Horror Express (1972) starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Telly Savalas
Horror Express is a very good horror film, putting the talents of Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Telly Savalas all to good use. It’s been described as Murder on the Orient Express meets The Thing from Another World — and that’s about right.The basic premise has Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee) traveling by train from Old Russia with a fossil discovery that he believes is the “missing link” — on the same train is Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing) … but it appears that the 2 million-year-old fossil is alive, committing murders, and … stealing brains. And jumping from body to body with each murder, making every surviving passenger on the train a possible suspect. And a near-psychotic cossack (Telly Savalas) willing to kill suspects first, and prove guilt later.
The Thing (for lack of a better name) is not a supernatural evil, despite what the priest Father Pujardov (Alberto de Mendoza) thinks. It is, instead, an alien visitor, who has “jumped” from one species to another, stealing the knowledge of each (thus wiping the brain of the host) and continues to learn about life on this Earth — for its own purposes. Can our three main characters stop it? And if so, how?
I’m not going to spoil the ending, but I will say that it’s a very good film, well worth watching. It’s fallen into the public domain, and is free to watch online:
Editorial review of Horror Express courtesy of Amazon.com
The 70s horror classic returns like you’ve never seen it before! Screen legends Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing star as rival turn-of-the-century anthropologists transporting a frozen missing link aboard the Trans-Siberian Express. But when the prehistoric creature thaws and escapes, it unleashes a brain-scarfing spree that turns its victims into the eye-bleeding undead. Can the crafty colleagues stop this two-million-year-old monster, hordes of zombie passengers and a psychotic Cossack officer (Telly Savalas) before terror goes off the rails? Silvia Tortosa (When the Screaming Stops
Movie quotes from Horror Express
Inspector Mirov: The two of you together. That’s fine. But what if one of you is the monster?
Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing): Monster? We’re British, you know.
Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing): Miss Jones, I shall need your assistance.
Miss Jones: [eyeing Wells’ dinner companion] Yes, well at your age I’m not surprised.
Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing): With an autopsy!
Miss Jones: Oh, well that’s different.
Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas): Now, anything, anything that moves near that door, kill it!
Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing): But what if the monk is innocent?
Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas): Ahhh, we got lots of innocent monks!
Countess Irina: Oh, yes, England. Queen Victoria, crumpets, Shakespeare.
Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee): I admire Poland, madam. I believe there is a bond between our two countries.
Countess Irina: My husband, the Count Petrovski, says that in the fifteenth century your King Henry betrayed us to the Russians. Hmm?
Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee): I hope that you and your husband, madam, will accept my profoundest apologies.
Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing): Miss Jones, allow me to introduce Professor Alexander Saxton. He dabbles in fossils and bones.
Miss Jones: Glad to meet you, Professor.
Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee): How do you do?
Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing): Miss Jones has been assisting me. Bacteriology, excellent technician.
Miss Jones: [laughs] For a woman, he means.
[after Wells buys his way onto a full train]
Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing): It’s called “squeeze” in China. The Americans call it knowhow.
Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee): And in Britain, we call it bribery and corruption.
Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing): What are you going to astound the scientific world with this time?
Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee): You’ll read about it in the Society’s annual report. A remarkable fossil.
Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing): Fossil? But you’ve got something live in there, I heard it.
Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee): You’re mistaken!
Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing): You won’t need to feed it then.
Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee): The occupant hasn’t eaten in two million years.
Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing): That’s one way to economize on food bills.
Yevtushenko: I’m an engineer. A scientist. And this is ordinary chalk. How do you explain it not writing on that crate?
Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee): Hypnosis! Yoga! These mystics can be terribly convincing. They can even hypnotize themselves.
[Mirov has opened the crate and found the body of the missing baggage man inside it]
Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing): Are you telling me that an ape that lived two million years ago got out of that crate, killed the baggage man and put him in there, then locked everything up neat and tidy, and got away?
Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee): Yes, I am! It’s alive, it must be!
Inspector Mirov: Is it true you’re a doctor?
Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing): Ask me when I’ve finished my dinner.
Countess Irina: You’re in bad humor because you’ve lost your box of bones, hmm?
Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee): That box of bones, madame, could have solved many of the riddles of science. If the theory of evolution is confirmed, if the science of biology is revolutionized, if the very origin of man is determined …
Countess Irina: I have heard of evolution. It’s… it’s immoral!
Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee): It’s a fact. And there’s no morality in a fact.
