Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 15th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: UK / Spain, 1972
Director: Eugenio Martín
Writers: Arnaud d’Usseau, Julian Zimet
Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Alberto de Mendoza, Silvia Tortosa, Julio Peña, Ángel del Pozo, Telly Savalas, Helga Liné
BluRay released: November 29th, 20110
Approximate running time: 88 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Stereo Spanish
BluRay Release: Severin Films
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.98
Synopsis: The passengers of Trans-Siberian Express train are being stalked and killed by a prehistoric creature finds sanctuary by inhabiting a hosts body.
Horror Express was directed by Eugenio Martino, who’s other notable films include Death at the Deep End of the Swimming Pool, Bad Man’s River and Pancho Villa. The cinematographer on Horror Express was Alejandro Ulloa, who’s other notable films as a cinematographer include, The Diabolical Dr. Z, The Mercenary, Perversion Story, Eagles Over London and Companeros. Horror Express is also known by the alternative title, Panic in the Trans-Siberian Train, which is also the English translation for the films Spanish language title Pánico en el Transiberiano.
Confining a story to primarily one location has long been a staple of the Horror film genre. And in the case of Horror Express, the bulk of the film takes place on a train.
Content wise, this is not your run of the mill body count Horror film. First off, the killer is a extraterrestrial being that keeps its identity a secret by leaping from one hosts body to the next. And while there are many elements that one would associate with the Horror film genre, one must not overlook the more Sci-Fi influenced aspects of this film production. In fact one could easily argue that this films enduring popularity, owes a great debt to the incorporating of Sci-Fi elements into the story at hand.
The narrative moves along at a brisk pace, with each new revelation spread out just long enough, that momentum is never hampered. The death scenes are creepy and heap reinforce the eerie atmosphere that is prevalent throughout. If anything, the one area where this film does not hold up as well are its special effects, especially the shoots of the creatures blood being viewed on a microscope.
Performance wise, the entire cast are all exemplary in their respective roles, with Peter Cushing (The Horror of Dracula) and Christopher Lee (The Wicker Man) being neck in neck for this films most memorable performances. Another performance of note is Telly Savalas (Pretty Maids in a Row) portrays a sadistic Cossack named Captain Kazan.
Horror Express comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. Though Horror Express has been released several times before on various home video formats, many of these releases did not due this film any favors. For this release Severin Films have sourced their transfers from the best available elements known to exist, colors have never look better, black levels also look very good and details look crisp throughout. And while this is easily the best this film has looked on home video, this transfer is not as definitive as fans of this film would have hoped for, since there are noticeable issues with compression and edge enhancement that crops up in various degrees throughout.
This release comes with two audio options, a Dolby Digital Mono mix in English and a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in Spanish (no English subtitles). Dialog comes through clearly on both audio mixes and everything sounds balanced throughout. Of the two, the Spanish audio mix is the weaker and not just because of the lack of English subtitles. There is mild background hiss that varies in degree and the audio also sounds flatter on the Spanish audio.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (2 minutes 53 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), a introduction with Fangoria editor Chris Alexander (6 minutes 50 seconds – 4:3 full frame), interviews with director Eugenio Martín (13 minutes 59 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), composer John CacaVas (8 minutes 5 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and producer Bernard Gordon (30 minutes 30 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and a lengthy audio interview with actor Peter Cushing, that plays out like a audio commentary track.
The intro with Fangoria’s editor Chris Alexander is in line with the one that he did for Severin Films release of Psychomania. The interview with Eugenio Martino who discusses the origins of the project and the cast, most notably working with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The interviews with John CacaVas and Bernard Gordon are more career retrospective, that only gloss over their participation in Horror Express. Without a doubt the most impressive extra included with this release is the audio interview with Peter Cushing, who candidly talks about various films he has worked on up to that point (this interview was conducted in 1973), as well as actors like Christopher Lee and directors whom he had worked with. Also included with this release are trailers for Psychomania, The House That Dripped Blood and Nightmare Castle. Overall Horror Express gets a well rounded release from Severin Films.
Note: Also included with this combo release is a DVD copy that has all the contents that are included on the BluRay counterpart.