Saturday, 22 September 2012

Nightmare Journey

For about 45 minutes, 'Horror Express' is really, really cool, before degenerating into chaotic tedium. A bit of what I like to call a Europudding (i.e. a complicated production, usually made on the continent) it has British stars, a French script, a Spanish director and an American producer and guest star. Oh, and it's set in China and Russia (although not filmed there).

It's 1906. Fossil hunter Christopher Lee (rubbish, he just keeps 'tutting' at everyone) discovers a two million year old man-ape hybrid frozen in a cave in Manchuria and decides to take it home to England. What he doesn't realise (how could he?) is that his artefact is actually an alien who can survive indefinitely simply by transferring himself into other creatures, including humans. Before you can say 'it's a bit like The Thing, innit?' the horrible, hairy creature is loose in the confines of an express train, killing people by sucking their minds dry with its single pulsating red eye, and making life very difficult for Lee and Peter Cushing (another scientist who, coincidentally, has caught the same train).

For a while, it's pretty tense, but it soon runs out of steam (sorry) once the original monster has been dispatched and it takes human form - and it jumps the proverbial shark completely when Cushing & Lee make slides of gunk from its eyes and see visual memories of a Brontosaurus and a Pterodactyl floating around under the microscope.

Just when you think it's hit rock bottom, Telly Savalas turns up. Now I have a massive amount of time for Aristotelis, but this is not his finest hour at all - he's rotten in it, and his appearance is so perfunctory you wonder why he even bothered (oh yeah - money). there's a brief hurrah at the end with a load of living dead cossacks and a toy train crash but, really, after the excitement of the start, it's an awful disappointment.

Anyway, the music is good, and at least half of the film is excellent, so it's not a complete write off. Here's the end theme, by John Cacavas, a kitchen sink job, part Spaghetti Western, part Rosemary's Baby, part Barbarella.


  1. is it wrong that the slide of the dinosaurs is my favourite part of the film?

    1. I always assumed that the creatures under the microscope were the results of science FACT.

      It might be worth adding that I failed biology at school.