Sunday, 3 February 2019

Horror Express (1972)

"Full Steam Ahead For First Class Horror"

Everyone's favourite early 1970s English-Spanish coproduced science fiction horror picture set on a train gets a sparkling new 2K transfer courtesy of Arrow. 

China 1906. Geologist Sir Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee), while exploring caves in Szechuan Province, comes across the frozen fossilised remains of what might be the missing link. Intending to take it back to England he crates it up and puts it on the Trans-Siberian Express. Where it thaws out, causing all kinds of trouble for both Saxton, his old chum / rival Dr Wells (Peter Cushing) and assorted EuroHorror character actors, as well as Telly Savalas who pops in for the final act.

One of the best, most creative and best written movies of the entire EuroHorror boom of the 1960s and 1970s, HORROR EXPRESS succeeds in practically every level despite its low budget. Justifiably loved and revered by fans and critics alike, if you've never seen it stop reading this now and go and obtain a copy. HORROR EXPRESS came out as a dual format release from Severin in the US a couple of years ago, and Arrow have just brought it out in a new transfer. 
So which is better?

First, the movie. Severin's version boasts only the Spanish opening credits whereas Arrow only has the English ones. A minor point but HORROR EXPRESS obsessives (of which I am one) will want to know as the credits are quite different. Secondly the transfer itself. Severin's transfer is a little sharper and grainier and warmer, whereas the Arrow transfer is a bit softer and colours look more natural. But there's really very little in it and certainly not enough difference to consider double dipping.

Second, the extras. Nearly all the extras on the Severin disc (composer John Cacavas interview, director Eugenio Martin interview, producer Bernard Gordon's 'Notes From the Blacklist' and Chris Alexander introduction) have been ported over to the Arrow release. The only thing that's missing is the Peter Cusing audio interview from 1973 that the Severin disc runs as an additional 'commentary' track.

Where the Arrow disc wins is in the new extras, and best of these is an outstanding commentary track from Kim Newman and Stephen Jones which is engaging, enthusiastic, and packed with interesting pieces of information and genre commentary. It's truly excellent stuff and worth getting the new disc for. 

There's also a fascinating 15 minute piece from Ted Newsom on the career of HORROR EXPRESS producer Bernard Gordon, and an appreciation of the movie from filmmaker Steve Haberman. Purchasers of the first pressing also get a booklet with new writing on the film by Adam Scovell.

The genre classic that is HORROR EXPRESS is getting a Region B Blu-ray release from Arrow Films on Monday 11th February 2019

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