossil is gunned down by Inspector Mirov, an authority in charge of the train, the threat seems to have been vanquished. However, Saxton and Wells discover images embedded in liquid inside the eye of the dead fossil, images that reveal a prehistoric Earth, as well as a view of the Earth from outer space. They deduce that the real threat is a formless alien creature that was simply inhabiting the body of the fossil, and that it has now transferred itself to the Inspector. The monk senses the evil presence inside of the Inspector and pledges allegiance to it, considering it Satan.

When news of the murders on the train is wired to Siberian authorities, the train is stopped and an intimidating Cossack named Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas) boards with a small group of his men. Kazan believes the train is housing rebels and is only convinced of the alien's existence when Mirov is discovered to be the creature, due to his glowing eyes, and is shot down. Before Mirov dies the alien transfers itself into the monk. The passengers flee to the caboose while the monk murders Kazan and his men by draining them of their minds.

Saxton rescues the Countess from the creature, but it resurrects all of its victims as white-eyed zombies. The zombies chase Saxton and the Countess back to the caboose, where the others are waiting. As they desperately work to detach the caboose from the rest of the train, the Russian government sends a telegraph to the next station ahead instructing them to send the train over a cliff. The operators follow this order, believing that they may be at war. Just as the surviving passengers manage to separate themselves from the rest of the train, it goes crashing over the cliff exploding below. The caboose rolls to a safe stop precariously near the edge, where the survivors watch the fire consume the train and the unnatural inhabitants within it.

Production

Horror Express was filmed in Madrid between 1971 - 1972, produced on a low budget of $300,000 with the luxury of having three familiar genre actors in the lead. The film was co-produced by American filmwriter/producer Bernard Gordon, who had collaborated with Martin on the 1972 film Pancho Villa (which also featured Savalas in the title role). The filmmakers used both the miniature train and interior train set from Pancho Villa for Horror Express. They only had one set to be used as an interior train car. All of the scenes for each train car had to be shot at once, then the set would be rebuilt as the next car.[1] Securing Lee and Cushing was a coup for Gordon, since it lent a certain atmosphere reminiscent of Hammer Films, many of which starred both of the actors. However, when Cushing arrived in Madrid to begin work on the picture, he was still distraught over the recent death of his wife, and announced to Gordon that he could not do the film. With Gordon desperate over the idea of losing one of his important stars, Lee stepped in and put Cushing at ease simply by talking to him about some of their previous work together. Cushing changed his mind and stayed on.[1]

Horror Express was filmed mostly without sound, with effects and voices dubbed into the film later. Lee, Cushing and Savalas all provided their own voices for the English market.[2]

Themes

Horror Express features a number of familiar horror/sci-fi elements. The most obvious reference would be the short story "Who Goes There?", which had previously been the inspiration for the 1951 film The Thing from Another World. "Who Goes There?" also dealt with an alien who could assume the form of human beings, threatening an isolated group of people and interested in building a spacecraft so that it could escape the Earth.

Reception

According to director Eugenio Martin, his native country of Spain was where the film fared worst, both critically and in terms of box office revenue.[2] The film was received more positively in other markets where the audience was more familiar with low-budget horror films, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, and became a cult favorite when it ran quite extensively on television in the 1970s and 1980s.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Bernard Gordon interview, cinescape.com; last accessed October 19, 2006
  2. ^ a b Liner notes, Horror Express DVD release by Image Entertainment, written by Mark Walkow.

External links

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Horror Express is a 1973 British/Spanish horror film written by Arnaud d'Usseau and Julian Zimet. It was directed by Eugenio Martin.

Tagline: Can it be stopped?
Tagline: A nightmare of terror travelling aboard the Horror Express!
Tagline: Your Non Stop Ride to Hell Boards at 8 P.M.

Dialogue

Dr. Wells: Miss Jones, I shall need your assistance.
Miss Jones: Yes, well at your age I'm not surprised.
Dr. Wells: With an autopsy!
Miss Jones: Oh, well that's different.

External links

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