Sc36: While our scientists are making their amazing discovery of the creature's memories being contained in an eye of a host, a hairy ape-man hand is checking out Vanessa's smooth brain.
Next it pulls the sheet off of the ape-man's body, only to discover the amazing glaring eye missing from the face. A human hand fingers the eyelid over the empty socket.
Commentary: Our next stupid thing. Yes, Mirov was possessed by the thing that had been in the ape-man. So -- somehow -- it transforms only one of the inspector's hands into an ape-man's?! Uhhhh. What?!
This was just so lame. It doesn't make a lick of sense, and is only there to make Mirov totally suspicious with his inability to use both hands going forward, but nobody needed this physical sign to start putting together clues that there is something off with the Inspector, and then to make the leap that their foe isn't dead, but only transferred. I just can't fathom the mutated one-hand making it past the first draft of this script.
Sc37: A bit later, The Countess is once again walking the train corridors. She feels someone following her, but only sees a shadow at the far end of the corridor car that could've just as easily had nothing to do with anyone watching her.
She, being the very curious sort, and having an immediate affection for Dr. Saxton, has found our scientists in one of the cars looking over the microscope and the dinosaur/Earth images.
She tells Alexander that the other passengers are becoming afraid of what is going on aboard, but he assures her that the danger is now passed. She brings up their conversation of evolution from earlier, and he points her to the microscope.
[Yeah, it's a little awkward getting there, but this puts the Countess as on the side of our protaganists.]
With a small smile, she calls to Pujardov, who she guesses was following her despite his attempts to not be noticed. She points the Priest, with a bit of wickedness, to take a look for himself. Obviously this confirms that they've gotten a hold of 'the eye of Satan', because only a fallen angel could have an image of the Earth from space [I keep wondering how they recognize the planet from space as Earth at all, but maybe that's just an assumption].
Alexander blusters that he's ridiculous and that there is a scientific explanation for what they're seeing, but when pressed, he admits to not knowing the answer, yet.
Everyone else is equally unimpressed by Pujardov [again, I do feel a little bit of sympathy for him - being such a believer in a crowd of rather rude unbelievers].
While Pujardov is blathering about Satan, the train passes through a tunnel and for some reason, this makes all of the lights aboard go out momentarily. When the lights come back on, Pujardov has vanished with Satan's eyeball.
Sc38: The Countess leads Alexander to her luxury car, calling after the priest, but he hasn't returned there. As our core group start searching the train car by car for the rogue monk, he's making his way to the baggage car -- where everyone goes at some point. It's THE HAPPENIN' PLACE, aboard.
Miss Jones goes to the baggage car, where we see Pujardov hiding behind some shelves. [I feel really bad now, because I like Miss Jones. Darn it.]
Alice is startled by the Inspector's hand falling on her shoulder without a word of warning[, as I'm sure we all do 20 times a day]. She informs Mirov about looking for the monk, due to his theft of something precious to Doctor Wells and Professor Saxton. She goes on to describe the pictures that they were able to see from the creature's eye fluid. Unfortunately, Miss Jones doesn't have any suspicions about Mirov - nor should she, really, so doesn't mind telling him that Dr. Wells, Professor Saxton and that pretty Countess have all seen the pictures of prehistoric Earth along with herself, obviously.
Now, [Why the creature gives a shit? I dunno. Maybe it was always just an asshole.] Miss Jones - having seen these ludicrous images - obviously has to go. Our Inspector pulls out his ape-man, mutated hand to cover her mouth, while he turns down the lantern:
Commentary: Darn it. There is some really interesting camera work following Miss Jones as she falls to the floor, dying that impressed me. And I really like the look of Mirov with his double-red draining eyes, but those contacts he's using look absolutely torterous to wear. But, they're very, very impressive looking.
Sc39: With Miss Jones dead, Pujardov - y'know, that super holy of the holies-men? Yeah. He comes out of hiding, on his knees and holding the evidentiary eye in his hands in a handkerchief. He begs for pity, as Mirov takes the eye and tosses it into a heating stove for the baggage handlers. Pujardov asks if he's going to kill him [I SCREAM, YESSSSS!]. Mirov calls him a fool and tells him there is nothing in his head of any use [I SCREAM, DON'T LET THAT STOP YOU. Then, I give advice on how he could strangle the priest, or throw him off of the train in the middle of the frozen tundra, or shove his face onto the hot stove. None of my advice is taken].
