harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,
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Movie Reviewed: Horror Express

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Horror Express a.k.a. Pánico en el Transiberiano
(1972)

Starring: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Alberto De Mendoza, Silvia Tortosa
DIR: Eugenio Martín


Blurb [edited - the back of the box is really wordy]: In the early 1900s, anthropologist Alexander Saxton unearths in China what he believes to be the scientific find of the new century: the centuries-old frozen body of a gigantic ape-like man, a veritable "missing link". Booking a ticket on the train back to Europe with his crated-up, but still very healthy discovery, he joins an international group of passengers on a nightmarish adventure aboard the HORROR EXPRESS.





Sc01: We start with an extensive black screen and the sound of a train whistle, before we finally get some relief in the form of a headlight from that train illuminating our cast.

Also joining us is a whistled theme. [You should just resign to loving it, because you're going to hear it A LOT.] The train light comes and goes, and gets bright in our eyes and withdraws as the cast names keep coming. Just when you think it's done, we get the entire crew credits!


Sc02: We cut to a scene of jagged peaks. We are in the Chinese province of Szechuan. As we pan among the mountain peaks, a voiceover records an audio testimony of an ill-fated expedition to Manchuria made by Professor Sir Alexander Saxton.

We pan down from the jagged mountain tops to find a troop of men climbing up the snow-touched mountainside. Alexander records to the committee of his Geologic Society that although he accepts the responsibility for the disaster that ended the expedition's work, he leaves it to them to assign blame.


Sc03: We join flashback-Saxton as he enters a cave and shines his spotlight around, nodding to himself in satisfaction. He is led along a path by his guide to a frozen man in the cave [with our repetitive tune], where he is pleased with both the discovery itself, and just how intact the find is.





Sc04: We blur-lens to later-flashback as the find has been crated and is now being ferried by more guides back down the mountainside. We end up at a train tracks in China for the trip back through Europe and toward England, eventually. The HORROR EXPRESS will be following a path through Southern Russia on its way.


Sc05: In the train depot office, Sir Alexander Saxton is annoyed when the depot clerk dares tell him that the train is fully booked. It's hard not to take Saxton's side, since he tells the official that he had sent a telegram three weeks ago to reserve passage on this train trip!

While the clerk takes a phone call, Alexander is unexpectedly joined by personal semi-rival, Dr. [Peter] Wells and his technician, Miss [Alice] Jones - also trying to return to Great Britain and also planning to travel on the same train. Peter was there to collect some sort of samples, and introduces Alice to Alexander as "he dabbles in fossils and bones", dryly. Peter tells Alexander that Miss Jones is an excellent technician, and she adds "for a woman, he means" with a wry smile.


Commentary: So, of course, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee on the screen together immediately causes a disruption in the space-time continuum because they're far too awesome apart, as it is. The only thing that I find a bit off here, is Lee's diction. He feels like he's forcing an 'upper crust' over-enunciation on every syllable. But this is a fine scene to set up the mild rivalry between the two men, who will undoubtedly have to work together to save the passengers' lives at some point.

I also want to put in a kudo for Alice Reinheart. She's immediately charming as the slightly sarcastic, but good-humored Miss Jones.



Sc06: Out on the platform, a Chinese man - well dressed, but suspicious acting - sidles up to Professor Sir Alexander Saxton's box-o'-body. He quickly gets rid of the guard standing over the crate by apparently pointing out suspicious activity further down the platform [nicely, it's in Chinese and not with subtitles - but we can get the gist].

Checking that he isn't being observed by the crowded, controlled chaos around him, our well-dressed-but-suspicious-acting gentleman pulls out a set of picklock keys and gets to work on the padlock that Saxton has securing the crate's contents.


Sc07: In the office, Dr. Wells tries to purchase two tickets aboard the soon-to-depart train. The clerk is sarcastic, before telling him it isn't possible - there is no room. However, Dr. Wells has the kind of money that Professor Saxton does not and waves some bills under the clerk's nose.


Sc08: On the platform, our sneak has broken into the crate - though if he is there by design looking to disrupt Saxton's work, or by chance just looking to lift a bit of loot remains unknown.

Whatever his plan, it didn't work out for him. Our guard comes back from his wild-goose chase to find the crate's sheet has been pulled back and the viewport slid open. Nearby, under the partially fallen sheet, lies the would-be thief.

And whatever happened, it has left the dead man with a case of white-eyes!





