May 28, 2009
Released many times in public domain versions (heck, you can even watch it for free at ESplatter TV), "Horror Express" deserves a proper DVD release in anamorphic widescreen -- at a minimum -- if not a full Blu-Ray release. Don't count on it, however. One of the curses of a movie being in the public domain is that it doesn't make economic senese to splurge on remastering it.
It's a shame, because this is an excellent, high quality sci-fi zombie film featuring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing (both) as British nationals on the Orient Express. This Spanish production is one of the most entertaining and well-plotted horror films of the 1970s, boasts great acting, plenty of gruesome gore and—best yet—Telly Savalas as a womanizing Cossack officer.
The train is in trouble because a fossil that anthropologist Lee has brought on board is killing and possessing passengers. The cave man sucks out the memories of victims by staring at their eyes. The victims die with gruesome, white, bloodshot eyes.
A psycho priest believes that the mysterious killings are being committed by the devil himself, while Lee and Cushing suspect it's an alien from another world. The film's climax features one of the better zombie scenes in film history.
Well-written and directed, replete with religious overtones and well-thought-out science fiction concepts, "Horror Express" was director Martin's only excellent movie. It was also among the only great horror films that either Lee or Cushing starred in during the 1970s. Their long careers at Hammer Studios produced good films in the '50s and '60s, but by the 1970s, the talented Cushing was reduced to starring in vampire sex films and Lee was featured as Dracula in campy vampire films set in modern-day swinging London.
"Horror Express," on the other hand, is an underrated masterpiece. Even jaded modern audiences should get a big kick out of it. It far surpasses most of the stuff being produced today. They don't make 'em like this anymore, folks.
The film was well received in the UK and the U.S. but ironically bombed in Spain.
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