I haven’t been writing reviews of all the films I’ve watched so far for the October 31, although I’ll probably go back and chat them up when I have more of an opportunity – still, I wanted to take a moment to mark the watching of Horror Express, (aka Panic in the Trans-Siberian Train,) as it certainly deserves a bit of the spotlight.
The movie features two of my favourite actors, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, as a pair of scientists traveling back from Siberia, where Lee has recently made a fantastic discovery. Inevitably the find, basically the corpse of something akin to the abominable snowman, almost immediately jumps up and begins murderizing folks.
Filming began very soon after the death of Cushing’s wife, a blow he never entirely recovered from, and the lore is that he only stayed on the set because of the warmth Christopher Lee’s family showed him, and the swapping of stories from previous productions with Mr Lee himself. Lee certainly takes the helm for intensity in this film, although Cushing often gets the best lines, including: “Us? Monsters? We’re BRITISH.”
The cast also includes a Robert Deniro-lookalike as a guy who, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, isn’t at all based on the famous Russian mad monk Rasputin.
Despite all this fantastic ridiculousness, my favourite part of the film is the barely explained entrance of Telly Savalas in the final act. Kojak comes riding in as a supposed Cossack, spouting barely comprehensible lines and beating people senseless without provocation.
The first time I saw this film I thought the director was looking for a Deus Ex Machina to defeat the monster – an American hero to step up and quash the beast – but instead Telly ends up on the floor, dead, no more than fifteen minutes after his appearance.
Who actually quells the menace? Well – I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the truth is that it’s basically defeated by Russian bureaucracy.
You can find the full film on Youtube, if you don’t have the five dollars to fish it out of a Walmart bargain bin – I’ve certainly left enough of the surprises intact to make it worth your time.