Horror Express (1973)

R | 90 or 98 mins | Horror, Science fiction | 1973

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HISTORY

This international co-production was first released in 1972 in Spain, where the title was Panico en el Transiberiano ( Panic on the Trans-Siberian Train ). Christopher Lee's name is misspelled in the onscreen credits as "Cristopher." Although Julian Halevy was the name credited with the film's screenplay when the picture was initially released, Halevy was the pseudonym of blacklisted writer Julian Zimet, whose credit was officially restored by the WGA in 1997. The film begins with voice-over narration by Lee as "Alexander Saxton," reading a letter to the British Royal Geological Society, detailing his expedition in Manchuria and accepting responsibility for its disastrous ending.
       Horror Express was shot in Spain at the Madrid 70 Studios. The picture marked the first film for Peter Cushing since the death of his wife one year earlier. Modern sources state that Cushing wanted to leave the production, but Lee, his frequent co-star, convinced him to stay. A modern source adds Al Pereira and Fernando Villena to the cast. ... More Less

This international co-production was first released in 1972 in Spain, where the title was Panico en el Transiberiano ( Panic on the Trans-Siberian Train ). Christopher Lee's name is misspelled in the onscreen credits as "Cristopher." Although Julian Halevy was the name credited with the film's screenplay when the picture was initially released, Halevy was the pseudonym of blacklisted writer Julian Zimet, whose credit was officially restored by the WGA in 1997. The film begins with voice-over narration by Lee as "Alexander Saxton," reading a letter to the British Royal Geological Society, detailing his expedition in Manchuria and accepting responsibility for its disastrous ending.
       Horror Express was shot in Spain at the Madrid 70 Studios. The picture marked the first film for Peter Cushing since the death of his wife one year earlier. Modern sources state that Cushing wanted to leave the production, but Lee, his frequent co-star, convinced him to stay. A modern source adds Al Pereira and Fernando Villena to the cast. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
CineFantastique
Spring 1972
Vol. 3, #2.
Daily Variety
6 Dec 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jan 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 1997.
---
Variety
25 Oct 1972.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Focus
Stillsman
Mixing rec
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Editorial asst
Editorial asst
Editorial asst
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Ward master
Ward mistress
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
SOUND
Sd supv
Mixing recordist
Loc recordist
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Optical eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod asst
Unit pub
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Panic on the Trans-Siberian Train
Panico en el Transiberiano
Release Date:
1973
Production Date:
began January 1972 at Madrid 70 Studios, Spain
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Eastmancolor
Duration(in mins):
90 or 98
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
United Kingdom, Spain, United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In the caves of Manchuria, China in 1906, British anthropologist Alexander Saxton finds the remains of a two-million-year-old ape man frozen in the ice. Believing the skeletal body is the Missing Link and can help prove the theory of evolution, Saxton stores it in a padlocked crate, planning to transport it via the Trans-Siberian Express. At the railroad station, Saxton first learns that the train is full, then is further displeased to meet his old rival, Dr. Wells, who is traveling with his assistant, Miss Jones. Wells bribes the station master for a ticket, while a British army captain offers aid to Saxton, causing the now fawning station master to offer him a ticket. Meanwhile, outside, a Chinese thief attempts to pick the lock of Saxton’s crate, and moments later lies dead, his eyes bleached pure white. As Russian police inspector Mirov examines the scene, a Catholic monk, Pujardov, declares that the crate contains Satan. Saxton, shocked at the man’s death, nonetheless dismisses any questioning and orders the crate to be put on the train. Inside the baggage car, Wells secretly bribes the baggage man to open the crate that night and report his findings. Also aboard the train are Mirov, Polish Count Marion Petrovski and his wife Irina, who have brought Pujardov as their priest; Natasha, a stowaway spy; and Yevtushenko, an engineer. Saxton and Wells learn that they must share a cabin, and soon after, Natasha begs a sympathetic Wells to hide her in the cabin, as well. That night, the baggage man opens the crate and sees inside an ape man with burning red eyes. The red light penetrates his skull, killing him and turning his ... +