Sc09: Back in the office, the clerk has accepted his bribe to Dr. Wells' amusement, and Professor Saxton's disgust. Alexander excuses himself from Peter, and marches over to the clerk's desk. He first bangs on it with the end of his umbrella to get the corrupt man's attention. He then proceeds to push everything on the table onto the floor. From stage right, comes gendarmes overseeing British troops in Chinese territory at this time [this is history, and foreign history at that, so don't ask me to explain Great Britain's and China's exact relationship here].

Seeing the British police force, who would most likely have jurisdiction over the English train depot clerk, our depot master very suddenly recalls that he did have a seat reserved for Sir Alexander. What a lucky coincidence!

Both Peter and Alice are amused.


Sc10: Out on the platform, Russian priest Father Pujardov is chanting rites over the dead Chinese man, where the curious have gathered. He's joined by Inspector Julio Mirov [apparently another Russian -- again, don't ask me about the political goings-on at this time in history that has a Chinese train station being administered by a Brit, while local police are some combination of British and Russian personnel -- no wonder China has been so wary, if not hostile about the West and their neighbors to the North].

Anywho - the Father asks for mercy on the dead man's soul, while Mirov informs him that the man doesn't deserve it - as he is, in fact, a known thief.

Father [Alberto] [this is another movie where nobody seems to have a first name, so actor names are filling in] is surprised to find the man is a thief, considering he's blind. Julio tells him he could spot a copper a mile away, but when he looks down at the corpse, he sees why Father Pujardov is acting so confused. Mirov says, "I'll be damned," in shock at what he sees.

Our Father immediately calls it the work of the devil. The Father IMMEDIATELY rushes to the crate, and tries to break into it, sensing EEEEVIIIILL. He's stopped by the sudden appearance of the hook of Alexander's umbrella handle grabbing his arm. Saxton demands snootily if he can help the priest with something. The Father tells Saxton that whatever he has in the crate must be destroyed, and then lifts the sheet from dead guy so Sir Saxton can see the man's ruined eyes.

Obvs, Alexander calls poppycock on the whole thing. Mirov asks 'His Excellency' as to the contents of his locked crate and Saxton tells him it only contains fossils. Julio Mirov asks "What's a fossil?" [Oh, fuck me. I was going to make Mirov my movie love interest, because I find him intriguing looking - but I can't date a dummy.] Saxton tells him he has a large stone. Mirov asks if the 'stone' might not be gold, but Saxton scoffs that it's a laboratory specimen, and would hold no value to a thief.

Father Dipshit [I HATE this character. He will absolutely not be my movie-boyfriend] draws a cross on the platform with chalk he carries around, remarking where there is God, there is room for the Cross. But where SATAN dwells there is no room for the Cross. He tries to draw a cross on the crate, but no mark is left behind. While odd, Saxton accuses the priest of practicing a conjuror's trick. And without objection by Inspector Mirov, the Professor is allowed to stash his crate aboard the train.





Commentary: Okay. The reason that I loathe the Father's character is the intensely overacting happening by Alberto De Mendoza. "But, Harsens-Rob," I hear you ask - "Isn't Alberto in the starring list at the beginning of this review?" To which I break down weeping. But then I have to confirm that Father Alberto Pujardov - and his annoying over-emoting - will be with us the entire way.

It's also not helped any that he's not much of a 'holy man', either -- but more on that anon.



Sc11: Aboard the train, in the freight car already, Dr. Wells is checking on his own sample crates to make sure they're secured and won't be jostling all over the car during the trip. He evinces interest in Professor Saxton's large crate being loaded aboard.

Shortly after being loaded, Saxton hears a groan that appears to come from his crate. He opens it up briefly, but finds nothing amiss and the sound doesn't repeat. In the meantime, the train gives an 'all aboard' whistle, before finally getting underway.


Sc12: Wells comes up to Saxton in the baggage car to find out what Saxton will astound them all with this time. Alexander demures to Peter reading about it in the next Society journal. Saxton refers again to it being a fossil, but Peter tells him that he heard a groan, and accuses him of having something alive in the crate. Saxton responds that Wells is mistaken, in an impatient, clipped tone.

Our two gentleman and the baggage clerk are joined by Countess Irina Petrovska, who has come to secure something valuable wrapped in felt in the onboard safe. She's carrying a dog with her, who doesn't like whatever is in Saxton's crate.

While Saxton doesn't go into any more detail about the contents of his crate with the Polish Countess, either, the two do engage in some courtly flirting. The entire time the little dog has more and more of a freakout over being in the baggage compartment.