[talking about the creature with Saxton]
Inspector Mirov: You mean it sucked other people’s brains?
Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas): Tell me, Mirov, what do you know about all the filth that’s going on here?
Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas): He knows that a horse has four legs. He knows that a murderer has two arms. But still, the devil must be afraid of one honest Cossack.
Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee): The following report to the Royal Geological Society by the undersigned, Alexander Saxton, is a true and faithful account of events that befell the Society’s expedition in Manchuria. As the leader of the expedition, I must accept responsibility for its ending in disaster, but I leave to the judgment of the honorable members of the Society the decision as to where the blame for the catastrophe lies.
Father Pujardov: Where there is God, there is always a place for the cross. Even on this stone floor, just so. But Satan is evil, and where there is evil, there is no place for the cross.
Father Pujardov: There’s a stink of hell on this train. Even the dog knows it!
Father Pujardov: You are jesting with her immortal soul!
Count Petrovski: That’s why we keep you, Pujardov. Our immortal souls are your concern.
Father Pujardov: Forgive me, your Excellency. In my concern for the spiritual welfare of the countess, I forgot myself. I will pray for humility.
Count Petrovski: Pray hard, Pujardov. Or you’ll find yourself praying for a job, too.
Inspector Mirov: [regarding Saxton’s crate] One man dead, another missing. It’s time we opened that box!
Countess Irina: And what about the baggage man? And that poor thief at the station?
Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee): What about them?
Countess Irina: They are dead. Was your creature responsible for that?
Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee): Probably.
Countess Irina: And you don’t care?
Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee): [reflectively] A baggage man, and a thief… You’re right, madame. I don’t care… as much as I should.
[about the condition of a dead man’s brain]
Miss Jones: Smooth as a baby’s bottom!
Father Pujardov: The beast is not dead.
Inspector Mirov: I put four bullets into him.
Father Pujardov: [smiling] You think evil can be killed with bullets? Satan lives. The Unholy One is among us.
Inspector Mirov: I don’t want to panic the passengers.
Countess Irina: The czar will hear of this. I’ll have you sent to Siberia.
Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas): I am in Siberia!
Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas): Peasants! Peasants!
Cast of characters
- Christopher Lee (The Crimson Cult, Horror of Dracula) … Prof. Sir Alexander Saxton
- Peter Cushing (The Mummy, The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas) … Dr. Wells
- Alberto de Mendoza … Father Pujardov
- Silvia Tortosa … Countess Irina Petrovska
- Julio Peña (Solomon and Sheba) … Inspector Mirov
- Ángel del Pozo (The Three Musketeers 1973) … Yevtushenko
- Helga Liné … Natasha (as Helga Line)
- Alice Reinheart … Miss Jones
- José Jaspe … Konev – Conductor (as Jose Jaspe)
- George Rigaud … Count Maryan Petrovski (as Jorge Rigaud)
- Víctor Israel … Baggage Man (as Victor Israel)
- Faith Clift … Miss Bennett – American Passenger
- Juan Olaguivel … Creature
- Barta Barri … First Telegraphist
- Peter Beckman … Second Telegraphist
- Hiroshi Kitatawa … Grashinski – the Locksmith
- Vicente Roca … Station Master
- José Canalejas … Russian Guard (as Jose Canalejas)
- José Marco … Vorkin (as Jose Marco)
- Allen Russell … Capt. O’Hagan
- Telly Savalas (Kojak, The Dirty Dozen) … Capt. Kazan
Trivia for Horror Express
- Filmed in December 1971, the first Christmas for Peter Cushing since the February 14 death of his beloved wife Helen. Christopher Lee’s family made it as warm an affair as possible for Cushing, who would grieve for his lost wife for the remainder of his life, often playing roles that mirrored his own sadness. Despite the freezing working conditions and “abominable” food, this film provided one of the few co-starring roles where the two actors get to work in unison, rather than opposing one another, with Cushing getting the most amusing lines.
- Peter Cushing arrived in Spain for filming and immediately told producer Bernard Gordon that he could not do the picture, as he felt it was too soon after his wife’s death. Christopher Lee convinced Cushing to stay on by reminiscing with him about the previous films they’d worked on together, much to the relief of Gordon.
- This is the second movie adapted from the novella “Who Goes There” by John Campbell Jr, the first being The Thing From Another World
- The train interior sets and the train model used for the exterior shots were the same sets that the producer/director had just used for their collaboration Pancho Villa (1972), which had just finished production and which also featured Telly Savalas.