Mirov is about to make his escape, when Wells, Saxton, Petrovska and the Conductor come in, to be informed of another killing.
Sc40: In the dining car, people are up in arms, demanding that they stop the train, so everyone can leave and then freeze to death instead on the side of the tracks.
Mirov comes in to tell everyone that the train won't be stopped and if anyone tries to force it, they'll be shot. In the meantime, he looks over the car to find our doctor, professor and the Countess.
With Miss Jones' death leaving in question whether the creature's death was actually its death, Mirov asks Saxton if he has any ideas. The Professor states he doesn't, but tells him that he's requested that a telegram be sent forward to the next station to have the train stop there.
Sc41: In a car, all alone and vulnerable, the conductor is typing up a telegram reporting the deaths aboard.
He gets a visit from Mirov. For some reason, he feels the need to take the extra step of putting the conductor out of the window after he's dead. While he's doing this, the door opens behind him, and it's - ugh - Pujardov, again. This time he asks who the fallen angel is, and offers to serve him faithfully. [I told you, he is the worst!]
Mirov completely ignores him. [WHY!? Why won't you send the monk out of the window, too?]
Sc42: Back in the dining car, the Countess, the Count, the Doctor and the Professor are all discussing if the deaths are being caused by a disease of some sort, and if so, how they can discover who is infected. The Countess brings up the white eyes, and so a check is made of all the passengers' eyes, which - of course - reveal nothing, including when Mirov's eyes are examined.
Saxton offers that from now until they reach the next stop, no one should be alone so that if anything happens to any of the passengers, there will be someone available to raise an alarm.
Commentary: This scene is so serious, but I find it comic simply due to Christopher Lee being such a giant person when compared to literally everyone surrounding him in the car. Everyone from Mirov to the extras look like they're in miniature.
Sc43: Now. After just warning that nobody should be left alone, Professor Saxton goes to the Conductor's car to check in on that message to the next station -- Which he travels to alone. (*sigh*)
He finds the window open, and no Conductor to be found. He does find the message that Conductor was in the process of typing up.
Sc44: At the next station, a message does now come through from the train - presumably by Professor Saxton sending it himself. This tiny station in Bohunk, Tundraville is run by the Cossack, Kazan. Captain Telly Kazan IMMEDIATELY starts chewing the scenary.
[I have no idea what the fuck. This character, his dialog, his crazy-cakes demeanor... I've no idea if this was the director, or if Telly just went off the deep end for Kazan, but he's ridiculous.]
He has his small troop of men get their packs on to board the train when it comes to a stop at their little station.
Sc45: Back aboard, the engineer Ángel is in his cabin. He has a lady guest with him, as was the plan for nobody to be alone. But, she's deeply asleep after such a stressful day. Mirov joins Yevtushenko. He's come to ask the engineer about Earth's gravity field, and we can see the outlines of Mirov's plans aboard. Between gaining information on theories to overcome the gravity of Earth, and the new alloy of the Count's - along with the pictures of Earth from space, we can guess that we're dealing with an alien intelligence, and that his long range goal is to return to space after being trapped literally hundreds of millions of years on the planet, jumping from lifeform to lifeform. Of course, until propulsion catches up with the other fields of science, he's still stuck, but he's now gaining knowledge to ready himself for when he can make the trip. During the conversation, Ángel brings up a father-figure/professor he studied with, who shared his own theories about rockets -- machines that would be able to escape the hold of Earth, eventually.
Obviously this tidbit is also of great interest to Mirov but to get a full understanding of Earth's gravity field as currently understood, and rocket theory -- well, Ángel has to go.
Sc46: Mirov's next visit is to Professor Saxton, where he probes Sir Alexander's theory on what they are dealing with aboard, to determine if he's becoming a threat to it.
Actually, Sir Alexander does have pretty much everything figured out, but before Mirov can do anything to silence him, Dr. Wells arrives with a rifle. Mirov tries to sow doubt between these two too smart men, by offering if they're alone together, how can either be sure the other isn't the creature.
Dr. Wells' takes exception to this: "Monster?! We're British, you know!" [Of course, of course.]
Sc47: Shortly later, Ángel's cabin guest has awoken to find the engineer dead and drained too.
From her testimony, Alexander realizes that when the creature attacks, it is dark but when they had checked everyone's eyes, they'd had the lights on.
