Playing almost like a particularly claustrophobic Dario Argento film produced by Roger Corman, but starring Hammer’s two most notable leading men, the gory low-budget—but totally wonderful—Horror Express is one of those films that we of a certain age saw repeatedly on “Chiller Theater” type TV shows in the mid-to-late 70s. When I was a ten-year-old kid, this film absolutely scared the shit out of me.
In Horror Express, which is almost a horror comedy, a supposed “missing link” is discovered in Siberia, but the frozen creature is merely the vessel for an extraterrestrial “spirit of pure evil” that can hop from victim to victim turning them into zombies that bleed from their eyes. It stars Christoper Lee and Peter Cushing as two competitive archaeologists. Telly Savalas has a great supporting role as a brutal Cossack officer who’s a nasty piece of work and there is even a weird Rasputin character milling about. It was written by Arnaud d’Usseau and Julian Zimet, the same (one-time blacklisted) screenwriters who penned the “undead biker” cult classic Psychomania. It was directed by Eugenio Martín. Like many European films of the time, this Spanish production was shot without sound and the actors dubbed their voices in later so it’s got that loopy sort of feel.
Horror Express has been in the public domain for years and crappy quasi-bootleg copies have been making the rounds at 99 Cents Only stores and the like for a while now (I have one that has the film reels out of order). In 2011, Horror Express fans were treated to a deluxe 2-disc dual DVD/Blu-ray release from cult meisters extraordinaire, Severin Films. Created using the original camera negative, the DVD extras include a recording of an extensive 1973 interview with Peter Cushing. (Cushing’s wife died right before filming on Horror Express commenced. He almost backed out of the film entirely).
Horror Express makes for great campy “Midnight Movie” viewing. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s big fun.