THE QUOTABLE CUSHING: HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

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Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee team up to hunt down an alien monster loose on a train in HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee team up to hunt down an alien monster in HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

THE QUOTABLE CUSHING:  HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

By

Michael Arruda

 

Welcome to another edition of THE QUOTABLE CUSHING, that column where we look at memorable quotes from classic Peter Cushing movies.  This column exists because I’m a lifelong Peter Cushing fan, and his movie performances are a major reason why I entered the horror writing business.  This column is a celebration of sorts of some of the highlights of Peter Cushing’s career.

 

Today on THE QUOTABLE CUSHING, we look at quotes from one of my favorite non-Hammer Peter Cushing movies, HORROR EXPRESS (1972).  The majority of my favorite Peter Cushing films were all made by England’s famed Hammer Studios, but HORROR EXPRESS was not.

 

HORROR EXPRESS tells a neat story about an alien creature on the loose on a Trans-Siberian train, and it’s up to Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to stop it.  HORROR EXPRESS is notable because it’s one of the few times in the movies that Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee played characters who end up working together to take on a common foe.  Usually, they’re pitted against each other, most of the time with Cushing as the hero and Lee as the villain or monster.  In this case, they play rival scientists who really don’t like each other all that much, but when the creature starts murdering people on the train, they put aside their differences and team up to stop the threat.

 

The other fun thing about this movie is that Peter Cushing gets most of the good lines.  So, let’s have a look at some of these memorable quotes from HORROR EXPRESS, screenplay by Arnaud d’Usseau and Julian Zimet.

 

The monster is loose on the Trans-Siberian Express.  At first, it appears to be an ape monster, the missing link fossil that Professor Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee) brought on board the train, but later it’s discovered that it was really an alien inhabiting the body of the ape fossil, and this alien is able to transfer itself from one host body to another.  So, no one on board the train knows the identity of the monster, since it keeps switching bodies.

 

In this scene, the police inspector on board happens upon rival scientists Saxton and Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing) and sees that they’re working together to discover the identity of the monster.  The Inspector’s suggestion provokes a shocked reaction from Cushing’s Dr. Wells:

 

INSPECTOR:  The two of you together.  That’s fine.  But what if one of you is the monster?

 

DR. WELLS (shocked):  Monster?  We’re British, you know!

 

 

The film is full of humor like this, and most of the lighthearted lines come from Peter Cushing’s Dr. Wells.   Since HORROR EXPRESS is actually quite scary, the comic relief in the film is very welcomed. 

 

Take this line for example, which occurs after an early murder on the train.  The Inspector needs someone to examine the murder victim, and so he seeks out Dr. Wells, interrupting the doctor’s dinner.

 

INSPECTOR:  Is it true you’re a doctor?

 

DR. WELLS:  Ask me when I’ve finished my dinner.

 

 

Probably the funniest lines in the movie come a moment later, when Dr. Wells seeks out his assistant Miss Jones (Alice Reinhart) for help with the autopsy.

 

DR. WELLS:  Miss Jones, I shall need your assistance.

 

Miss Jones then glances at Dr. Wells’ dinner companion, an attractive young lady.

 

MISS JONES:  Yes, well at your age, I’m not surprised.

 

DR. WELLS (realizing what she’s talking about):  With an autopsy!

 

MISS JONES:  Oh, well that’s different.

 

 

My favorite Peter Cushing line from HORROR EXPRESS is one of the best lines in the movie.  It comes early in the film, when the police discover the dead body of the baggage man inside the crate where Professor Saxton’s fossil was supposed to be.

 

After listening to Professor Saxton’s explanation of what he believes happened, Wells has this reaction: 

 

DR. WELLS:  Are you telling me that an ape that lived two million years ago got out of that crate, killed the baggage man and put him in there, then locked everything up neat and tidy, and got away?

 

PROFESSOR SAXTON:  Yes, I am!

 

 

Well, that’s it for now.  I hope you enjoyed this edition of THE QUOTABLE CUSHING, and feel free to check out HORROR EXPRESS.  It’s a hellluva thrill ride, one of the better Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee movies.

