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Film / Horror Express

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Horror Express is a British/Spanish horror film. It was released in 1972 and stared Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Telly Savalas. It is loosely based on the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell. It's also one of the very rare films where both Lee and Cushing play characters on the same side who become friends, which they reportedly enjoyed.

The plot kicks off when a group of explorers lead by Alexander Saxton (Lee) discover the mummified body of an ancient hominid in an icy cave in Manchuria. Excited about the find and its implications for modern science, Saxton arranges for it to be shipped back to England on the Trans-Siberian Express. The specimen soon becomes the center of controversy when it goes missing from its shipping crate, with only a trail of bodies to give any clues as to who (or what) is responsible for its disappearance.


This film has examples of:

  • Artistic License – Biology: The convolutions of the brains of the creature's victims are discovered during their autopsies to be completely smoothed out. This is interpreted as proof the victims' memories were somehow drained out of them. The convolutions of the cerebrum are merely its gross anatomy, whereas memories are stored at the cellular and chemical levels of structure; forgetting one's memories would no more "smooth them out" than forgetting one's identity would "smooth out" one's fingerprints.
  • Big Bad: The unnamed creature terrorizing the train.
    • Though the alien being is the dominant threat of the film, the Cossack officer Captain Kazan is menacing enough to push straight past mere Asshole Victim into more important “bad guy” territory, especially with his Cold-Blooded Torture of innocent passengers. He and his men do pull an Enemy Mine with the two main characters and the other passengers once they find out who the creature is, not that it helps much...
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  • Deadly Gaze: The alien can switch bodies or absorb the mind's of other by staring into their eyes.
  • Dead Man's Chest: The alien kills the baggage man and places his corpse in the crate it had escaped from.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Apparently Captain Kazan finds it a fitting punishment to brutally whip a man for calling him a fool and that is after he threatens and pushes everyone around him.
  • Enemy Mine: While hostile towards the passengers at first, Captain Kazan and the other Cossacks eventually team up with Saxton and Wells in trying to stop the creature. Unfortunately, they're massacred before they can even get their hands on it.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Countess Petrovski's poodle starts whimpering and struggling in her arms when it's near the crate containing the alien.
  • Eye Remember: Dr. Wells and Prof. Saxton discover that all the things seen by the creature are retained within the eye of the ape man that it used to inhabit.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Sported by one of Captain Kazan's cossacks.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: While initially distrusting of one another due to a history of academic rivalry, Saxton and Wells are forced to work together to prevent the creature’s killing spree from spreading and eventually begin to warm up to each other.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: The alien enters a compartment containing three sleeping children, and approaches threateningly towards them, but leaves without killing them: presumably because they possessed no knowledge it wanted to absorb.
  • Improvised Lockpick: The creature bends a nail and uses it to pick the padlock holding its crate shut.
  • Leit Motif: The film's main theme is this for the alien, and almost every time it's heard through the running time is because the alien whistles it In-Universe, having absorbed the tune from one of its early victims.
  • Loony Fan: Father Pujardov is fascinated by the alien, believing it to be Satan. He even tries to worship it, much to the creature’s annoyance.
  • Mister Muffykins: The Countess owns a lapdog named Alinka that doubles as an Evil-Detecting Dog.
  • Monochromatic Eyes: Victims of the alien develop completely white eyes, which turn red when it reanimates them to fight the heroes.
  • Never Split The Party: Prof. Saxton tells everyone to stay in pairs for protection against whoever the alien has possessed.
  • Not Worth Killing: The alien finds the crazy Pujardov specifically not worth consuming.
    Father Pujardov: Are you going to kill me?
  • Pistol-Whipping: Performed at least twice, against Dr. Wells's back and Prof. Saxton's stomach courtesy of some rather cruel Cossacks to whom they dared to backtalk.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Countess Petrovski threatens to have Captain Kazan sent to Siberia, his reply is a bemused "I am in Siberia."
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The alien has red glowing eyes whenever it feeds on someone.
  • Red Right Hand: Aside from the glowing red eyes, any creature the alien possesses also has a deformed left hand.
  • Redshirt Army: The Cossacks at first seem to pose a threat to the creature, being heavily armed and well-trained. Once the creature reveals himself, however, they go down like flies.
  • The Sociopath: The creature is willing to body snatch and murder anybody he has to to get off of Earth.
  • Starfish Aliens: The alien is an entity of thought that could be described as a very mean Energy Being. It can take over people's minds—several at a time, be they dead or alive. Those it possesses have their minds cleaned out by removing the wrinkles in the brain so they can't think. The only telltale clue is that those possessed by it have glowing red eyes in dim light.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Captain Kavan brutally lashes a man with a cat-o'-nine-tails for calling him a fool.
  • Tears of Blood: The alien absorbs the minds of others by staring into their eyes, which then start shedding blood.
  • Thriller on the Express: People are trapped with an alien on a train that's travelling through Russia.
  • Weakened by the Light: The alien's powers are thwarted by strong light.


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