Horror Express (1973)
and a big train wreck, what more could you ask for? – MINHorror Express was a Spanish production directed by Eugenio Martin. It was filmed in Madrid in the years 1971-1972, a low
budget film ($300,000) with the luxury of having three familiar genre actors in the lead: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and
Telly Savalas. 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. The challenge was that 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.Securing Lee and Cushing was a coup for producer 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 beloved wife, and announced to Gordon that he could not do the movie. 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.
grand gestures and a speaking voice similar to his characterization of Kojak, despite the fact that his character was supposed to
be a Russian Cossack.Horror Express was filmed mostly without sound, with effects and voices dubbed into the film later. Christopher Lee, Peter
Cushing and Telly Savalas all provided their own voices for the English market.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 Englishman and a colleague of
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), 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. Mirov is discovered to be the creature and is shot down,
but not before the alien presence transfers itself to the monk. The passengers all retreat to the caboose, while the monk murders
Kazan and his men by draining them of their brains.
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, Russia sends a telegraph to the next station ahead that they are to send the train over a cliff. The
operators follow this order, thinking 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 into a fiery explosion 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.
Aka: Pánico en el Transiberiano
Directed By: Eugenio Martin
Produced By: Bernard Gordon / Gregorio Sacristan
Written By: Arnaud d’Usseau / Julian ZimetCast:
Telly SavalasReleased: December 3, 1973 (UK); January 1974 (USA)