The Countess jokes that her husband, the Count, told her that the English betrayed them to the Russians in the 15th Century, and Saxton charmingly responds that he offers his deepest apologies. But their chaste, and yet still flirty engagement is interrupted by the toy poodle (I think) who has decided she is not having any more of being next to that damned crate, and nearly escapes the hold of the Countess.

[She never does get a receipt for her valuable in the train safe, so I hope the baggage clerk isn't another thief.]


Commentary: The setup for this film IS pretty long, I'll admit. But, I'm finding all of the actors engaging enough to not mind it TOO much. It's easier when I'm not trying to keep your interest until we get to the actual threat onboard. This is all talking, talking, talking. But, again, the characters are charming and the acting is quite good [with the only irritants being Father Pujardov who for some reason was allowed onboard, and later the Cossack- Kazan - who battles Father Alberto over the scene chewing].


Sc13: Later, Saxton is making his way down the passageway of the passenger compartment, when he finds a small chess pawn on the carpeting. He peeks in on a cabin, to find Yevtushenko playing a game by himself at his small cabin table.

[Ángel] [- again, no first name given for the character] introduces himself as an engineer - a scientist. He pulls from his pocket the piece of chalk that 'the mad monk' had tried to use on the crate at the platform but apparently dropped when it didn't work. He asks Saxton if he can explain how this ordinary piece of chalk failed to write on the crate, to which Saxton has no answer.

[I however, do. Idiot-Priest tried to write with white chalk on the white sheet covering the crate, and he didn't even press hard. Color me shocked that a mark wasn't clearly seen.]

Our Professor acts generally snotty and shuts the door on our engineer, before pausing in the corridor to wonder at the weirdness experienced just lately -- and everything revolving around his find.


Sc14: In the baggage car, Peter Wells IS STILL HANGING AROUND. He offers another bribe, this time to the baggage car attendant, offering that if "somebody" were to drill a small hole in the crate and take a peek at what Saxton has, well, he'd be very grateful.


Sc15: A bit later, still, the conductor and ticket agent is checking that everyone onboard has their purchased receipt for punching. Another character, a beautiful woman, pauses in obvious worry at the conductor asking her for proof she should be aboard. This is Natasha [and this time, she'll not get a last name, instead of the first] [Liné].

She quickly ducks into Professor Wells' cabin, and asks for assistance.

In the meantime, Professor Saxton finds himself nonplussed to find Miss Jones in his compartment, until she points out that he wants next door: Mr. Wells' compartment. What are the odds the two semi-rivals would get stuck in the same room for the long train trip?

In that room, Natasha is sobbing some sobby story of sobs, wrapping Doctor Wells around her finger [very possibly by his penis].

Saxton is, of course, displeased to find a woman in the already-going-to-be-tight quarters. Wells complains to Saxton that he was supposed to have the compartment to himself, but Saxton blusters with putting his things away without acknowledging the awkward situation, especially with the stranger still standing there weeping. She tells the others that she simply MUST get to Shanghai, and Peter explains to Alexander that the young lady is in trouble. Something that doesn't sway Alexander. Wells suggest he could double-bunk with someone else, and Alexander sarcasms perhaps with Miss Jones?

Natasha takes control, lying on Peter's bunk and removing her shoes to get comfy as she informs the two men that they'll all get along just fine with one another [leaving me, and apparently only me, asking why the Miss Jones idea isn't floated for where Natasha can hide out -- and why Peter Wells doesn't simply offer to buy her a ticket from the compartment agent, so she doesn't have to hide at all].


Commentary: Natasha is played by the lovely, smirky Helga Liné, and is just one more excellent actor to have been cast. Now, reportedly, this film was low-budget at around $300k. So, to see the actor lineup who signed on is incredible and the whole film is definitely raised by their presence since nothing but the mysterious death on the platform has occurred. I absolutely adore all of them - well, not ALL but I've already mentioned the painful standout who will be, alas, returning shortly.


Sc16: As night is falling, back in the baggage car, our bribed clerk grabs a screwdriver to break into Professor Saxton's crate o' corpse. He's whistling that tune.

We watch him undo several screws over the door in the crate - -  in real time. When he finally is able to open the door, and so get around the padlock issue, he finds the frozen body the rest of us have seen.

