“It’s alive — it must be!”
In 1906 China, a British anthropologist (Christopher Lee) finds a frozen prehistoric body and arranges to ship it on the Transsiberian Express — but soon he and fellow passenger Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing) realize the ancient creature is a living alien, capable of destroying people’s brains and able to transfer itself into a human body. As they work with an inspector (Julio Pena) to determine where the alien is residing, more and more passengers are brutally murdered.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Christopher Lee Films
- Mind Control and Hypnosis
- Murder Mystery
- Peter Cushing Films
- Telly Savalas Films
- Trains and Subways
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary refers to this low-budget, Spanish-made sci-fi flick as a “horror gem that devotees of late-night television have kept to themselves” (though its recent release on Blu-Ray and DVD makes this a somewhat dated point). He argues that the “picture is exciting and surprisingly provocative”, and praises the direction (by Eugenio Martin), the “interesting characters”, and the “solid acting”. He notes that “like 2001 and Five Million Years to Earth, it challenges both fundamentalist religion and theories on evolution” — a point I can’t quite agree with, given that it’s much stronger in thrills, chills, and occasional levity than meaty exploration of such topics. While I can understand this film’s cult appeal as a gruesome mash-up of numerous cinematic genres and tropes — a death-filled train ride a la Murder on the Orient Express (1974); a resuscitated frozen alien a la The Thing (1951); brain-dead victims-turned-perpetrators a la Night of the Living Dead (1968) — its true calling card is the fortunate pairing of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, who have great fun working together against dark forces. Watch for Telly Savalas in a cameo role as a Cossack commander who naively believes he and his men can tame the alien.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Effective use of a claustrophobic train setting
- Lurid special effects
- Atmospheric cinematography
Yes, once, simply as a cult favorite.