Benmar Productions / Granada Films, 1972
TREVOR THE CHARACTERSProfessor Sir Alexander Saxton: Sir Christopher Lee
Indianasmith's scientific colleague who “dabbles in fossils and bones” ~ starts all the nonsense on the train when his frozen fossil thaws out and starts sucking out the info in everyone’s brains. Unsure of whether he is first a Sir or a Professor: Saxton, I mean, not Sir Christopher.
Dr Wells: Peter Cushing
Saxton’s opponent in the science world but also his closest ally when it is necessary to defeat yuck ugly monsters in the darkened train. Adept at what he terms "know how", aka bribery, corruption and squeeze.
Father Pujardov: Alberto de Mendoza
Creepy, unwashed and unhealthy Rasputin like priest who (a) sees the Devil in everything and (b) gets tired of being pushed around by the people he serves and does some pushing of his own. His horrible BO can reanimate the dead.
Made an engineer, monsterized and incinerated by a burning train.Inspector Mirov: Julio Pena
Urbane Russian policeman without a lot of education who becomes monsterized and learns a lot ~ especially that the darkness is not his closest friend. Insulted, kissed. stabbed, shot and dies. In that order.Nicole: Helga Line
Glamorous spy in an oh-so-tight dress who tries to steal the steel formula and gets monsterized with a vengeance.Captain Kazan: Telly Savalas
Crazy Russian Cossack officer. He knows about telegraphs, electrical currents, trains, that a murderer has two arms and that a horse has four legs. Knows so much, but sleeps with his clothes on. Has no appreciation of good vodka. Monsterized.
Irina Petrofska: Silvia Tortosa
Gorgeous Polish / Russian countess who becomes an ally in the fight against the Dandruff Monster. Understanding of everything except the phrase "Get behind me!"Yevtushenko: Angel de Pozo
Bjorn Ullvaeus lookalike, chess player, nosy engineer and quasi-scientist ~ monsterized.Miss Jones: Alice Reinhardt
Dr Wells’ assistant and wearer of the frightingnest fright wig I have ever seen. Monsterized.Count Maryan Petrofsky: Jorge Rigaud
Count, not like our Sesame Street friend who loves to count but inventor of the formula for steel. Gets monsterized.
With Juan Oglaiviel
as “The Creature”
and Mel Gibson
as “The Beaver.” LESSONS LEARNED
Kompouserz nd lettre-seters off filum tittles shud alwaze chek there speli=ungs.
A cat o’ nine tails is standard issue for a Russian soldier’s kit bag.
Where there is evil, there is no place for the cross, even on a canvas covering.
Two million years without a square meal will make your stomach growl horribly.
Priests that resemble Rasputin are not to be trusted, especially not with Satan running around.
Vodka tastes better if you gargle with it first and then toss the glass away.
It does not help your acting career by playing an inquisitive zombie.
Having a good Russian name like Mirov will get you a kiss on both cheeks. Facial cheeks, that is.
Britons will never be slaves and neither will they be monsters. NOTABLE QUOTES
Mirov: “Not that he deserves it, the dirty thief.”
Father Pujardov: “There is a stink of hell on this train, even the dog knows it.”
Dr Wells: “This brain has been drained.”
Father Pujardov: "But he was blind. How can a blind man be a thief?"
Kazan: "Tell me, little father. You believe in the Devil?'
Mirov: “I thought one of you might know what happened to the baggage man.”
Father Pujardov: “Where there is God, there is always a place for the cross, even on this stone floor, just so. But Satan is evil and where evil is, there is no place for the cross!”
Mirov: “One man missing, another dead! It’s time we opened this box!”
Father Pujardov: “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in hell!”
Kazan: “Although I still believe in God, I don’t like to be made a fool of!”
Dr Wells: “Monster? We’re British, you know.”
Father Pujardov: “ The history of your planet is part of me. Pull the trigger and you will end it.”
Mirov: “Oh, there’s nothing in your head of any use.”
Sir Alexander Saxton: “No! You saw his eyes! One look at them and you’re dead!”
