The Horror Express is a bit like a long lurching train ride through the countryside – it takes a while to get started, but once it does you’ll probably like where it’s going.
A corpse of some kind was discovered in the depths of Manchuria and has been secured to its eventual destination onboard the Trans Siberian Express. Questions pop up right away when a handler dies while inspecting the body before its allowed onboard, but no matter, those questions are brushed aside by the Professor who quickly rushes the body onto the train. The body, it turns out, is actually an evil space alien who can kill anyone with one look into his glowing red eyes. The only catch is that the lights have to be off. The alien gets out and starts picking apart its victims one by one. Later, it’s revealed that the monster can take the form of anyone it touches and a dangerous game of cat and mouse is played, as no is sure who the monster really is.
Christopher Lee stars as one of those lovable people that only seem to exist in horror movies that pick up an evil specimen of some kind, always seem to know more than they’re letting on, and don’t seem to be terribly bothered when the bodies start piling up. He naturally plays the evil professor that cares less about human life than he does research, until of course his own life is threatened.
Peter Cushing also stars, sort of. He doesn’t seem to really do much in the course of the movie, other than befriend Christopher Lee and help him to calm down the denizens of the train.
Alberto De Mendoza plays an old demented priest along for the ride who keeps mumbling something about how the creature is evil and from Satan. Eventually in a humorous twist, the priest ends up serving the alien, convinced that he is Satan.
Joining us near the end in a role that really wakes the doldrums out of the movie is Telly Savalas as Captain Kazan who boards the train because of a distress signal and puts everyone under arrest. He gives no quarter to anyone and his gruff treatment of the passengers of the train is really quite humorous.
The Horror Express is basically standard 70’s movie fare where some calamity is happening and no one knows why. Oh wait, I forgot, that still happens today. The main characters, with the notable exception of Mr. Savalas, all move around in an awkward stilted kind of fashion that seems way too dramatic for the proceedings. It doesn’t really lend itself to much drama or horror, but apparently back then this was your basic method for instilling a sense of creepiness in your audience. William Shatner and his brand of overacting would have fit right in with the rest of the cast if you put a moustache on him and called him a Cossack. Speaking of moustache's check out the facial hair on Christopher Lee on this one, it totally rules.
Look out for the evil alien turn of Alberto de Mendoza who’s character becomes such a slave to the alien being (he’s convinced that he is Satan) that he allows himself to become the alien when the alien’s host body is dying.
Amazingly enough despite its slow awkward beginning and pointless dialogue by the passengers of the train it actually does start to pick up as the alien being gets more and more desperate and starts to go on a killing spree. It is also shown that he actually possesses the bodies of his victims by willing his essence to leap into them after death. Because he cannot use his magical glowing eye powers with the lights on, he is actually trapped in one scene by our good doctor, Christopher Lee, and he discusses his origins which sound like they were ripped straight from Sci-Fi Fan Fiction #8. Oh well, in the end he dies anyway and our heroes are saved! If only Telly Savalas was around to see this.