He's nonplussed by this, so leaves the room temporarily to get a light, that he didn't carry with him to begin with. As we hear a door click shut offscreen - presumably his office, we see a very not-dead arm reach through the door of the crate. A gnarly looking hand feels around until it comes across a loose nail which it then bends into a hook shape, and begins to use this to expertly lockpick the padlock!

In the meantime, full night occurs outside of the train, and there is little light in the compartment [this is important to how things work with the monster].


Commentary: I'm just going to insert here a comment about the ubiquitous main theme that is on the soundtrack and used by characters within scenes. I always found it somewhat melancholy and haunting - especially when it's whistled, and I don't want anyone to get the impression that I dislike it... like I dislike Pujardov. But, it does get on my nerves with the amount of time we hear it over and over.

I do have clear memories of little-me watching this film on Channel 20, weekend afternoon horror flick. It was dark grey, so probably late fall or early winter and this film left a lasting impression on me. And it is mostly due to this damned theme tune [and well... the eye thing for sure].



Sc17: Our baggage handler comes back with a lantern, but stops when he hears the clickity-clack and tings of the creature picklocking the padlock, and then dropping the nail to the floor. Alas for [Victor], he doesn't immediately think "I'm running", but instead stands there listening and trying to peer into the gloom.

The sounds of the chain attached to the padlock is heard by him, as the creature now yanks the chains holding it inside the crate. Victor dashes forward to grab the chains and stop what is happening, but when he peers into the darkness of the crate, a single glaring red eye looks back at him. He finds himself struck still.





As the creature continues to stare one-eyed at Victor, he starts to sway. And then... and then... [ahhhh!] his eyes start to white over, and bleed! [And my young psyche got permanently marked.]





Poor Victor, who only ever wanted to make a quick buck by allowing himself to be bribed to pry into someone else's personal property, falls dead to the baggage car floor. His eyes turned completely white, blood trickling from under the sockets and around his mouth!





With Victor's death, our creature continues freeing himself - and he starts whistling the very tune that our baggage clerk was whistling when he started to break into the crate!


Commentary: Ugh. So, I have a thing about eye-violence and even though there isn't anything to this but some white contact lenses and stage blood running from the lower lids, it was enough to completely scar little-me. This was hideous, and for awhile after seeing the film - I hated it. I hated that I'd watched it, and I tried to tell myself that it was a bad movie, maybe the worst movie, but that didn't stop the images of white, bloody eyes from intruding into my imagination. Thankfully, I've been able to appreciate the film on revisiting it as an adult.


Sc18: In the luxury car of the Count and Countess, we find that Father Pujardov is a traveling monk seeing to the spiritual needs of the royals -- even though they don't have much respect for him, very obviously. The dog seems to sense the evil aboard the train, because it whines incessantly [or maybe she's just sick of Pujardov, being stuck with him all evening, as she is]. Our priest offers the room that the stink of HELL is aboard.

The Countess asks her husband which dress she should wear when the charming Englishman comes calling. He's quite a bit older than his wife, and seems to take her open flirtations in stride. He offers she sounds awfully sure that he will come for a visit, and offers that the red or blue would be equally stunning on her. Pujardov accuses the Count, with respect I'm sure, that he's jesting with his wife's immortal soul, but the Count offers that is why he's kept around - to worry over protecting their souls from their own weaknesses. The dog whines in agreement that Pujardov is a humorless & over-reacting tool [I may be mistranslating].

The priest points to the dog and warns that she's afraid of something, but the Countess only teases him by asking him to suggest what she should wear "for the Englishman", deliberately trying to rope him into their decadence.

Alberto's answer to that is to warn her that he forbids her from speaking that way, to which the Count asks after his use of the word 'forbid' at his patrons. Pujardov immediately acquiesces and tells the Count that he forgot himself in his worry for the Countess' soul and he'll pray for humility for himself. The Count tells Pujardov to do so, or he'll be praying for a job, too.

As the Countess turns to her piano, they hear the whistling of the main theme echoing along the cars from somewhere, and with a puzzled smile, she plays along. [Because EVERYONE knows this tune, apparently.]


Commentary: Okay, I will give some sympathy to our 'mad monk', here. Living with these sinful twits, who very clearly don't respect his spiritual guidance in the least and are only keeping him around for appearances has got to suck ass. I can certainly understand the frustration of knowing your entire reason for being is utterly wasted here, but at the same time, being too dependent on their financial forebearance to just leave. But it doesn't make Pujardov any less excruciating to listen to, with his constant overwrought declarations of EVIL!!1!1! over EVERYthing.

And plus, you guys don't know it yet - but trust me, he's really the worst.



