Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays: Horror Express (1972)

Halloween may be over, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy one more Peter Cushing movie -- if you dare!  "Horror Express" (1972) is the goriest movie I have discussed yet here on Terrifying Tuesdays, but is worth viewing just to see Cushing and Christopher Lee together again in a truly scary and actually rather well-made Spanish horror film.  Lee is Professor Alexander Saxton, a British anthropologist returning to Europe from China via trans-Siberian Express with the crated remains of a primitive anthropoid creature he believes to be the crucial missing link in human evolution.  Also aboard the train is Dr. Wells (Cushing) another British scientist and an acquaintance of Saxton.  Even before the train departs, rather gruesome deaths begin to occur that are somehow related to Saxton's find.  A thief who peers into the crate at the station begins to bleed from his eyes, then falls over dead, his eyes turned a blank white.  Another passenger, a Rasputin-like monk named Pujardov, claims that the creature in the crate is evil.  When he attempts to mark a sign of the cross on the crate the symbol does not show up, but his demonstration is deemed a trick and his warning is ignored.

Saxton is guarded and secretive about his find to Dr. Wells, which arouses the other scientist's curiosity.  Wells pays a porter to take a look inside the crate, but the man suffers the same fate as the thief at the station after seeing a glowing red eye within.  The creature, now very much alive, escapes from its crate, and more deaths of a similar nature are the result.  Performing an autopsy on one of the bodies, Dr. Wells concludes that the creature is draining the brains of its victims of their knowledge, so that anything the victim knew is transferred to the creature's mind.  Later an inspector on the train is able to shoot and kill the creature, leading the others on the train to assume the worst is over.  Wells and Saxton perform an experiment on fluid from the creature's eye and are able to see images from the distant past witnessed by the creature as if from outer space.  They theorize that the creature is actually a formless alien entity with the ability to inhabit the bodies of others, and fear that the entity now resides in the inspector.  The crazed monk senses this as well, and believing the alien to be Satan, renounces his faith and pledges allegiance to the entity.

Siberian authorities stop the train and come aboard searching for rebels as the explanation to the murders.  A Cossack named Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas) is in charge, and refuses at first to believe the story about an evil alien being until he witnesses the inspector's behavior for himself.  The inspector is killed but the alien then transfers into the willing monk, who goes on a rampage and kills Kazan and his men while the passengers flee to the back of the train.  The rest of the movie depicts the desperate attempts of the survivors to destroy the alien being before it kills them all, and the exciting finale is well worth the wait.

If you like your scary movies on the gory side, then give yourself a Halloween treat and watch "Horror Express" for free on YouTube!

Interesting Fact: Although Cushing had committed to making the movie, the recent death of his beloved wife almost made him back out of the project.  Only the intervention of his good friend Christopher Lee convinced him to remain.

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 4

Peter Cushing in "Horror Express" (from But We're British!)

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