Sc48: In the corridors once again, Pejardov again tracks down Mirov to call him 'Master'. He leads his new messiah to Count Petrovski's luxury car. Mirov spots the alloy bar of the Count's and begins questioning him on the effect of high temperatures on it, which the Count helpfully informs him only makes it stronger. He asks Mirov about what type of temperatures he is considering. The conversation, and the Count's draining are interrupted by the sudden and rough stop of the train at the Cossack station.
Kazan's men rush aboard, leading the [I'm convinced mildly insane] Captain.
Instead of holding the train, however, it is put in motion again once the troops are aboard.
Sc49: Everyone aboard is herded into the dining car, where the Countess is livid and promises Kazan that this will be reported to the Czar for his insolence in how he is treating her - a royal.
Kazan, as uh - eccentric - as he is, shows some deference to the Count and Countess and they're allowed to be escorted back to their luxury car away from the rabble. The rest are instructed that Kazan is there to root out their killer.
Which he will do by insulting them, being borderline homicidal and generally acting like a violent piece of gutter trash and throwing his armed men in the passengers' faces when they object. Kazan asks our engineer's guest if she's also a Countess - apparently wanting to make sure not to push things too far with the wrong type of passenger - to be told that she's an American, and not accustomed to being bullied by foreigners! [So, there!]
She also points out to Kazan that it is Mirov who wouldn't let anyone get off of the train, when the killings began [again, they were out in the middle of the tundra -- how does she think that was going to end well?]. Kazan focuses his bullyism on Mirov, who explains that he's an Inspector. Kazan informs him that everyone is under arrest, until he finds the killer or killers. [Except it's hard to tell that is what he's thinking, since we're dazzled by the train being chewed up in front of our eyes. I'm convinced some of our extras' reactions are really the actors wondering what the hell Telly is doing.]
Saxton wonders at the buffoonish display, which gets him a rifle butt in the stomach, to show that Kazan is not playing games. Kazan returns to Mirov and asks him to point out his suspects and he'll get his answers for him, but Mirov declines to name anyone specifically. Kazan takes exception to this, but Pujardov interrupts to call Kazan a fool in order to distract him from threatening his new master. Kazan cocks a gun and threatens the monk. A trio of Kazan's men go to restrain the Father, but he pulls out a cross from his robes. He warns that he'll place a curse upon them, and they back off - unsure of the reality of the threat, as "he has the evil eye!".
Kazan is not impressed.
After showing up that he doesn't fear the evil eye, or the 'wrath of Satan', Kazan proceeds to whip Pujardov mercilessly in front of everyone. Dr. Wells wants to stop this, but seeing how violent the Cossack's are willing to be, Saxton restrains him, after all both he and Peter were already rifle butted for getting lippy.
After the mad monk has fallen unconscious from his bullwhipping, Kazan turns back to Mirov, wondering why the priest was in such a rush to intervene to protect him. This is another added piece of evidence that something is weird with the police inspector to Saxton, and he inches his way to the control for the car lamps. Alexander turns turns the lamps off, and Mirov's alien glow-eyes are revealed to everyone.
Alexander restores the lights, proving who their killer is, while also rendering him powerless to start brain draining anyone.
As Mirov tries to make an escape, he uses the [stupid] ape-hand to claw a soldier's face. He stumbles for escape toward the car exit, but Kazan is able to throw a knife into his back. Pujardov has recovered, and struggles to run interference for 'Satan'. Kazan shoots Mirov in the back twice, but it isn't enough to put Mirov instantly on the floor. The soldiers around him let him go, in shock at seeing his evil red eyes and the mutated hand.
Kazan goes to follow, but Alexander grabs his arm and warns him that one look at the creature's eyes, and he's a dead man. All eyes turn on the doorway Mirov escaped through in tense anticipation of what comes next. In the meantime, Pujardov also rushes out of the dining car and after his new messiah.
Sc50: In the corridor, the monk finds the inspector dying on the floor. He tells the entity to come into him, before his current host expires. Except of course, he continues to call him Satan and misquotes the bible to tell him that his will be done on Earth as in Hell.
Commentary: Ugh. He's really the worst. And he's still overacted. I'm fearing that no scenery is going to make it out alive between Alberto and Telly, and if I was a fellow actor, I'd be worried they wouldn't stop at the scenery.
Sc51: In the dining car, everyone is standing tense and unsure what to do. Kazan orders that anything moving in the doorway be shot on sight.
Kazan orders 'the peasants' moved toward the back of the train.
