Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Horror Express (1972)

This is the second cinematic adaptation of the short story "Who Goes There?".  You may have heard of the third such adaptation - a little John Carpenter number called The Thing.

This film was made ten years before Carpenter's, and features Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in one of their many screen collaborations.  Lee is a biologist, transporting an ancient fossilised ape-man on the Trans-Siberian railway.  Cushing is his friend and rival whom also happens to be on the same train.  Their characters have names of course, but I'm just going to call them Lee and Cushing here.

Unfortunately for both men - and for all the passengers on the train, come to that - Lee's fossil is a lot more active than it ought to be.  It escapes the large crate in which it has been stored, murdering the porter in the process.

Lee deduces exactly what happened, which is a pretty amazing leap of logic to make.  Naturally a police inspector who happens to be aboard is more skeptical, but he orders a search of the train be conducted.  This leads to the death of one of the men doing the searching.  Noticing that the two corpses share the same strange, white eyes, the Inspector asks Cushing to do an autopsy.  He discovers that the dead man's brain is completely unwrinkled, indicating that all the memories have been drained from it.

Stop giggling.  I'm sure that scene is full of highly credible scientific information!

Anyway, Lee is exonerated and the hunt is now on for the monster.  What our heroes don't realise however, is that the beast is merely a host for the real menace: a disembodied energy-being, capable of seizing control of another living creature if its current form should be slain.

This is a tolerable enough bit of low budget 70s horror, though it doesn't do a good job of hiding its limited resources: the prehistoric man-ape looks quite dreadful, and the very restricted number of sets is quite apparent.  Perhaps they felt their money was better spent on having Telly Savalas turn up halfway through to chew scenery like a madman.  (It wasn't)

Ultimately though, the real downfall of this film is that Carpenter's movie exists.  If you're going to watch a screen adaptation of "Who Goes There?", why would you choose the lesser option?

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