With the release of Kenneth Branagh’s new adaptation of the Agatha Christie classic Murder On The Orient Express, now is the perfect time to look back upon a criminally underrated terror set on a train, the 1972 sci-fi, horror thriller Horror Express!
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The movie begins in 1906, following British anthropologist Sir Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee) who has made the find of the century: a frozen ape-man preserved in the caves of Manchuria. He transports his career defining discovery from China on the Trans-Siberian Express. The train in question hosting all manner of characters such as Doctor Wells (Peter Cushing), Saxton’s scientific rival and friend, a Polish Count and his royal daughter, a raving mad monk, a Russian police inspector, a beautiful thief, and a brilliant engineer who’s transporting a brand new metal. The stage is set for an ensemble cast entwined in a deadly situation, as the ape-man manages to revive itself and start bumping off passengers one by one. can Saxton and Wells solve the mystery of the creature and stop its rampage while entombed on the train?
Horror Express is a brilliant little period piece, evocative of Hammer’s repertoire of horror. It has all the traits, including friends and frequent co-stars, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. With a memorable appearance by the great Telly Savalas as a merciless cossack commander. A historical setting complete with set-pieces and bloodshed. A bizarre monster brought to life with memorable practical FX. All this without actually being made by Hammer! A Britsh-Spanish production directed by Eugenio Martin and co-written by Julian d’Usseau and Julian Zimet (the writers of the equally genre busting Psychomania), it managed to cram as many tropes and staples into one hell of a bizarre murder mystery.
Though the title would have you think its roots are firmly in the works of Agatha Christie, many elements bring to mind Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell. The short sci-fi thriller that would go on to be adapted into Howard Hawk’s The Thing From Another World and John Carpenter’s THE THING. Without spoiling too much, there’s a supernatural horror beyond a mere zombified ape that Saxton and Wells must combat.
Overall, Horror Express is a fun and entertaining genre mash-up with an amazing cast, interesting terrors, and a fascinating location as a period movie. If you want to give it a watch, punch a ticket onboard through Severin Films’ blu-ray or iTunes/Vudu!
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