Thursday, September 17, 2009

We're British, You Know

Horror Express 1972
Director: Eugenio Martin
Writers: Arnaed d'Ueassu and Julian Zimet
Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Telly Savalas, Alberto de Mendoza, Silvio Tortosa and Julio Pena

This is a film I had heard many great things about, so I finally set aside some time to view it and it did not disappoint. This is a great little B horror film, with some A list talent. With a cast that includes genre stalwarts Lee and Cushing , you know you are in for a great time. But, what is surprising is how Telly Savalas steals the film and in the minor 8 minutes he is stealing the entire film. The monster is a bit on the hokey side, but you can get past that with the great cast and a really genuine and original story. The mood really helps the film too, it reminds me of a horror version of Murder on the Orient Express.
The plot basics are this, it is the year 1906 and Professor Alexander Saxton (Lee) has discovered a ancient fossil in Manchuria and is transporting it on a passenger train through Siberia on it's way to Shanghai. Unbeknownst to him, though it is actually a dormant shell of a alien life form that can suck the knowledge out of anyone's mind by staring at them and making their eyes bleed and then go opaque. The alien takes over a Police Inspector (Pena) and it is up to Saxton and his colleague, Dr. Wells (Cushing) to put a end to this monstrosity before he completes his plan to escape and build a rocket to get back home.
This is a very gripping film. Martin's direction is very good, at times moody and at others sprinkled with dry humor. He also films the dark attack scenes very well. Even though the monster is rather laughable to look at, he balances it with the perfect mood and it is still rather creepy. The script is good too, the plot is rather creative and the script is peppered throughout with great one liners by Cushing and Lee. The cream of the crop though, has to be Savalas' character Captain Kazan. I was howling with laughter, while he was commanding the screen. The acting is top notch, other than the aforementioned actors I really enjoyed de Mendoza as Father Pujardov, who has a real Rasputin feel to him. He was genuinely creepy. The SFX is good, the creature effects are bad, the monster looks like he was created with dried oatmeal, but the kills are done very effectively. This is a highly effective film that really works well within the claustrophobic locale of a passenger train, and it will be one I will revisit again.
This one gets 4 out of 5

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