DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
HORROR EXPRESS (director/writer: Eugenio Martin; screenwriters: Arnaud d'Usseau/Julian Halevy/from a story by Eugenio Martin; cinematographer: Alejandro Ulloa; editor: Robert Dearberg; music: John Cacavas; cast: Christopher Lee (Prof. Sir Alexander Saxton), Peter Cushing (Dr. Wells), Alberto de Mendoza (Father Pujardov), Silvia Tortosa (Countess Irina Petrovski), Jorge Rigaud (Count Marion Petrovski), Julio Pea (Inspector Mirov), Angel del Pozo (Yevtushenko), Telly Savalas (Captain Kazan), Helga Lin (Natasha), Alice Reinhart (Miss Jones), Jos Jaspe (Conductor Konev); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Bernard Gordon; Severin; 1972-UK/Spain-in English)

"It helps to have Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing along for the ride as rival anthropologists."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

A fun loose reworking of Christian Nyby's The Thing from Another World (1951). Spanish director Eugenio Martin ("Vendetta"/"Hunt The Man Down"/"The Girl from the Red Cabaret") works around the cheesy special effects and campy atmosphere to keep it briskly moving along. It helps to have Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing along for the ride as rival anthropologists. It's written by Arnaud d'Usseau, Julian Halevy and Martin, and is based on Martin's story.

In 1906 pompous English anthropologist Prof. Sir Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee) has discovered a frozen monster--half-man and half-ape--in Manchuria which he believes may be the Missing Link. At Shanghai, Saxton boards the Trans-Siberian railway to head home to London with his valuable two-million year-old fossil locked-up in chains and covered with a canvas in a crate. Also aboard are English anthropologist/physician Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing) and his assistant Miss Jones (Alice Reinhart), with Wells his colleague. At the station, a thief is struck dead trying to rob the crate and his eyes turn white. After the crate is loaded in the baggage car, the curious Wells bribes the baggage man to drill a hole in the crate to see what the fossil looks like. But the monster thaws out and when his eyes turn red in the dark he kills the baggage man by intently staring at him and escapes on the train. The dead man's eyes also turn white, as we further learn the monster drains his brain and absorbs all his knowledge.

The train journey will have many more victims, that results in a power-hungry Cossack, Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas), boarding the train with his soldiers to investigate the murders and bullying everyone aboard, especially the weird acting Russian police Inspector Mirov (Julio Pea) and the even weirder acting crazed monk Father Pujardov (Alberto de Mendoza) doing some kind of Rasputin imitation. The priest's favorite line is "Where there is evil, there is no place for the cross." Also aboard are international spy Natasha (Helga Line, German actress) and the wealthy Count and Countess Petrovski (Jorge Rigaud & Silvia Tortosa). Since the monster was killed by the police inspector, the gruff Cossack hunts down the party who became possessed by the alien creature and is carrying on the murder spree.

It's indeed a low-budget B film Horror Film/SF, but looks smart despite the narrative being so ridiculous. Credit for class trumping kitsch must be attributed to Lee and Cushing, who perform better than the script.

REVIEWED ON 3/30/2012       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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