'Horror Express: Special Edition' (Blu-ray}
(Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Alberto De Mendoza, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1972) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: In 1906, in China, a British anthropologist discovers a frozen prehistoric creature and must transport it to Europe by train.
Blu-ray Verdict: 'Horror Express' starts in Provincia de Szechuan, China during 1906 as a British expedition lead by anthropologist Professor Alexander Saxon (Christopher Lee) discover the frozen fossilized corpse of a two million year old Ape man.
Together with his unique specimen Professor Saxon boards the a train to Russia in Pekin, also boarding the train is Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing) a rival scientist.
As the train speeds through the icy wastelands the Ape man comes to life possessed by an alien energy creature capable of jumping from body to body and sucking the thoughts, ideas and knowledge from it's victims minds.
So, of course, a massive manhunt is mounted to discover which passenger is possessed with the evil alien.
This Spanish/British co-production was directed by Eugenio Martin and is an entertainingly absurd sci-fi period horror flick that is hard not to like.
The script by Arnaud d'Usseau and Julian Zimet takes the basic premise from 'The Thing from Another World' (1951) with it's story of a frozen alien found by unsuspecting explorers and adds a little bit of 'The Hidden' (1987) in as well.
Add to that a body-jumping alien and we also get a form of homage to 'The Night of the Living Dead' (1968) for good measure re: it's horde of zombies come the climax.
One could also say 'Horror Express' takes both it's setting and it's title from the action/adventure 'Shangai Express' (1932). The one thing that shines through about 'Horror Express' is that it's very entertaining in it's silliness.
We get a two million year old fossil coming to life, the sucking of people's minds dry, the idea that it's all down to a millions year old alien and the scientifically unsound notion that images are somehow stored in eyeball fluid!
That said, it all works really well to create a unique horror film with a good story that continues to develop throughout it's duration. The characters are good and there's the expected religious reasoning as well; which is disproved in favor of more scientific explanations, of course.
Director Eugenio Martín does a good job for there is indeed a sense that we are traveling on a train at the turn of the century. The period Hammer horror style production design and costumes are truly excellent.
Indeed, as we learn during the brand new audio commentary with Stephen Jones and Kim Newman, the train interior sets along with the model train used for the exterior shots were the same that the producer/director had used for their previous film, 'Pancho Villa' (1972).
The makers certainly get a lot of use out of the train model since every two minutes they cut to a shot of it speeding along the track. I mean, seriously, if you were to edit out all the train model shots then I think 'Horror Express' would be a good twenty odd minutes shorter!
There's not much gore. There's some blood. There's a dissected eyeball and a surprisingly graphic autopsy scene re: when Cushing saws the top of a corpses head off to expose the brain!
Technically, the film is well made with that '70s period Hammer horror atmosphere which makes everything so wonderful to view. The way it's shot and the way the sets are so detailed really help make 'Horror Express' look higher budget than it was.
Sure, the aforementioned model train shots look a little fake at times, the "monster" wisely kept in the shadows most of the time, and the cheesy red eye effect often feels out of place, but for the most part, this is a solid film for its day.
There's a GREAT cast here with English horror stalwarts Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and the bald master himself, the lolly pop sucking (although not here, of course) Telly Savalas. A small cameo as a Russian Cossack allows him to ham it up superbly.
In closing, 'Horror Express' is a highly enjoyable and likable sci-fi horror film in the best tradition of Hammer horror with a good cast and an adventurous story line for us all to sit back and enjoy (especially as it's now out on a wondrous Special Edition Blu-ray via Arrow Films UK). This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.66:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original Uncompressed mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary with Stephen Jones and Kim Newman
Introduction to the film by film journalist and Horror Express super-fan Chris Alexander
Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express an interview with director Eugenio Martin
Notes from the Blacklist Horror Express producer Bernard Gordon on working in Hollywood during the McCarthy Era
Telly and Me an interview with composer John Cacavas
Original Theatrical Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Fully-illustrated collector's booklet with new writing by Adam Scovell