Horror Express (Spain-Great Britain, 1973):
(Pánico en el Transiberiano)

Though Hammer axioms Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are at hand, Eugenio Martín's Gothic chiller remains a prime staple of the decade's still-unexplored Spanish horror wave, alongside such alluring items as The House That Screamed, The Blood-Splattered Bride and Vampyros Lesbos. Lavish by the genre's standards, the movie introduces the eponymous choo-choo with a luxuriant craning-out visual nod to Von Sternberg's own Oriental ride, and, accordingly, the plot accommodates a clandestine Mata Hari (Helga Liné) and even intimations of wit (Cushing: "Monster?! We're British, you know.") The monster is a fossilized missing-link found encrusted in glaciers, boarded up and sent aboard the express in 1906 Manchuria; Lee plays the stuffy archeologist in charge and, unexpectedly, officious straight-man to Cushing's laid-back traveling surgeon. The cargo's been dubbed "unholy" by a station-platform Rasputin (Alberto de Mendoza) before it's even loaded in, so it's only a matter of time for the hairy, glowing-eyed humanoid in the box to break out and begin draining passengers' brains through their peepers. An entire Cossack regiment, under Telly Savalas' hambone command, is decimated only to roam the cars moments later as bleeding zombies, but Martín is up to more than walking-dead rehash -- the troglodyte is revealed as the latest host for a body-jumping intergalactic shape with an Ice Age slideshow imprinted in its retina and, as a "visitor," of interest to both Lee's chilly, scientific pragmatism and mad-monk de Mendoza's brimstone hysteria. Evolutionary horror, or spiritual unrest? Either way, the express keeps chugging across the snowy expanses, the complacent opulence about to be shaken up by intruding (moral?) forces. With Silvia Tortosa, Julio Peña, and Georges Rigaud.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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