Sc19: Back in the baggage car, Inspector Mirov is sniffing around Saxton's crate. He finds the screws from the crate door and inspects the crate for signs of the presumably missing baggage man.

He's still pondering what may have happened, when Saxton and Wells arrive under escort. It becomes obvious they were summoned by the Inspector, because he suspects the crate's contents are related to the thief's death in some manner. He reports that the clerk has vanished, but it is obvious he was trying to access Saxton's find. This outrages our Professor, but when he yanks the sheet - back in place - he finds the crate apparently secure, with the chain and padlock seemingly undistrubed, though the screws around the viewing door ARE out of place.

Saxton's obvious touchiness with having the contents disturbed makes Mirov suspicious of the doctor, and he asks why he's so bothered by anyone seeing what he's shipping. Wells offers to Mirov that whatever happened, he may've been to blame and admits to asking the clerk to take a peek to satisfy his own curiousity about Alexander's find. Saxton is incensed by this attempted invasion of privacy and goes to stomp out of the car in his restrained British superior manner but is stopped by the guards with Mirov. The Inspector tells Saxton that they now have one dead and one missing man in close proximity to his crate and he wants to see what he's holding. Saxton imperiously refuses.

Inspector Mirov demands the key, and when Saxton still hesitates, a guardsman threatens to bash him in the face with his rifle stock. Alexander, being a bit of an asshole, removes the key from his ring but then throws it out of the open window, rather than submit.

With more objections, Mirov orders the conductor to use an ax to break the chain holding the crate closed. Mirov and the Conductor react in shock when they get the viewing door open, and discover the dead body of our missing handler.

Alexander and Peter are both shocked by the find, as well. Peter demands to know what Sir Alexander brought aboard the train, and Saxton repeats that it was just a fossilized hominid. Wells demands to know if Saxton is trying to suggest that his 2 million year old half-ape/half-human frozen body reanimated, killed the baggage handler, then put his body in the crate and locked everything up neat and tidy and made an escape. Saxton tells them that must be it! [Uh. Sure. That follows.]

Both men are ordered taken to their cabin in lockdown, and ordered to keep their mouths shut so as to not panic the passengers that there has been a death aboard.


Commentary: Yeah, I have some severe issues with this scene. It is really dragged out too long, because of the ridiculous lengths that Saxton goes to not give anyone a glimpse of his find of the century. It just doesn't make any sense whatsoever that he'd be so adamant that nobody can see it and rest their minds that all he's shipping is fossilized remains. The only thing I could think, is that due to this thing being not just a rock, but a creature - maybe he was afraid that China would claim ownership over the find since it is from their territory, and that he'd be cut out of the research. But to continue to insist that nobody is allowed to look at it at this stage is just not credible.

I also have problems with Mirov even being onboard. The mysterious death of the thief should have him still conducting an investigation at the departure point. Whatever caused the man's death, I don't think we get a good enough explanation for Mirov's suddenly being onboard following the crate - but not demanding to see what was in it long before now, as part of the investigation into the prior death. Either he should be at the site of the death, or he should've already demanded that the crate be ruled out as a cause of death - perhaps through some biological agent from whatever Saxton is carrying so this scene should've come earlier somehow.

I also don't agree with the immediate conclusion that a 2 million year old corpse is somehow really alive - rather than somebody else is trying to steal the find from Alexander, killed the thief first when he threatened the operation and now killed the baggage man with some sort of poison that has an unusual affect on the body and that the thawing corpse has been relocated to sneak off the train at the next stop. And just shoving a frozen body into a crate for this entire scenario has its own set of severe problems -- just what sort of condition did Saxton think this once-in-a-lifetime find was going to be in by the time he reaches England, while it has been thawing out during the trip??

I also want to know just what Mirov's authority is. He's on a train that is going to be leaving China and crossing into Russia -- wouldn't that put a cramp in any authority he may've had, even if it was encompassing enough that he'd have police powers outside of the immediate city or territory of the train station?

This is all just very confused to put all of our characters in place to be threatened by the monster while being unable to make an easy escape.


