The Horror! May Means Happy Birthday to Cushing, Lee, and Price

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Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

I often like to post tributes in May to horror icons Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Vincent Price, as all three of these actors had birthdays in the fifth month of the year, Cushing on May 26, and both Lee and Price on May 27.

This year I’d like to have some fun with their genre of choice, horror! These three actors terrorized movie audiences from the 1950s through the 1980s, with Price actually starting way before that, in the 1940s, and while Lee continued to make movies all the way into the 2000s. The big screen may not see the likes of these three gentlemen ever again.

Each one has their devoted fans with their own ideas as to who is their personal favorite. For me, it’s Peter Cushing, but that doesn’t take away from my admiration and affection for Lee or Price.

For the sake of this column, they are all equally influential.

So, instead, as we celebrate their birthdays here in May 2021, we’ll look at some numbers.

For example, of the three, who made the most horror movies?

By my count, the prize goes to Christopher Lee for appearing in the most horror movies, 57!

Here’s the breakdown:

Christopher Lee: 57

Peter Cushing: 46

Vincent Price: 34

But who caused the most horror on screen? That’s debatable, but we can look at who starred in the most movies with the word “horror” in the title!

Again, the prize goes to Christopher Lee who made five movies with the word “horror” in the title. Strangely, Vincent Price never appeared in a movie with “horror” in the title.

Christopher Lee: 5. HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), HORROR HOTEL (1960), HORROR CASTLE (1963), DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS (1965), HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

Peter Cushing: 3. HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), DR TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS (1965), HORROR EXPRESS (1972),

Vincent Price: 0.

Okay, so what about terror? Who instilled the most terror? Well, again, let’s look at the numbers. Let’s see who made the most movies with the word “terror” in the title? This time the prize goes to Peter Cushing, who starred in three movies with “terror” in the title.

Peter Cushing: 3. DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS (1965), ISLAND OF TERROR (1966), THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR (1968),

Christopher Lee: 2. THE TERROR OF THE TONGS (1961), DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS (1965),

Vincent Price: 2. – TALES OF TERROR (1962), THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963).

Vincent Price in TALES OF TERROR (1962).


So, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this playful tribute to these three icons of horror. Of course, the best way to celebrate their birthdays is to watch one of their movies. So, on that note, I won’t keep you any longer.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

Picture of the Day: Winter Monsters – HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

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Horror Express monster

The alien creature early on in HORROR EXPRESS (1972), one of Peter Cushing’s and Christopher Lee’s finest horror movies.

One of my favorite Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing movies is HORROR EXPRESS (1972), a Spanish/British production by director Eugenio Martin.

This horror tale about an alien creature loose on the wintry Trans Siberian Express in 1906 is one of the best movies Cushing and Lee ever made together, and one of the few where they play co-heroes, working together on the train to save the passengers from the murderous alien.

It also features Telly Savalas as a ruthless Russian Captain who shows up at the end with his Russian soldiers to torment both the passengers and the monster. It’s a wild ride, and the fact that it’s not a Hammer Film, and hence plays out like a Spanish horror movie, is all the more refreshing.

Besides Cushing and Lee, the other memorable part of this movie is the alien creature. At first, it shows up inside a monstrously-looking fossil of a possible missing link, in the photo above, and later it enters the bodies of various passengers on the train. But early on, the look of the monster is really cool, and has always been one of my favorite parts of this movie.

And pardon me for indulging in this fantasy, but although this film takes place in 1906, it was filmed in 1972 and retains a 1970s style of filmmaking, complete with zoom shots and a funky soundtrack. So, there’s just something about this one which has always made me imagine Darren McGavin’s Carl Kolchak as a passenger on this train doing his Night Stalker best to help solve the mystery. Kolchak would have been right at home on the HORROR EXPRESS.

Looking for a cool monster to watch this winter? Look no further than the creature in HORROR EXPRESS (1972), one of Peter Cushing’s and Christopher Lee’s best horror movies.

