• Horror Express (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review + Screenshots



    Studio: Arrow Video

    Release Date: December 1973 (theatrical) / February 12th, 2019 (blu-ray)

    Run Time: 88 mins

    Region Code: FREE

    Picture: 1080p (1.66:1 aspect ratio)

    Sound: English LPCM 1.0

    Subtitles: English SDH

    Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Telly Salavas

    Written by Arnaud d'Usseau and Julian Zimet 

    Directed by Eugenio Martín (as Gene Martin)

    Rating: R (some horror violence and gore)




    THE FILM

    In 1906, in China, Professor Alexander Saxton discovers an ancient frozen fossil in the remote Province of Szechuan. He brings the remains of the being in a box to Shanghai and boards a trans-Siberian train, where he meets his acquaintance Dr. Wells. During the trip, a life force trapped in the frozen creature is released, killing and stealing the memories of the passengers.

    That plot might sound amazing to you. It did to me. How could you NOT want to see a monster movie, set on a moving train, with two on England’s most iconic actors? This film seems like it was made just for me. Then why did I not like it as much as I wanted to?

    The first half of the film is really good. We meet the characters, we see what the monster can do, and we get Agatha Christe like intrigue and suspicion. All of this is set up in some wonderful scenes with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing putting in their usual great performances. Everything falls into place very nicely and I was excited to see what was coming next.



    The film then falls into a rut. Many people are killed by the monster, but the scenes just feel like a “been there, done that” thing. Someone wonders off to do whatever, the monster shows up, and the person dies. That is really all there is to this first half. The filmmakers knew this and the second half of the film is something different. The monster can now take over people’s bodies (like The Thing) and is still killing. I thought this was a neat idea, but they go the boring route of having the monster (inside a human shell) talk just like the person it is inhabiting. The monster doesn’t really act strange or anything like that. In fact, it doesn’t really act alien at all. (The monster is an alien which just complicates things. If the monster had just been a monster, it would have worked better than “it's an alien and it can take over people and how would the people on the train be able to figure this out?”.

    If this is sounding a lot like The Thing from Another World, or more precisely, John Carpenter’s The Thing, then you would be right on the money. Except for the third act, this film plays out a lot like either The Thing films. We have people trapped inside of an isolated place. We have a monster that is killing people in a fairly brutal manner. We have a monster/alien who is taking over people and trying its best to hide so that it can kill more people. We even have a test administered by the two leads that will be able to tell who is the monster and who isn’t. To say that Carpenter and company were not at least inspired by Horror Express when writing and making The Thing would be an understatement.



    So what didn’t I like about the film? Well, the third act would be a major point of contention. The film does become very stale by the time the third act comes along, but the way the filmmakers try to pep the film up is just really odd. I won’t get into specifics, but the monster can do things now that we never ever saw it do before. It felt as if the filmmakers had written themselves into a corner and just threw a hail mary pass to get the film going again. It didn’t work for me. I know that it worked for a lot of people, but by that time I just couldn’t buy into anything that they were selling.

    Horror Express is a film that squanders what it builds up by having a third act that comes out of nowhere. We do get some great Telly Savalas overacting in the third act, but it can’t save the film. A better third act and a better structure for the monster would have helped this film immensely. Horror Express is worth checking out just for the leads and the first half. I didn’t hate the film. I was just disappointed with where the film ended up going.



    THE PICTURE AND THE SOUND

    Horror Express was previously released on blu-ray by Severin Films, but I can not comment on that release as I have never owned it. This release, from Arrow Video, looks great. First thing is the grain which is nicely done throughout the entire film, reminded us that this was indeed shot on film. Colors look great as do skin tones. The red blood really stands out. Contrast isn’t heightened or lowered, looking just right. There is even depth to the picture that I wasn’t expecting. All in all this is a great looking picture.

    The sound is lossless, of course, and sounds great. Dialogue is crisp and clean and the score, by John Cacavas, comes through loud and clear.

    English subtitles are included as well.



    THE PACKAGING

    Horror Express was sent to us as a check disc and therefore I can not review the actual packaging. I can say that it will feature all of the Arrow Video mainstays: a reversible cover with newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys and a booklet with info about the transfer and audio and a newly written essay on the film by Adam Scovell.

    The disc is REGION FREE

    THE FEATURES




     Introduction by Chris Alexander (6m 50s, HD) This intro was done for the Severin release and is only accessible by playing the film with the introduction.


    Ticket to Die (8m 31s, HD) Filmmaker Steve Haberman offers up an appreciation of Horror Express.


    Night Train to Nowhere (15m 8s, HD) Filmmaker Ted Newsom on Horror Express and his late friend, producer Bernard Gordon.


    Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express (14m 3s, HD) An archival interview with director Eugenio Martin.


    Notes from the Blacklist (30m 30s, SD) Archival 2005 interview with Horror Express producer Bernard Gordon, who discusses filmmaking during the McCarthy era.


    Telly and Me (8m 9s, HD) Archival interview with composer John Cacavas

    Theatrical Trailer (2m 57s, HD, 1.78:1)

    Audio Commentary with Kim Newman and Stephen Jones

    All of the special features are worth watching. The interviews are all in depth and informative, especially the interview with Bernard Gordon and his dealings with being on the Hollywood Blacklist. The commentary by Kim Newman and Stephen Jones is worth the price of admission alone. These two are quickly becoming my favorite commentators.



    OVERALL

    While I didn’t like Horror Express, I can still recognize why people love it. It has everything that a film like this should have: great acting, intrigue, suspense, horror, a monster. All of this is great. It didn’t add up to a good film in my book, but others love and that is great. The blu-ray is really nice, though, with a lot of love and care put into it. If you are a fan of the film then this is the release to get.

    MORE SCREENSHOTS:








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