Horror Express features Hammer horror veterans Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in a Hammer-esque film -- but not made by Hammer studios. Lee's character, Professor Saxton, has discovered a "missing link" type corpse frozen in some caves in China and, as he boards a train to cross Siberia with his prize, finds himself in the company of fellow scientist Dr. Wells (Cushing), some Russian royalty, a mad Monk, a police inspector, and some easily panicked passengers.
As one might expect, the thing that Saxton has locked in a crate in the baggage compartment is still alive and now it wants blood. In a strange twist on the standard "monster in a confined space" plot, this creature can transfer itself into the body of another person, making for some rather silly developments as the utterly rational scientists try to play "Spot the Monster." Things only get worse when Telly Savalas arrives as a Cossack who hijacks the train. Campy monster fun for fans of Lee and Cushing.
What a relief to see this movie presented in a decent manner! Given the relative obscurity of the film, it's not surprising that the film original isn't in great shape, but the transfer is as good as one could hope it to be. Properly letterboxed (not much image gained versus the fullscreen, but now the opening credits can be read) and with crystal clear sound. Compare it to the inferior Simitar transfer and you'd likely weep for joy. If you must own a copy of Horror Express, don't scrimp. Buy this version.
The extras are a bit sparse on this particular disc, but one notable feature is the music and sound-effects only audio track, which strips the dialogue out and lets you listen to every rustle of paper and musical sting without interference. It's almost like watching an old silent picture, especially given the gothic nature of the film and Lee's overly dramatic acting style.
There are 18 chapter stops, mercifully labeled with appropriate titles, and filmography listings for both Cushing and Lee. Nothing you couldn't get from a dozen other sources, but perhaps useful when someone asks where they've seen one of the two principal actors before.
Chris Holland, 6/13/00