{Addendum later: I just wanted to add here that my problem is mostly real-life historical -- maybe. I feel like maybe the script was perhaps influenced by the pull behind China being its own Nation, Russia's clear influence in this history, and Great Britain's historic domination of China. I truly wish I understood more about the time period of history at this time, because I do feel that the writers were trying to include historical details in the script, but I just don't know enough to understand. Or - IF THEY'RE TOTALLY MISREPRESENTING HISTORY- that only leads to more questions about WHY this story takes the structure/characters it does. This is why I feel that there must be an attempt to incorporate history into the narrative - at least superficialry- to the political situation that would comport with the way things were in the period. Otherwise, why bother to include at all the intersection between China, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union?? This is one of the few instances where I would truly appreciate a historial expert's imput in a comment to explain the real-life circumstances that affected the scripting. The very inclusion feels like the scriptors had insight into the time-period, and were trying deliberately to include complications that were occurring in real life - rather than short-cutting and/or ignoring history to write an overly-complicated script to cast Italian actors. If the latter is the short of it, I'll accept it as an 'elseworlds' version on history, I'll just be disappointed that so much effort was put in for ultimately no reason.}


Sc20: Soldiers move from cabin to cabin down the line of the traincars, but the creature is ahead of them. It uses adjoining rooms to travel and avoiding the corridors when it can. In the corridor, a soldier opens and loudly closes a door, disturbing some sleeping children in a room currently occupied by the creature. But though little-cutie-Susie sighs in her sleep threatening to wake up and be silenced by the monster, nothing ends up done to hurt them.

Ultimately, our half-ape with the brain destroying (and mind-sucking) glare makes it to a connector between two passenger cars ahead of the mustachioed guard, who we think is about to get it, but doesn't.

However, another guard coming from the opposite direction, I guess, does end up getting a strangle by our murder-monster. The creature starts throttling him/brain draining, when he cries out in distress. Our mustache-hunkie hears his cry and rushes toward his aid. A tunnel causes the train to go darker, and Mustache-Hunkie pauses while getting his rifle in front of him, before cautiously making his way.

When our Hunkie gets between cars, he finds a) his comrade lying dead on the floor with the white eyes and b) a door open to the rushing night air.


Sc21: At the same time, Dr. Wells is in the dining car with Natasha. She sees his distracted state of mind, and prods him that her champagne glass is empty. She asks him what has him so distracted, but he's unable to say due to the Inspector.

They're shortly joined by the newly arriving engineer, Yevtushenko. For some reason, Natasha seems annoyed when he's seated at their table. Things get even more suspicious when Ángel asks her if they've not met before, something that she denies.

Presently they're served a fish platter rolled up to their tableside. Something about it draws Wells' interest, and we get a zoom on the white eye of the poached fish. Before they can ask what his deal is, Inspector Mirov comes to the table. He asks if Wells is a doctor, apparently only recently learning this, and summons him. Peter tells him that there isn't anything he can do for the dead guy, but Mirov reports the soldier that was found in the same condition. He demands the doctor perform an autopsy so they can determine what has happened. Yevtushenko asks who has died, but Mirov tells him to butt out and informs he and Natasha that they heard nothing.


Sc22: Peter goes to Miss Jones' table and tells her that he'll need her assistance. She takes one glance at his dinner companion and gives us this: "Yes, well, at your age I'm not surprised". [I LOVE HER.] He clarifies that he needs her to help him perform an autopsy.


Sc23: In the baggage compartment, the baggage handler has been laid out. As Miss Jones tries to keep the light steady, and Mirov watches, Dr. Wells begins slicing open the top of the head in order to open the skull.


Sc24: In the meantime, the Countess is wandering the corridors and wondering about the soldiers' obvious presence. She's in front of Professor Saxton's room, where he's dining alone and apparently under guard. She looks at the soldier, and then at the door that he's blocking her from (all without a word - it's all in her pointed stare). After a few seconds, he steps aside and allows her to join Saxton.

Since he didn't come to her suite, she has come to his accommodations. And she chose the blue dress.





He tells her that he's eaten in worse places and with worse company, giving her a small smile - though it is obvious that he's bristling at being confined to his quarters by Mirov.


Sc25: Back with the doctor: He begins to saw at the skull.


Sc26: Back with Saxton, the Countess guesses that Sir Alexander is in a bad mood because he's lost his box of bones. This basically hits the nail on the head, as Alexander explains that the not-so-fossil, though he doesn't share that with her, could've possibly explained the origins of man. Perhaps it would've proven the claims of evolution.

Countess tells him that she's heard of evolution and finds it immoral. He counters that evolution is a fact, and facts don't have a morality.


Sc27: -sigh- Back at the baggage car, Wells starts prying the skull loose....


