In China in the early 1900s, anthropologist Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee) unearths the scientific find of the new century: the centuries-old frozen body of a gigantic ape-like man, a veritable "missing link." Aiming to bring the monster back to Europe, Saxton loads the creature on the opulent Trans-Siberian Express. On board are an international group of passengers including Saxton's intrigued rival anthropologist Dr Wells (Peter Cushing) - all about to get the shock of their lives as the monster thaws in its crate and sets about the passengers one by one sucking the intelligence out his victim's brains through their eyes - turning them into zombies. Together Saxton, Wells and crazy Cossack Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas) must face the zombified passengers and destroy the monster - before they too come eye to eye with the terrifying creature.
Apes on a train!
- Horror Express review by Count Otto Black
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You rated this film: 5
OK, I admit it, there's no way this film really deserves five stars. But you know what? Of its own very particular kind, it's a masterpiece! And if you're in the mood for a completely bonkers horror movie that piles absurdity upon absurdity while keeping a perfectly straight face, and doesn't stint on what was, for the time, seriously gory horror because it's European, there are few if any that reach the standard of this one. And it co-stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing! This is the kind of film Ed Wood might have made if he'd somehow been given a decent budget, and it's a hoot!
Made purely because a low-budget Spanish horror studio obtained at a bargain price a very good scale-model of the Orient Express, plus accompanying miniature scenery depicting Siberia, previously used in "Nicholas and Alexandra" (a rather dull melodrama memorable only for Tom Baker's performance as Rasputin), this has to be the only film set entirely in Siberia to be shot entirely in Spain. It's 1906, and Christopher Lee has found a two-million-year-old deep-frozen ape-man. Obviously it will come alive and kill people. Is that enough plot to keep the movie going for almost an hour and a half? No. Therefore we also get extraterrestrials, spies (it's the Orient Express - we must have spies!), mad monks, the Antichrist, and just when it seems as though it couldn't get any sillier, Christopher Lee with a sword in one hand and a shotgun in the other fighting a small army of zombies.
Peter Cushing is an absolute delight, and clearly enjoying himself immensely, as Christopher Lee's charmingly dishonest professional rival. Lee perfectly balances arrogant pomposity and reluctant heroism. Alberto de Mendoza, an actor seemingly well-known in Spain who made no other English language films, actually manages to upstage Christopher Lee as a mad monk who is Rasputin in all but name, only slightly less sane. And a special mention must go to Telly Savalas, who suddenly pops up late in the film as a mentally retarded psychopathic Cossack whose performance leaves no scenery unchewed, and whose dialogue borders on Surrealism, even compared to the word-salad spouted by every character in the movie who attempts to sound like a scientist.
How crazy is this film? Hammer, a studio not exactly famous for subtlety, liked it so much that within months they'd more or less remade it, minus the train but still starring Lee and Cushing, as "The Creeping Flesh". And it was nowhere near as good. This is an underrated classic of trashy cinema that takes very little time to get going, and then seldom lets up for a moment. If that's the kind of thing that floats your boat, this is as good as it gets. Rent it now!