Halloween Countdown: Horror Express

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(In anticipation of the coolest day of the year, this month-long series will offer one recommended horror flick a day up through Oct. 31.)

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HORROR EXPRESS (1972). Also known as Panic on the Trans-Siberian Express, this Spanish-British co-production managed to build a sturdy cult following during the 1980s — it still deserves that standing, thanks to a crafty premise and the presence of two genre superstars. Set at the start of the 20th century, this stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as rival scientists who team up once a monster long frozen in ice breaks loose on the Trans-Siberian Express and starts murdering the crew and passengers. There's much more to the film than this deceptively simple synopsis — should I drop a hint that a dinosaur makes an appearance? — but part of its allure is that it takes all manner of detours, both fun and far-fetched. Telly Savalas appears briefly as a thuggish Cossack, and there's a suitably loopy turn by Robert De Niro look-alike Alberto de Mendoza as a fanatical priest. It's always a pleasure to see Lee and Cushing perform together, and here they're especially ingratiating, with Lee projecting authority and Cushing getting off some amusing quips — when someone suggests that one of them might be the monster in disguise, he retorts, "Monster? We're British, you know!"

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