Kazan: "Fool, huh? On your knees, monk." STUFF TO WATCH FOR
0:06: Is that the cameraman in shadow there?
1:40: That light’s so bright, I can’t read the credits and that might just be a good thing.
1:50: That is not the way to spell the name Christopher.
3:50: Apologies to Alex Haley and Roots
but…Great-great-great-great-great-granddaddy? You old African! I found you, I found you!
6:28: I’ve heard of Master Card and Master Lock, so that must be Master Kee.
7:44: What on earth flew off his cap there?
8:10: Yikes: Is that Rasputin?
8:30: How can an idiot be a priest, answer me that!
11:36 I’d also growl like that if I hadn’t had much to eat for two million years.
15:16: If that is a chess piece then that guy must be Bjorn from ABBA.
21:00: That ‘stink of hell’ you sense is your terrible BO that everyone’s gagging on, Father. Try having more than a yearly bath and haircut, OK?
21:57: Like I said, it’s your BO she’s afraid of.38:30: RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST PETER CUSHING'S HAND!
1.01.39: All I can say to that is
1.08.55: That line of Sir Christopher’s is pretty much what people say about my undies.
1.16.00: She really listened when he said “Irina! Behind me!” didn’t she?
1.17.12: This sequence freaked me way back when and it still does ~ his BO can re-animate the dead!
1:19:24: I can imagine Pujardov singing “I bin workin’ on the railroad……..”
1:19:39: Inquisitive zombie alert ~ what is he looking at and what happened to Kazan?
1:22:52: So this is actually a sci-fi film and not a horror film? Interesting. THE PLOT
After discovering my great-great-great-great-great-African granddaddy (minus underpants but frozen, probably because he didn’t have any on) in a cave in 1906 Manchuria, our friend Indy's colleague Professor Sir Alexander Saxton decides, after a serious battle with the railway clerks and meeting up with his nemesis Dr Wells, to load the thing onto a railway baggage coach. Before he can do this, however, the crate in which my great (x5) granddaddy is kept is left in the care of a guard who stupidly allows a Chinese locksmith to pick the lock and the thief is later found sprawled next to the crate, his eyes an eerie milky white. What was I saying about my great (x5) granddaddy? The underpants curse affects all males in our family, some of the ladies too and also some of the animals.
Saxton discovers the wild-eyed, Rasputin like priest Pujardov trying to get at what he thinks is the Devil hiding in the crate and Pujardov proves that there is some weird stuff going on as he draws a cross in chalk on the floor and then tries to do the same on the canvas covering the crate to no avail. On being questioned by the Russian Inspector Mirov, Saxton denies there being anything valuable or alive in the crate, only to have this claim disproved when Pujardov crosses himself as the crate is loaded on the train and a horrible growl comes from within the crate. My stomach would also growl like that if I hadn’t eaten in a while and I would also cross myself if I knew what was coming.
Dr Wells bribes the baggage man to have a look inside the crate at what Saxton and our own Indianasmith term a “remarkable fossil” which is thawing out as the action in the film proceeds. Or as long as the actor covered in all that crap can stand being covered in it as well as having one red eye which goes off and on like a broken traffic light.
Once the baggage man sees what is in the crate, he somehow cannot believe what he thaw as the thing is rapidly thawing out. Taking another look, he receives a very thaw headache as the creature looks at him with a vivid red eye, leaving the baggage man sprawled dead on the floor. I guess he should have thawt it over more before he thawt to look inside the crate.
Our glimpses of the monster are few and far between, but it appears to have a very bad skin condition, judging by the hairy, dandruff spotted arm that emerges from the crate. The Dandruff Monster then proceeds to hide out on the train after the Inspector and the conductor discover the baggage man in the crate and have Saxton arrested ~ bit difficult to do on a train ~ until his monster and a month’s supply of Head and Shoulders
Victims pile up one after another, including the glamorous spy Nicole who is monsterized by the Dandruff Monster who is then shot by Inspector Mirov. The monster looks at him, collapses, dies and Mirov collapses after all the dandruff infests his brain, leaving him with a hairy palm and hand. As if this is not bad enough, he wakes up hours later and discovers that not only does he have a hairy palm and hand ~ should have listened to your parents, my friend ~ but that he is also apparently wearing my underpants, judging by his look of horror when he lifts the blanket.