Sc52: In the meantime, since it isn't a brain drain, but an energy transfer Mirov is performing, he doesn't need total dark. [We saw this when Mirov was possessed earlier.]
Alberto sways as his mind is destroyed to make room for the traveler.
Sc53: In the dining car, Kazan stands with his men, as do Wells and Saxton with a rifle they're allowed. In the corridor outside, there is the creak of footsteps causing them all to tense. But the alien isn't an idiot. He takes an axe to the lighting wires, plunging the cars into darkness.
While the Cossacks are firing blindly at the dining car doorway, Saxton and Wells push everyone else to retreat to the baggage car at the end of the train.
Somehow, Pujardov has gotten behind the car and suddenly rears up behind Kazan's men. With the car completely in darkness, he's able to simply stare at each of the men, wiping them out as he goes. In fact, he must be pushing his powers to maximum, because some of them he barely glances at and their eyes go white and bloody.
Commentary: This is a really well done slaughter. It's quite suspenseful, and the camera work is dramatic and each of the men who we see with the bloody faces and white eyes are gruesomely caught in closeup.
Sc54: In the meantime, the rest of the passengers are trapping themselves in the last train car.
Wells and Saxton make a stop in one of their cars -- I think Wells', where he had a lamp packed in his bags. They light this up and make their way back forward, depending on the lamplight to stop the alien from being able to kill them.
In the dining car, only Kazan stands. He tries to tackle Pujardov, but his mind is being drained and though his force of will allows him to resist longer than his men, ultimately he's just as dead.
Sc55: Saxton and Wells return to the dining car to find the carnage left behind. In the meantime, Pujardov is moving further forward, toward the engine car with a stop inbetween at the Count and Countess' luxury car. Saxton tells Wells to return to the others, while he makes his way to the Countess with the rifle and spot lamp.
Sc56: In the luxury car, the alien tells the Count that despite everything, Pujardov had a certain affection for the old man. While the two royals are wondering at this strange talking-in-third-person thing, Pujardov turns off the cabin lights. And then it's the Count's turn to give up everything he knows -- especially about that new alloy that could be used eventually to cover a rocket.
The Countess rushes to her husband's body, before grabbing up a pistol. But Pujardov is able to snatch this from her hands. He's just about to kill her, when Saxton comes in. He orders Pujardov to a corner, keeping the handheld lamp shining in his face, so he can't use his powers. Saxton aims the rifle at him, while the alien tells him it would be a mistake to kill him now. He tells Saxton that he was part of an expedition long ago, but had been accidentally left behind and shares that he is an energy-based lifeform, able to occupy a mortal shell. He confirms moving from life to life, up the evolutionary scale as it developed.
And now, he's nearly reached a point where he can return to where he should be. Pujardov tells Saxton that he can share the secrets to ending pain, hunger, and disease but if he's killed now, all of that knowledge would be lost. Literally, the secret history of life's evolution on Earth would also be thrown away by his death.
Saxton is about to shoot anyway, but Pujardov tells him to wait, because he has something more to share. He starts swaying back and forth.
Sc57: In the dining car, we see that the men he'd just wiped out start to revive as - presumably - he sends out his energy. In the luxury car, the Count is also coming to on the floor. He reaches out and grabs the Countess' dropped pistol.
But it becomes very clear that the eyes are still destroyed, so Pujardov's army are still blinded.
The Countess shouts a warning to Saxton, but it comes too late. The Count shoots the handlamp, plunging the car into darkness and allowing the alien to again use his killer glare powers.
Saxton barely avoids meeting the creature's stare and pushes the Countess to run for the baggage car.
Commentary: This scene was another very well done, creepy-as-shit, scene. Body after body getting up with those eyes was amazing and I liked the moving camerawork and zooming into and out that was done.
Sc58: In the dining car, Saxton and Irina have to push their way through blind, dead men trying to pin them down.
Sc59: In the meantime, Pujardov has gone to the engine car, killing the driver for his knowledge on how to control the train.
Sc60: As Irina and Alexander make their way back toward the waiting Peter and the other passengers in the baggage car, they're being followed by the blind dead under the control of the alien. In the meantime, Peter starts to work on the coupler between cars, to release the baggage car from the rest of the train.
