Horror Express is hands down one of the best horror films ever to come out of the seventies, not because of some silly nostalgia from my side - it was a movie I saw very early on, rented it at Video Gott in Östersund and later actually bought the same copy when the store went bankrupt and put everything on sale. The same artwork was much later used on the Severin blu-ray, which I think was a very nice touch considering the rarity of it.
It quite perfectly combines the old-school horror of Hammer with the new, gritty and violent horror of the seventies, with clashing Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing against Telly Savalas. When I was a youngling it always boggled my mind how similar Alberto de Mendoza was to Robert De Niro, so similar it could have been De Niro under a fake beard and a wig. Anyway, all the actors are cool and the setting, a train - which I suspect is the Orient Express (not sure if it’s actually mentioned) - which makes like a sci-fi version of Murder on the Orient Express, even if there’s less a mystery here of course. Like G, my partner, just said; “Is it a Sherlock Holmes movie?”. Not a bad guess, but a Sherlock Holmes with a 2 million year old frozen alien instead of doctor Moriarty!
The script is wittier and smarter than it should be. The story says that the sole reason why this film became reality was that the producer had a train and some sets left over from another movie, also starring Savalas, and felt he could use them for something else. Like Friday the 13th, this is another perfect horror movie who sprung from a purely economical decision. I like that. It just proves that creativity is so much more than being a starving, poor artist with high ambitions - you can create just because you need to.
Who said making movies had something to do with glamour and art? Probably no one who actually knows that they’re talking about. Oh, back to the witty script. There’s a few details I noticed this time I haven’t thought about before. For example, the monster leaves the kids alone - and it’s not until now I understand he does that because they have nothing he needs. They have no usable knowledge. I also love the atheistic approach of the story, which first of all deals with an ancient evil who lived long before people claimed there was a god - and the best scene is when he refuses to take the intelligence from the priest, because the priest have nothing to offer him.
Ain’t that the ultimate diss of religion I don’t know what. But Horror Express is first of all a fantastic performance by buddies Lee and Cushing. It’s said that Cushing still was deeply depressed over his wife’s death, but Lee talked him in to do this film with him and the result is fucking amazing. It’s clearly one of the more inspired meetings of these giants - everything they say and do is absolutely electrifying. I would have killed to go back in time and hang out with them during this shoot. It must have been magic. Cushing also has one of the best lines of dialogue ever, when the police inspector on the train asks him a very important question:
- What if one of you is the monster?
- Monster? We’re British you know!
That’s hilarious and delivered with a deadpan timing. The whole movie is worth watching just because of that short scene.
Horror Express has tons of classic scenes, from the infamous eye liquid sequence to the brain scenes, the cossacks vs aliens, the beautiful score by John Cacavas and the freaky and downright disturbing zombie-esque finale when the alien force makes everyone who’s dead on the train come alive again.
This was a shitty review - more a collection of thoughts, which in my case is close to retarded - of a brilliant film. Buy Severin’s blu-ray, they’ve done a beautiful job restoring a film which have been mistreated on every kind of format until now.