Horror Movie Review: Horror Express (1972)


A Spanish-British horror movie, Horror Express (Pánico en el Transiberiano) stars some of the cream of the 70’s horror scene. Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee & Telly Savalas light up what is an otherwise dour & boring ‘creature’ flick.

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Horror Express is loosely based on the science fiction movie, The Thing from Another World released in 1951. That movie had been adapted from the 1938 novella Who Goes There? written by John W. Campbell, Jr.

The year is 1906 & Professor Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee) is taking the Trans-Siberian Express along with some unusual cargo that he is very protective of. While on an expedition, Saxton discovered frozen remains of a humanoid-like creature. He wants to take it back to Europe to study.

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A number of other people are aboard the train & take an interest in the crate, including Doctor Wells (Peter Cushing). Wells & Saxton know each other but don’t exactly see eye to eye. Wells seems to take pleasure out of teasing the curter & stand-offish Saxton.

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On board curiosity gets the better of Wells & he pays a porter to investigate the crate. Unfortunately, the porter is killed by an ape-like creature that has now revived inside. It then escapes into the train.

The creature takes more victims leaving them with completely white eyes. An autopsy conducted by Wells seems to suggests that the brains of the victims are being drained of memories and knowledge. The hunt to find the creature eventually leads to it being gunned down but the threat is far from over…

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The best thing about Horror Express, the only really good thing, is the calibre of acting with Cushing being the star of the show. He has so much fun in the role with great dialogue & reactions to events. Lee has to play it straight but it fits perfectly with the character he is portraying. A man of science with little humour in him. The pair light up the screen.

Elsewhere, the no nonsense character, Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas) re-energises proceedings once he boards the train. His lack of care towards class & dignity makes him an intimidating figure & it’s easy to see why he is so feared.

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Unfortunately, there is little else to get excited about. The film is far too long with far little happening. The creature, while threatening, loses much of its impact once its origins are revealed. It doesn’t add much to the overall story & is just a minor link to the source material.

Visually it looks old, that’s no surprise & hardly an issue but the glowing eye effect is particularly poorly done. Thankfully, the movie avoids non-practical effects & while there isn’t loads of violence the blood that flows is satisfying enough.

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Worth a watch if you’re a fan of Peter Cushing & Christopher Lee but that’s about it. Hardly memorable.

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Horror Express
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