—END—

 

 

THE QUOTABLE CUSHING: HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

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Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee team up to hunt down an alien monster loose on a train in HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee team up to hunt down an alien monster in HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

THE QUOTABLE CUSHING:  HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

By

Michael Arruda

 

Welcome to another edition of THE QUOTABLE CUSHING, that column where we look at memorable quotes from classic Peter Cushing movies.  This column exists because I’m a lifelong Peter Cushing fan, and his movie performances are a major reason why I entered the horror writing business.  This column is a celebration of sorts of some of the highlights of Peter Cushing’s career.

 

Today on THE QUOTABLE CUSHING, we look at quotes from one of my favorite non-Hammer Peter Cushing movies, HORROR EXPRESS (1972).  The majority of my favorite Peter Cushing films were all made by England’s famed Hammer Studios, but HORROR EXPRESS was not.

 

HORROR EXPRESS tells a neat story about an alien creature on the loose on a Trans-Siberian train, and it’s up to Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to stop it.  HORROR EXPRESS is notable because it’s one of the few times in the movies that Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee played characters who end up working together to take on a common foe.  Usually, they’re pitted against each other, most of the time with Cushing as the hero and Lee as the villain or monster.  In this case, they play rival scientists who really don’t like each other all that much, but when the creature starts murdering people on the train, they put aside their differences and team up to stop the threat.

 

The other fun thing about this movie is that Peter Cushing gets most of the good lines.  So, let’s have a look at some of these memorable quotes from HORROR EXPRESS, screenplay by Arnaud d’Usseau and Julian Zimet.

 

The monster is loose on the Trans-Siberian Express.  At first, it appears to be an ape monster, the missing link fossil that Professor Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee) brought on board the train, but later it’s discovered that it was really an alien inhabiting the body of the ape fossil, and this alien is able to transfer itself from one host body to another.  So, no one on board the train knows the identity of the monster, since it keeps switching bodies.

 

In this scene, the police inspector on board happens upon rival scientists Saxton and Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing) and sees that they’re working together to discover the identity of the monster.  The Inspector’s suggestion provokes a shocked reaction from Cushing’s Dr. Wells:

 

INSPECTOR:  The two of you together.  That’s fine.  But what if one of you is the monster?

 

DR. WELLS (shocked):  Monster?  We’re British, you know!

 

 

The film is full of humor like this, and most of the lighthearted lines come from Peter Cushing’s Dr. Wells.   Since HORROR EXPRESS is actually quite scary, the comic relief in the film is very welcomed. 

 

Take this line for example, which occurs after an early murder on the train.  The Inspector needs someone to examine the murder victim, and so he seeks out Dr. Wells, interrupting the doctor’s dinner.

 

INSPECTOR:  Is it true you’re a doctor?

 

DR. WELLS:  Ask me when I’ve finished my dinner.

 

 

Probably the funniest lines in the movie come a moment later, when Dr. Wells seeks out his assistant Miss Jones (Alice Reinhart) for help with the autopsy.

 

DR. WELLS:  Miss Jones, I shall need your assistance.

 

Miss Jones then glances at Dr. Wells’ dinner companion, an attractive young lady.

 

MISS JONES:  Yes, well at your age, I’m not surprised.

 

DR. WELLS (realizing what she’s talking about):  With an autopsy!

 

MISS JONES:  Oh, well that’s different.

 

 

My favorite Peter Cushing line from HORROR EXPRESS is one of the best lines in the movie.  It comes early in the film, when the police discover the dead body of the baggage man inside the crate where Professor Saxton’s fossil was supposed to be.

 

After listening to Professor Saxton’s explanation of what he believes happened, Wells has this reaction: 

 

DR. WELLS:  Are you telling me that an ape that lived two million years ago got out of that crate, killed the baggage man and put him in there, then locked everything up neat and tidy, and got away?

 

PROFESSOR SAXTON:  Yes, I am!

 

 

Well, that’s it for now.  I hope you enjoyed this edition of THE QUOTABLE CUSHING, and feel free to check out HORROR EXPRESS.  It’s a hellluva thrill ride, one of the better Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee movies.