[Okay, I have trouble following the sequence of events here. At another small station a teletyped message to stop the train by routing it off of the tracks and destroying it is received, but the message is coming from Moscow. It is impossible to figure out why such a dramatic order would come through. There is no way that Moscow could know that there is a raging killer disease (or alien lifeform) aboard the train that is worth killing all of the passengers [i.e. the international response/consequence on board to stop. None of this part actually makes any sense.]
While Irina and Alexander make it safely to the baggage car, and they're working on decoupling from the train, a small station ahead of them is ordered to route the train off of the main line by Moscow.
[I thought briefly that they were ordered to move the train onto a maintenance track, because of the murderer on board that they could've learned from the station before - the same telegram that caused Kazan to know what was happening before he boarded the train. But it is made explicit that the orders that this station has received will result in all of the passengers being aboard being killed.]
These orders are followed, just as the baggage car is successfully de-coupled. The entire train is routed to a cliffside. And though Pujardov can see what is about to happen, he's unable to stop the train's momentum in time. The entire train goes over the cliff with the engine car exploding. While the baggage car lags behind, but also headed for the edge.
Thankfully [and obviously], the last car stops inches away from flying over the edge into the chasm below as well, saving the passengers -- though how they'll explain what happened aboard, or whether they'll be ordered executed by Moscow isn't answered....
The Good: First, this cast is awesome. There is only two actors that drove me crazy with some questionable choices. I could give you some special mentions, but it would only turn into a list of everyone who had any significant screentime.
The makeup effects for the brain-drained and killed were excellent. Very creepy. And even when they were on screen for an extended period of time, the effects [even knowing they're just contacts] didn't fall apart.
I liked some of the camera work a lot, when people were being killed by the alien's glare and when possessions were taking place.
I really did like the attack sequences, especially after Pujardov is possessed.
I liked the composition of a lot of the shots that involved darkness and shadows, and the way that those red-light contacts show up on screen in darkness.
There was some nicely placed humorous asides, glances, smirks and such that I found pleasant and mildly amusing throughout.
The Bad: The scenery chewing of Alberto de Mendoza and Telly Savalas. This was especially a problem with Pujardov, since he had much more screen time pre-possessed, but both of them were way over-acting.
Pujardov is a problem, scriptwise. His dialog is just as over the top as his actor, and I just kept wanting him to shut the fuck up. And that was before he went all in on team killer.
The entire problem with Alexander Saxton's not wanting anyone - even a police inspector investigating a death - to even look at his fossil isn't explained. He takes bullheadedness to a cartoonish level.
I also hate Mirov having a sudden hand-mutation to show he's been possessed. It is such a stupid detail, and it's showcased for some reason.
Other Thoughts: I really liked this musical scoring, including the main theme, but it did start to get on my nerves because of its repetitive use. And worse, we hear is so much that it continues lingering in my brain after I've reached the end, so even after I've popped the disc out of the player, I can't escape repeating the damned score.
Overall, I also think that film is too long. It could've easily been tightened up by 20 minutes without losing anything.
There are a few issues coordinating the train sets -- it isn't always clear where people are in relation to other things happening aboard, and this is especially true when it comes to the luxury car in relation to the dining car. You wouldn't think it would be so hard to keep track of a straight line, but sometimes I found myself thinking, "Wait, how did you get here without passing all of those people there?" This is especially true of possessed-Pujardov suddenly being behind Kazan's army contingent.
Speaking of the train, there are a few shots - especially when the cars go over the cliff - where the model is much too blatant. But overall, for the budget? The effects looked really good.
I do feel that there is this weird political situation going on between England, Russia and China that was part of this period, but it was just assumed that we'd know why the Brits and Russians would have so much influence on China during the early 1900's, so it isn't explained in the least. And it makes it weird to keep having these apparent Englishmen popping up at Chinese train stations and traveling trains, and then the Russians suddenly seeming to have jurisdiction over the train later. There are also some lapses in just how some people seem to be aware of problems aboard the train, when we've seen no obvious way that they could've gotten that information beforehand.
I can only think that insert shot of the threatened kids were because they were the director's or the producer's spawn. They don't ever appear again on the train, even when everyone was supposedly crammed into the dining car or the baggage car at the end, and the scene did nothing.
The Score: This is a good film, if you're looking for a creepfest on a slow Saturday afternoon, when the outdoors are gray and cold. Wrap up in a blanket, get some coffee or hot tea and settle in to immerse yourself in the wonder that is Lee and Cushing on screen together.
4.0 out of 5 stars -- despite some real script and acting problems.