 

Thanks for reading!  And I’ll see you next time!

 

—Michael

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

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Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in HORROR EXPRESS

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in HORROR EXPRESS

This IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column on the Christopher Lee – Peter Cushing horror movie HORROR EXPRESS (1972) is now up in the April edition of the HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER.

It’s a reprint of a column which originally was published in the HWA NEWSLETTER in April 2006.  And remember you can read all of my IN THE SPOOKLIGHT columns in my IN THE SPOOKLIGHT EBook, available now at www.neconebooks.com.

HORROR EXPRESS is one of my favorite Peter Cushing-Christopher Lee movies, and I had fun writing about this one.  Hope you enjoy it.

—-Michael

 

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT

By

Michael Arruda

 

You gotta see HORROR EXPRESS (1972), at least once, anyway.

Though it stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, it’s not a Hammer Film, and this actually works in the film’s favor, because as a result of not being part of the “Hammer formula” it’s offbeat and refreshing.  It’s an international production, Spanish-British, filmed just outside Madrid at a studio that Christopher Lee described in his autobiography Tall, Dark, and Gruesome as “unspeakable.”   “The food was deadly, salmonella the principal sauce,” Lee wrote.

HORROR EXPRESS was written and directed by Gene (Eugenio) Martin on the same train sets from the movie NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA (1971), which the producer owned.

Christopher Lee plays anthropologist Sir Alexander Saxton who brings a fossil of what he hopes will be the missing link on the Trans-Siberian Express.  The frozen remains of the “man-ape” causes a stir before it even makes it onto the train.  A thief attempts to break into the crate housing the fossil, but ends up dead and inexplicably blind.  Peter Cushing plays rival scientist Dr. Wells, also on board the train.

Once the train starts moving, the monster escapes from the crate and the fun begins. 

Perhaps the most fun part about this movie is the script by director Gene Martin.  HORROR EXPRESS is not your run of the mill monster on the loose movie.  The script fills the tale with twists and turns that keep you guessing throughout.  It turns out, that the monster is not just an ape-man creature gone amok.  There’s much more going on here, which I won’t give away. 

The monster itself is quite chilling looking with frightening make-up and glowing red eyes.

You can’t talk about HORROR EXPRESS without talking about the performances.  The whole cast is good, particularly Alberto de Mendoza as the priest, Pujardov, and Julio Pena as the police inspector.  Of course, you have Lee and Cushing, and the most fun part about their performances in this movie, is that, unlike most of their films, where they’re adversaries, one the good guy, the other the villain, here, they work together against a common enemy.  They’re both given star screen time too, it’s not like one’s the star, and the other just has a cameo.  They’re both on screen doing their thing, and it’s tons of fun watching them work together taking on a deadly creature.

HORROR EXPRESS is also blessed with an abundance of humor.  For instance, in one scene, Cushing approaches his middle-aged female assistant to help him with an autopsy, and he says, “I shall need some assistance.”  She glances at the young woman he’s been having dinner with on the train and says, “Well, at your age, I’m not surprised.”

And just when you think the film can’t get any more unpredictable, who shows up but TELLY SAVALAS (!!!) (Yes, the original KOJAK himself!) as the ruthless Cossack, Captain Kazan, who stops the train with his regiment of brutal soldiers. 

Savalas gets to ham it up and deliver lines like, “The devil must be afraid of one honest Cossack,” (Or was that, “The devil must be afraid of one honest Cossack, baby?”).  The only thing missing is the lollipop in his mouth.  He even gets to bully Lee and Cushing.  It’s great stuff.  You’ll never forget it.

The film has a gory, bloody conclusion.  In fact, there’re generous amounts of blood and gore throughout HORROR EXPRESS.

There’s also a haunting music score by John Cavacas.

 Ready for a vacation?  Take a trip on the HORROR EXPRESS.  You’ll have fun, but be wary of bald Cossacks sucking lollipops.

 —END—