Sc28: -grrr- Back at Saxton's cabin, the Countess asks about the baggage handler and the thief at the station. She asks him if his creature was responsible for that [okay, homegirl knows way more than she should - I think she's been gossiping with the soldiers below her station]. Alexander has to admit that is probably true, and the Contessa asks whether he cares at all about those deaths.

Saxton questions the value of a baggage man and a thief, before catching himself and admitting to the Countess that he should care more about two men being dead.


Commentary: Okay, y'all. For those who have more-or-less been following my various television or movie reviews knows how annoyed I get when scenes cut back and forth with seemingly no rhyme or reasoning except to put off a dramatic moment. Juxtaposing Countess asking Professor if a creature is wandering the train is not lining up well with Dr. Wells' performing an autopsy on one of the victims, and the only reason we're doing this is to milk the moment when we see our baggage man's skull plate removed. And since I've had to break for this anyway to get it off my shoulders, let me also say that overall this film is too long. Scenes are allowed to leisurely drag along with people talking that could've been easily tightened up, to remove 20 minutes from the film and not lost anything.


Sc29: Back in the baggage car, Dr. Wells is removing the top of the skull. What he finds is astonishing: The mind has been completely drained of knowledge -- all of the folds and wrinkles that the brain physically develops as it is accumulating information has been completely smoothed out!





Miss Jones suggests some sort of mutation, but Dr. Wells tells the Inspector that it looks as if the mind has been erased, like chalk from a blackboard.

They leave the box car. And as they do, the creature - who had escaped to the outside of the train, but held on - reenters the interior. And it finds Dr. Wells' snooping around the victim interesting and worrying.


Commentary: Surprisingly, I didn't actually mind the brain scene - in fact, I was more fascinated, than creeped out by medical science, even as a kid. But the bleeding eyes... ew.
There is also some nice use of darkness and shadow in this simple scene of the creature making its way back aboard.



Sc30: Back in Peter's room, which apparently no longer contains Alexander - since he's under house arrest, Vanessa is primping her hair when Dr. Wells returns from the restroom. He offers that it's her turn and she takes her case to 'freshen up'. However, after a few shifty glances and carefully opening/closing the door to make it seem like she's in the privy, she instead heads straight for the baggage car.

Vanessa's sights are on the train's safe, to which she has access to the code. It turns out that there is far more to Vanessa than a woman in trouble, as she grabs up the Countess' velvet bag. We see by the tag, that the velvet bag is actually labeled with the Count's name on it. We still don't know what is of such value however, as Vanessa quickly puts it in her ladies case.

Alas for Vanessa, our creature decides if she's interested in the item, than maybe it is?

[Actually, I don't know. It's never clear why the creature would kill anyone that isn't an immediate threat at this point. Vanessa's knowledge will give it a reason to target the Petrovskas, especially the Count, but why Vanessa bites it here isn't making much sense. It isn't clear that draining knowledge is somehow necessary for the creature to survive.]





Exit Vanessa, our international ma'dam of intrigue.


Sc31: Back at the cabin, Dr. Wells has noted how long it is taking Vanessa to return and he goes off to ensure that she's alright. When he finds her not in the restroom, he's left to wonder if he should worry or not.


Sc32: In the baggage car, whatever value Vanessa found in the Count's velvet bag has transferred to the creature. It is still pondering it, when Dr. Wells opens the baggage compartment door on the dark room to see if she went there. He's startled by the creature's hairy paw grabbing him by the wrist, and trying to drag him within. The creature starts to red-eye the doctor, but in his struggle, he avoids looking into its glare by lucky happenstance. Also by happenstance, he's seen struggling at the door, and so a warning shot is fired into it, startling the ape-man to let him go.

It's Inspector Mirov, who gets off a few more shots, fatally wounding our monster. But the red-glare is still going and as Dr. Wells recovers against a wall from his shock, down the corridor, we see Mirov sway unsteadily on his feet.

Julio's nose bleeds, but he fires another final shot, and our prehistoric ape-man finally collapses to the floor of the baggage car, next to Vanessa's dead body. In the corridor, Julio drops the gun as the Inspector collapses against the wall.

In the meantime, soldiers arrive to the commotion to see the Inspector unconscious with Dr. Wells attending him, and Vanessa's white-eyed corpse lying in the light from the corridor's lamps.

Saxton, apparently due to his guard rushing to the sounds of the gunshots, has followed, and so also now sees what happens to a person thanks to the now actually-dead living fossil.


