A train shoots past as the camera and crew casts a shadow over the ground
in front of us (oops). Then half a dozen different songs all strike up
at the same time as the credits roll over people screaming and the sound
of a train. And before you ask, it's not the latest advertising campaign
for Virgin Rail.
It's China, 1906. Christopher Lee, alias Alexander Saxton, ventures into
some caves armed only with a daft hat and a comedy moustache. There he
finds a body, which he promptly boxes up and carts off to Peking railway
station. There he meets (hooray!) Peter Cushing, and the two of 'em board
a train to Russia.
Meanwhile, whatever's in Lee's crate is busy killing a passing thief.
His body is found, the eyes pouring blood and completely white, which
is pretty disgusting, really. A passing Rasputin-alike denounces it as
"the work of the devil", but our British heroes are having none
of it. "Whatever you have here is unholy..." the monk explains,
"...and must be destroyed". To illustrate his point he tries
to draw a cross on the crate with a piece of chalk, and can't.
Everyone ignores this obvious fruitcake and his chalk "conjuring
trick" , and the crate is loaded onto the train, where it promptly
Once they're on their way, Cushing bribes a guard to sneak a peek at what's
inside the crate, and the berk manages to set something very hairy free.
Oops again. The mad monk is on the train with a Polish Countess, and he's
still not happy: "There is the stink of hell on this train... even
the dog knows it."
And once the guard is found to be missing, a police inspector who's also
on the train (very cosmopolitan, this journey) takes charge: "One
man dead... another missing... it's time we opened this box," his
mouth flaps out of time to some dodgy dubbing.
Of course, it's the guard who's inside the crate, dead, and Lee is forced
to explain that what was in the crate was a fossilised two million year-old
man. Cushing sums up the script adequately at this point: "Are you
telling me that an ape that lived two million years ago got out of this
crate, killed a man, then locked the crate up neat and tidy?"
The Police Inspector then adds to this tremendous conversation: "I
think the fossil... or whatever it is... escaped... jumped off the train..."
Cushing then carries out an autopsy on the guard, sawing off the top of
his head, Frankenstein-style. "The brain has been drained. The memory
has been removed... like chalk erased from a blackboard," he explains.
Meanwhile, a woman (who disconcertingly looks like a man in drag, despite
being quite attractive) has conned her way into staying with Cushing,
and is some kind of international spy. This leads to them sharing a bathroom,
which Cushing gets first dibs on. Unfortunately, he says "Thank you,
it's all yours" rather than "Phew, I'd leave it 15 minutes if
I were you, love."
She's the next victim of the killer monkey-man and his glowing red eye.
The nature of this monkey is irrepressible, let me tell you. Cushing
then gets attacked when he goes to look for the woman, but luckily the
police inspector is on hand to shoot it (several times) until it dies.
Unfortunately, it makes eye contact with its killer as it drops to the
Lee's got an idea the creature might have been sucking people's brains,
and gaining their skills - hence its escaping act from the crate after
killing a thief ("aaaaah..." - the audience). I'd like to pause
for a minute during this breathless summing-up to explain that it's written
like this for a reason - the entire film is one hugely enjoyable romp
which never lets up its speed. You've got a brain-jumping alien parasite,
some truly revolting sfx and Cushing and Lee. Think it can't get any better?
Prepare for a badly overacting Telly Savalas and an absolutely barking
mad last half hour, which involves lots more death and some serious zombie
There's also some interesting points to made about religion - when the
Priest asks the monster "are you going to kill me?", the reply
is a stark: "Fool - there's nothing in your head."
Some other classic lines:
Police inspector: "I'll shoot anyone who tries to leave the train."
Voice from crowd: "Shoot! Shoot - you stupid Russian!"
And of course:
Police inspector: "What if one of you is the monster?"
Cushing: "Monster? We're British, you know."
All of which almost makes up for the worst rushed ending in the history
of "oh my god, the money's run out" endings. And it showed such
promise. "Wait - there is something more..." indeed.
Horror Express (1972)
Director: Eugenio Martín Writer(s): (WGA) Arnaud d'Usseau (screenplay)
Julian Zimet (screenplay)
Cast: Christopher Lee - Professor Alexander Saxton, Peter Cushing - Dr.
Wells, Alberto de Mendoza - Inspector, Silvia Tortosa - Irina, Telly Savalas
- Captain Kazak, Julio Peña - Mirov, Ángel del Pozo - Yevtuchenko, Helga Liné
- Natasha, Georges Rigaud - Conde Petrovski, Alice Reinheart - Srta Jones, José
Jaspe - Konev, Víctor Israel - Maletero, Juan Olaguivel - Criatura, Vicente
Roca - Jefe Estacion Bernabe, Barta Barri - First Telegrafista, José Marco Davó
- Vorkin, José Canalejas - Guardia Ruso