director Eugenio Martín
I’d started to watch Horror Express a couple of times (as it’s available on HuluPlus) but the version is not letterboxed and actually looks like it was stored in an elementary school AV room for the past 40 years. It’s blotchy, blurry, and looks like hell.
From what I’ve read, though, there is a reason for this. The film is in the public domain and even the main copy of the film that made it to the States in the 1970’s was like some bad dupe print to begin with. I can’t find the article in which I read that, but it led me to believe that I might have to truly struggle to find a better copy of it.
It’s a shame because it’s a quite compelling low-budget horror film, made in Spain starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Telly Savalas, and if that weren’t enough for you, it’s actually an adaptation of “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell, the basis of The Thing from Another World (1951) and John Carpenter’s great re-make of that film, The Thing (1982).
But what’s interesting is the shift in the story. Set in 1906, the film takes place on a Trans-Siberian Express train on which Professor Sir Alexander Saxton (Lee) has placed this huge crate with a frozen specimen of a man-ape found in a glacier. Evil things happen when people look into the box. Their brains smooth out and their eyes white over, their whole entire being erased, sucked up into this strange corpse creature. And when it gets loose, it manages to move into other people, morphing and absorbing knowledge.
There is another cool part when Cushing and Lee take samples of the creature’s eye and are able to see images burned into the retina of the last thing it saw when it died and then glimpses of Earth from outer space, images of this alien being before it crashed to Earth and was left behind, inhabiting the brain of whatever creature it can take hold in.
The picture (literally) is a muddle and munge. I don’t know what an excellent print of this film would look like, but the badness of this image saturates the film with cheapness and cheesiness, which belies the strangely interesting charms of the story. It really is pretty cool, this movie. It’s also kind of terrible and looks awful.
It’s a cult film for good reason. I ended up kind of liking it, myself. Great poster, too.