In Horror Express, anthropologist Professor Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee) finds what he believes is the missing link, still frozen and preserved in a chunk of ice. Claiming the find of the century, Saxton crates his find up to transport it back home via the Trans-Siberian railway (reaching from China to Russia). Unfortunately for all aboard the train, he forgets to pack the thing in ice, and soon the “missing link” has thawed out and is running amuck, killing passengers (and worse).
In one of the opening scenes, a lowly Chinese thief gets a little too close to the crate, and without warning his eyeballs are turned completely white, his brain is boiled, blood pours from his eye sockets, and he dies instantly. Everyone standing around the crate acts like this is a pretty normal occurance except for one holy man. “It is the work of SATAN!” he yells, but due to his heavy make up job and Confucious-like crepe-hair beard, people are more afraid of him than the death-issuing wooden crate of the eyeball bleeder lying at their feet. “I will prove it is unholy,” the man says as he pulls a piece of chalk out of his pocket and attempts to write on the crate. “You see,” he says to the crowd, “the chalk does not leave a mark. Whatever is in that crate is evil I say, EVILLLLLLLLL!”
Breaking out of “movie land” for a moment, let’s talk about this. Do you know how many materials there are on this Earth that chalk will not write on? How about A BUNCH! I’m guessing that the devil is not responsible for the majority of them. You don’t see the pope walking around the streets with a box of Crayola chalk, now do you? Priests wouldn’t need churches, just blackboard erasers!
Anyway, back to “la la movie land”. Also aboard the train is Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing). Wells is a rival of Saxton’s and is extremely curious about the crate brought onboard. So curious, in fact, that he bribes a bag handler to drill some holes in the crate and find out for him. It turns out to be a fatal mistake for Mr. baggage handler, who is quickly reduced to a pile of quivering flesh and gooey eye sockets by the creature.
Along the way we’re introduced to several characters, some of which are used for subplots, the rest of which appear as monster snacks. And just when the shit really starts to hit the fan, Cossack Kazan (played by Telly Savalas) shows up and really starts to kick some monster ass (as well as anyone else’s who gets in his way).
There are really only two types of people, people who will be laughing their heads off by this point and people who will have already turned this movie off. By the time hints are dropped that the missing link may not be exactly what it seems, you won’t care at all. With such strange movie-logic, awkwardly written lines, and a plot that gets weirder by the minute, who needs logic? If you’re the type of person who laughs when Wells performs an autopsy and discovers that the victim’s brain has been “completely drained” of its memory, then Horror Express is your cup of tea. At one point, the scientists even see a brontosaurus in the creature’s blood while examining it under a microscope, proving the creature’s ancient origins. Really. And don’t get me started on “General Wang”.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and recommend it to any fans of early 70’s horror. Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas sell the film and do a good job of keeping a straight face even when the rest of us are giggling.