In the caves of Manchuria, China in 1906, British anthropologist Alexander Saxton finds the remains of a two-million-year-old ape man frozen in the ice. Believing the skeletal body is the Missing Link and can help prove the theory of evolution, Saxton stores it in a padlocked crate, planning to transport it via the Trans-Siberian Express. At the railroad station, Saxton first learns that the train is full, then is further displeased to meet his old rival, Dr. Wells, who is traveling with his assistant, Miss Jones. Wells bribes the station master for a ticket, while a British army captain offers aid to Saxton, causing the now fawning station master to offer him a ticket. Meanwhile, outside, a Chinese thief attempts to pick the lock of Saxton’s crate, and moments later lies dead, his eyes bleached pure white. As Russian police inspector Mirov examines the scene, a Catholic monk, Pujardov, declares that the crate contains Satan. Saxton, shocked at the man’s death, nonetheless dismisses any questioning and orders the crate to be put on the train. Inside the baggage car, Wells secretly bribes the baggage man to open the crate that night and report his findings. Also aboard the train are Mirov, Polish Count Marion Petrovski and his wife Irina, who have brought Pujardov as their priest; Natasha, a stowaway spy; and Yevtushenko, an engineer. Saxton and Wells learn that they must share a cabin, and soon after, Natasha begs a sympathetic Wells to hide her in the cabin, as well. That night, the baggage man opens the crate and sees inside an ape man with burning red eyes. The red light penetrates his skull, killing him and turning his eyes white, after which the creature escapes. When Mirov investigates the baggage man’s disappearance, Wells admits he asked the baggage man to open the crate, which is now locked. Despite Saxton’s protests, Mirov orders the crate opened, and inside they discover the man’s dead body. The inspector places Saxton under arrest and has the train searched, but the creature is not found. Wells, assisted by Jones, performs an autopsy on the dead man and discovers that his brain is smooth, having been drained of memory. Later, Natasha sneaks inside the baggage car and steals a bag from the count’s possessions. Just then, the creature emerges from his hiding place and kills her. Mirov and Wells arrive moments later, and the inspector shoots three bullets into the creature, then collapses, after which the creature dies. Unknown to the others, the creature was the host to an alien life form, which has now taken possession of Mirov, whose right arm has turned hairy and ape-like. Wells autopsies Natasha and shares with Saxton the information that her brain, too, was smooth. Saxton deduces that the creature absorbed the memories of his victims, growing increasingly clever as it gleaned all of their knowledge. Mirov examines the bag Natasha had been trying to steal, which Petrovski identifies as containing a new, valuable form of steel for which only he knows the formula. As Pujardov raves that the creature was possessed by Satan, Saxton and Wells experiment on the creature’s eye. Upon placing its eye fluid under the telescope, they are stunned to see images, first of Mirov and then of prehistoric creatures. Realizing that the creature stored its visual memories in its eyes, they are further discomfited to see an image in the eye fluid of the Earth seen from space. Pujardov sees the image and declares it to be that of the devil viewing the earth before he was banished. When they go through a tunnel, Pujardov steals the eye and hides in the baggage car. Miss Jones searches for him there, and when Mirov enters, she explains to him what they discovered about the eye, prompting him to kill her. Pujardov then comes out of hiding and offers the eye to Mirov, begging for pity, but Mirov considers the monk’s brain so useless that he declines to kill him. Later, Saxton asks the conductor to send a telegram requesting that the train be stopped, but Mirov kills the conductor before he can relay the message. Meanwhile, Saxton and Wells examine the eyes of everyone on board, hoping to identify whoever has murdered Miss Jones, but find nothing. After examining Mirov, Saxton finds the dead conductor, and sends a telegram explaining their predicament. It is received by volatile Cossack Captain Kazan, who determines to board the train with his soldiers. On board, Mirov, discerning Yevtushenko’s vast intellect, kills him while his cabinmate sleeps. Saxton, who has deduced that the killer is an alien life force moving from host to host, learns from Yevtushenko’s cabinmate that the lights were out when he was murdered, and realizes the killer can only operate in the darkness. Just then, Kazan and his men storm the train and order everyone into the dining car. The raving Cossack places them all under arrest, then orders Mirov to name a suspect. When Pujardov comes to Mirov’s defense, Kazan whips the priest, after which Saxton surreptitiously turns out the lights, revealing Mirov’s glowing red eyes. Kazan shoots and knifes Mirov, who runs off, followed by Pujardov. The monk begs the alien to possess him, which it does as Mirov dies. Pujardov then turns on the Russian soldiers, killing them all, including Kazan. Carrying a strong beam as protection against Pujardov, Wells and Saxton and lead the passengers into the baggage car. Saxton then goes in search of Pujardov, who is killing the count in order to learn the steel formula. Saxton arrives in time to protect Irina, and as he turns a gun on Pujardov, the alien explains that it is a form of energy from another galaxy, left behind by accident. Appealing to Saxton’s scientific curiosity, it states that it has survived on Earth since prehistoric times and can teach him to end disease, pain and hunger. When Saxton hesitates, the alien summons the zombie forms of all the people it has killed, and they rise up to do its bidding. Saxton grabs Irina and runs for safety, shooting and stabbing zombies along the way. Finally reaching the baggage room, they find Wells struggling to separate the car from the rest of the train. Meanwhile, Moscow officials order the railroad to derail the train, which will mean death for everyone aboard. The railroad men switch the upcoming tracks, and just as the express reaches the switching post, Wells and Saxton manage to detach their car. As the rest of the train plummets over a cliff into a fiery explosion, from atop the cliff Wells and Saxton watch the alien's incineration. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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