 

Thanks for reading!  And I’ll see you next time!

 

—Michael

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

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Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in HORROR EXPRESS

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in HORROR EXPRESS

This IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column on the Christopher Lee – Peter Cushing horror movie HORROR EXPRESS (1972) is now up in the April edition of the HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER.

It’s a reprint of a column which originally was published in the HWA NEWSLETTER in April 2006.  And remember you can read all of my IN THE SPOOKLIGHT columns in my IN THE SPOOKLIGHT EBook, available now at www.neconebooks.com.

HORROR EXPRESS is one of my favorite Peter Cushing-Christopher Lee movies, and I had fun writing about this one.  Hope you enjoy it.

—-Michael

 

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT

By

Michael Arruda

 

You gotta see HORROR EXPRESS (1972), at least once, anyway.

Though it stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, it’s not a Hammer Film, and this actually works in the film’s favor, because as a result of not being part of the “Hammer formula” it’s offbeat and refreshing.  It’s an international production, Spanish-British, filmed just outside Madrid at a studio that Christopher Lee described in his autobiography Tall, Dark, and Gruesome as “unspeakable.”   “The food was deadly, salmonella the principal sauce,” Lee wrote.

HORROR EXPRESS was written and directed by Gene (Eugenio) Martin on the same train sets from the movie NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA (1971), which the producer owned.

Christopher Lee plays anthropologist Sir Alexander Saxton who brings a fossil of what he hopes will be the missing link on the Trans-Siberian Express.  The frozen remains of the “man-ape” causes a stir before it even makes it onto the train.  A thief attempts to break into the crate housing the fossil, but ends up dead and inexplicably blind.  Peter Cushing plays rival scientist Dr. Wells, also on board the train.

Once the train starts moving, the monster escapes from the crate and the fun begins. 

Perhaps the most fun part about this movie is the script by director Gene Martin.  HORROR EXPRESS is not your run of the mill monster on the loose movie.  The script fills the tale with twists and turns that keep you guessing throughout.  It turns out, that the monster is not just an ape-man creature gone amok.  There’s much more going on here, which I won’t give away. 

The monster itself is quite chilling looking with frightening make-up and glowing red eyes.

You can’t talk about HORROR EXPRESS without talking about the performances.  The whole cast is good, particularly Alberto de Mendoza as the priest, Pujardov, and Julio Pena as the police inspector.  Of course, you have Lee and Cushing, and the most fun part about their performances in this movie, is that, unlike most of their films, where they’re adversaries, one the good guy, the other the villain, here, they work together against a common enemy.  They’re both given star screen time too, it’s not like one’s the star, and the other just has a cameo.  They’re both on screen doing their thing, and it’s tons of fun watching them work together taking on a deadly creature.

HORROR EXPRESS is also blessed with an abundance of humor.  For instance, in one scene, Cushing approaches his middle-aged female assistant to help him with an autopsy, and he says, “I shall need some assistance.”  She glances at the young woman he’s been having dinner with on the train and says, “Well, at your age, I’m not surprised.”

And just when you think the film can’t get any more unpredictable, who shows up but TELLY SAVALAS (!!!) (Yes, the original KOJAK himself!) as the ruthless Cossack, Captain Kazan, who stops the train with his regiment of brutal soldiers. 

Savalas gets to ham it up and deliver lines like, “The devil must be afraid of one honest Cossack,” (Or was that, “The devil must be afraid of one honest Cossack, baby?”).  The only thing missing is the lollipop in his mouth.  He even gets to bully Lee and Cushing.  It’s great stuff.  You’ll never forget it.

The film has a gory, bloody conclusion.  In fact, there’re generous amounts of blood and gore throughout HORROR EXPRESS.

There’s also a haunting music score by John Cavacas.

 Ready for a vacation?  Take a trip on the HORROR EXPRESS.  You’ll have fun, but be wary of bald Cossacks sucking lollipops.

 —END—