Sc33: Sometime later, Mirov has been placed in a cot to recover. He comes to and stares at his hand as though it is unfamiliar. His other hand is under the blankets. He glances at it, before a knock at the cabin door startles him, and he quickly bunches the blanket over that hand.

At the door is Professor Saxton. He's there to tell the Inspector that Vanessa was an international spy, which Yevtushenko guessed because he realized that he did see the woman at the symposium, even though she denied it at the dinner table.

Mirov flubs a bit by telling Saxton that he already knew that tidbit. Saxton goes on to update the Inspector that he and Dr. Wells had performed an autopsy on her, and found the same conditions as in the baggage man. Mirov says he's only a policeman, and so isn't highly educated, but Saxton pushes on. He tells Mirov about his theory that the creature had pulled information directly from its victims via the eyes, which is why they were in the condition they were in.

Mirov asks for guesses on what it may've been looking for, and Saxton offers there is no way of knowing with it being dead... although he wonders if such a creature could be dispatched so easily. But this speculation is interrupted by the conductor arriving to tell Mirov of finding Count Petrovski's checked item on the floor near the bodies. Mirov takes forceful possession of the bag, and tells him that the item belongs to the Count.

The Conductor wonders how he knows that. Instead of telling the man that he can see the name on the tag, Mirov states that he saw the Count place it in the safe, but Saxton was there when the Countess checked the item with the baggageman & Mirov was not there. He low-key reacts.


Commentary: I'm confused about the Count/Countess: Maybe it's something to do with Polish, but her last name ends in an 'a', while his ends in an 'i', but Irina referred to "my husband, the Count" when speaking to Saxton.


Sc34: A short time later, Mirov is speaking to the Count. He has that hidden hand tucked firmly into his coat pocket, awkwardly. Something that Pujardov notes. The Count is meantime telling those present that the item is a bar of alloy - a brand new development that he invented that is harder than steel. He offers its unique physical properties is why the spies are after it. We don't know know yet why the Creature has now decided it must have this alloy, but the Count pretty much dooms himself by stating that the bar is useless without the formula to create it, and that is something he and he alone has - by not having it written down anywhere. The only place it exists is in his head.

The entire time, Father Pujardov is staring at the Inspector. The Countess wonders about the spy, and Mirov tells her that she's dead but that he killed the creature so there is no more danger. But Pujardov insists the EVIL isn't destroyed.

Pujardov starts his "the unholy one is among us" before falling into a swaying prayer. A candle blows out and a photo of a saint on the wall falls off, signs to the Priest that SATAN is there with them still.


Commentary: Ugh. I don't like the religious angle that is trying to be shoved into this monster movie, mostly because it is too heavy-handed. It's awkward with the science talk going on, but the script isn't really making a science vs. religion argument. Or really, isn't making any argument along those lines. There was the 'evolution is immoral - no, it's just a fact' lines but other than that the only thing we have as far as natural vs supernatural is Pujardov seeing everything this alien has done as meaning it is Satan. And since he is so unbearably overacted, it just comes across as ridiculous and annoying.

I feel like we're supposed to wonder if Satan was an Alien in the end, but it's very nebulous, likely due to being produced and directed in Spain where the Church had more sway than we're used to over civic life. They couldn't really make any declarative statements about it, due to prevailing attitudes and the question is only approached on a very surface level, making it kinda of moot. And worse, the religious angle is handled by the worst character who never does anything to not be irritating.



Sc35: Back in the baggage car again, a new autopsy is carried out on the ape-man's body. This time with special attention to the eye. With the eye extraction, Saxton removes some fluid to look at under a microscope.

It reveals pictures of ancient earth from the vantage point of space, and then images of dinosaurs. Somehow, the creature's own memories are stored in the eye fluid of its host body. This gives the scientists evidence that they're dealing with an alien presence, while for the Father, it'll be more signs of Satan among them.


Commentary: I dislike this, too. Even as a kid in the late 70's, I knew this was stupid. It plays on a very old theory that a dead man's eye could retain the image of the last thing that the eye witnessed. Which is fine, I guess, except that there is no explanation offered just why these images would be the ones recorded in the eye fluid of this life-force. The last image of Mirov holding the gun on it, I can understand if we're really going to go with the eye as last witness thing. But the space and dinosaurs is dumb. And these images it has are awful -- they look suspiciously like memories it may have of a picture book of dinosaurs, rather than actual.

I do like the soundtrack including an otherworldly whistle as we see the images drift across the microscope lense, though. That was a nice touch.



TBC

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Tags: review horror express
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