Synopsis: In 1906 a British anthropologist on a Chinese expedition discovers a frozen prehistoric creature and must transport it to Europe by train.
Which is the greatest pairing in all of cinematic horror? Is it Abraham Van Helsing vs. Dracula? Perhaps Dr. Frankenstein vs. The Monster he created. In terms of the iconic movie characters this list would go on for all eternity yet if one were look at two men who were given the opportunity to play those four characters mentioned above a lot of film historians will universally proclaim that Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are the greatest match up in the genre. Perhaps no set of actors have worked more with one another starring in well over 20 productions together. You’d almost expect when searching for the definition of typecasting in the dictionary to see portraits of Lee and Cushing next to one another. Than again sometimes you meet a person who is a kindred spirit and an absolute privilege to share quick-witted dialogue with so what’s to stop you from signing on when a movie studio calls and asks ‘Would you consider doing a new picture with your one of your dearest friends once more?’ Horror Express is one of those rare projects where Christopher Lee wasn’t decked out in makeup or acting through prosthetics. Instead he is a rather uptight but highly intellectual scientist who has recently found a scientific discovery that will change the history of mankind forever. Along for the ride is Cushing who plays a doctor and friendly rival who is naturally curious to see what sort of find has been unearthed. On the way from Shanghai to Moscow the discovery suddenly wakes up breaking free of its containment and starts killing a group of hapless victims in a very unique manner – draining all of their intelligence out through the eyes.
The most popular adaptations of John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There? conjure up images of James Arness stumbling around as a weird looking plant alien right as he’s about to be lit up like a Christmas tree or how in 1982 Rob Bottin’s revolutionary special effects made audiences sick to their stomachs. The gentlemanly Lee and Cushing are the last two actors anyone would expect to find offering a much different take on the popular sci-fi/horror novella. Depending on your expectations Horror Express might disappoint as it relies more on being the slow burn murder/mystery rather than a full on gore fest and no I’m not talking Bottin level Thing-outs here since this is 1972 after all. While there is a fair amount of blood and even a graphic little autopsy scene when the otherworldly being reveals itself my immediate reaction wasn’t one of fear or revulsion but rather my mind wondered if several camera angles influenced James Cameron when he shot the original Terminator (the initial being has a bright red eye that in shadow sort of looks reminiscent of everyone’s favorite T-800). With the passing of Christopher Lee earlier this summer I wanted to give him a proper Schlocktoberfest send off. I truly hope wherever he is now both he and Peter Cushing are catching up and putting on some more great performances. With every passing day we get closer and closer to losing other classically trained actors from this golden era so value every piece of artistry they’ve given us, they’ll remain forever timeless. Thanks for the memories Mr. Lee.
Final Grade: B