Blu-ray Review: Horror Express (1972)

February 12, 2019

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

China, 1906; Prof. Sir Alexander Saxton LLC Inc. (Christopher Lee) finds a fucked up frozen freak in the middle of a snow covered wasteland. Believing the thing to be some form of missing link, Saxton gets the bright idea to bring it back to Europe via a trans-Siberian express. Before you can say; “Hey man, shouldn’t that monster be stored in a deep freeze or something?” our arcane antagonist thaws out and begins going kill-krazy among the passengers…a feat made easier by it’s ability to blend in among them!

The first thing you may notice about Horror Express is that it was one hell of a lavish production. Period costumes, a steam engine, multiple sets…this baby looks like a million bucks (supplemental material reveals the tricks used to deliver this level of production design on a lower-tier budget), and visually stands head and shoulders with the output of the legendary Hammer Studios. Speaking of Big H, this film features fantastic performances by two of their most beloved stars; the aforementioned Lee and Peter Cushing (who plays a doctor aboard the train…and is more relaxed than the roles he usually plays)…and while we are talking acting, we get a sinister skulking turn from Alberto de Mendoza as Rasputin surrogate Father Pujardov and a scenery chewing cameo from Telly Savalas who seems to be having a beastly ball in his role as Capt. Kazan, a Russian military man that has to deal with some of that sweet, sweet creature feature biz!

Along with that we get: some grizzly (and surprising) gore including scalps being lifted to reveal the brains below, eyeball dissection, and blood leaking from many an orifice, a super-rad creature design (think a Yeti with a skull for a face with glowing red eyes), and a real sense of mounting tension as the beast does the Devil’s business within the inescapable confines of the speeding train.

As for bonus features on this Blu-ray from Arrow Video, an introduction from Fangoria magazine’s (at least at the time this piece was recorded, as this feature was ported from Severin’s 2011 release of the picture) Chris Alexander concerning his history with Horror Express kicks things off, followed by an appreciation of the film from filmmaker Steve Haberman that explores elements of the film’s production and distribution, and an interview with Ted Newsom about the film and it’s Producer Bernard Gordon. Next we get archival interviews with Director Eugenio Martin, Gordon (archival…but unseen before this release), and composer John Cacavas. Finally we have the film’s theatrical trailer, and (best of all) an amazing audio commentary featuring Authors Stephen Jones and Kim Newman that is both an incredibly fun and energetic listen, but highly informative as well!

Horror Express is an underrated, genre-bending (elements of mystery and proto-slasher films collide) creature feature that will be adored by fans of Agatha Christie and Hammer alike, and deserves a spot on any horror hound’s sinister shelf!

 

 

You May Also Like…