Saxton and Wells discover that the Creature’s ability to absorb power lies not in its’ brain or its’ borrowed underpants, but through its’ eyes, judging by the bad animation seen when the scientists check the eye fluid through a microscope. After Father Pujardov pronounces to all and sundry that the creature is actually the fallen Lucifer, he steals the eye and presents it to Mirov who has just monsterized the luckless Miss Jones, sending her and her fright wig tumbling to the floor. Pujardov begs Mirov not to kill him and the Inspector (now the monster) dismisses him with a curt “Oh, there’s nothing in your head of any use.”
Even though Mirov has given an order that the train would not be stopped, a telegram is sent to the nearest station, guarded by Theo Kojak and his merry frozen men who storm the train and arrest everyone, including the luckless Inspector. Pujardov gets whacked by a cat o’ nine tails and the Inspector ~ now revealed to one and all as the monster ~ is insulted, hit, stabbed, shot and dies, but not before transferring all his knowledge to the empty vessel once known as Father Pujardov, who then starts killing the soldiers, including Theo Kojak, who sucks floor, instead of a lollipop.
With all the passengers running screaming for the baggage van, Pujardov confronts the Count and kills him for his steel formula and tries to do the same to Irina when Saxton walks in, brandishing a shotgun and a light to ward off the evil BO of Pujardov, who explains that he is a form of energy, occupying this shell who was left behind on earth millions of years ago. Pujardov tells Saxton that with all the knowledge he has accumulated, he can end disease, heal the sick……………………and [major goosebumps] use his powerful BO to re-animate the dead, which he proceeds to do, causing Irina and Saxton to battle their way through the undead soldiers to the baggage car.
Saxton and Wells manage to uncouple the baggage car from the rest of the train while further along the track, rail workers at a switching point receive orders to derail the express by changing the switch on the track ~ which they do, sending the newly appointed railway engineer Pujardov and his crew of white-eyed zombies plunging over the cliff. As Saxton, Wells and Irina watch, the train explodes, sending clouds of weird, green smoke into the air ~ thus destroying my underpants for posterity.
Produced by former HUAC target Bernard Gordon and directed by Eugenio [Gene] Martin, this film, also known as Panic on The Trans-Siberian Express
was my first introduction to horror and also in a weird kind of way, my first introduction to science fiction films. Television in the then Rhodesia was in black and white and this film was made even more eerie with the total absence of color ~ it was only recently that I saw the film in color and realized that I had missed something vital: the all important red eye that ties all the monsters together, not to mention the bad BO, horrible undies and serious arm dandruff.
Sir Christopher Lee is credited with talking his long time colleague and friend Peter Cushing into remaining with the project ~ Cushing’s wife had passed on shortly before production had started ~ and to the producer’s relief, Cushing agreed to stay on after a lengthy conversation with Lee, whose final words to Cushing were “See you on the set tomorrow, Peter.” Lee is also credited with naming and shaming the Madrid Studios’ cuisine as being “deadly with salmonella the principal sauce” so the production must have suffered its’ share of ruined underpants as well. I know I did when I saw this film as a child.
What is amazing to me is the fact that this film was made for $300K and that, despite the low budget, it worked then to chill audiences and it still works today. The people that actually carry the film are Alberto de Mendoza as the monk Father Pujardov and the late Julio Pena as Inspector Mirov ~ the latter remaining courteous, even when he is sucking people’s brains dry.
As the female interests, Helga Line as Nicole, the spy and the gorgeous Silvia Tortosa as the countess make great eye candy but nothing more. Lee and Cushing ~ on whose names the film must have been sold ~ make a dynamic duo yet not as adversaries this time. Telly Savalas as the nutty Cossack ~ who knows a lot, except when to take his clothes off before going to sleep ~ almost steals the film with his OTT performance as Captain Kazan, smoker of cheroots, kisser of crosses and non respecter of good Russian vodka.