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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Panic in the Trans-Siberian Train" )

 

directed by Eugenio Martin
Spain/UK 1972

 

In 1906, British anthropologist Sir Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee, HORROR OF DRACULA) discovers the frozen remains of what he believes to be a missing evolutionary link, and crates it to take it back to England with him aboard the Tran-Siberian Express. The crate arouses curiosity and suspicion when a thief who tried to break into it turns up dead (with blank eyes). Also on board the train is Saxton's colleague Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN), his assistant Mrs. Jones (Alice Reinheart, RAT FINK), the Count Petrovski (George Rigaud, MURDER MANSION), his young wife Irina (Silvia Tortosa, THE LORELEY'S GRASP), their confessor Pujardov (Alberto De Mendoza, A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN), engineer Yevtushenko (Angel del Pozo, THE PASSENGER), slinky stowaway spy Natasha (Helga Line, HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB). Curious Dr. Wells - never averse to bribery - pays the baggage man (Victor Israel, THE DEVIL'S KISS) to take a peak inside Saxton's crate, only for the attendant to also wind up a blank-eyed corpse while the defrosted and ambulatory ape man is on the loose. More deaths follow before the creature is shot down by Inspector Mirov (Julio Peña, CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT). The British scientists make the discovery that the creature was able to absorb the contents of its victims' brains through its eyes - indeed the fluid from its eyes contains pictures of the Earth as seen from space - and Saxton wonders how such a creature could ever die. When more passengers continue to die, Saxton and Wells realize that the creature has managed to transfer itself into one of the passengers and has plans that include keeping the train from making its appointed stop. Telly Savalas gives a showy "special guest star" performance as the ruthless Captain Kazan, and the film also features Spanish horror regular Barta Barri (THE DRACULA SAGA) and Jess Franco alumnus Vicente Roca (LUCKY THE INSCRUTABLE).

Blacklisted American writers Arnaud D'Usseau (LADY SCARFACE) and Julian Halevy (CRACK IN THE WORLD) - who also scripted the British production PSYCHOMANIA during this period - either added a science fiction angle to the basic plot of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS or simply selected a speeding train as the isolated setting on which to pit earthlings against a monster, and the result is memorable and highly-entertaining Spanish horror pictures (technically, it is a British/Spanish production). The set-up does not simply allow for a run-of-the-mill monster on the loose B-pic, the script is tightly-plotted and the revelations are well-timed and bear reflection (even if it seems like most of the monster's targeted victims simply stumble across it). There is also quite a bit of humor that one usually does not encounter in Spanish horror films (the Countess Irina threatens to have the already-exiled Captain Kazan sent to Siberia, and Wells' balks at the accusation that either he or Saxton could be the monster ["We're British!"]). The film was shot on the leftover train sets from PANCHO VILLA - blacklisted producer Bernard Gordon's previous collaboration with director Eugenio Martin (A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL), writer Halevy, and actor Savalas - and features an interesting mix of Spanish, British, and American talent including Faith Clift (who would go on to appear in CATACLYSM/THE NIGHTMARE NEVER ENDS / NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR, the much-reworked terror train anthology directed by Philip Yordan, who had fronted some of Gordon's scripts during his blacklisted years) and Allen Russell from Eugenio Martin's western BAD MAN'S RIVER (scripted by Yordan). John Cacavas (MORTUARY) provides an effective score - building upon a haunting whistled main theme - and the cinematography - a mix of elegantly photographed studio interiors and quick and dirty exteriors - is the work of Alejandro Ulloa (PERVERSION STORY).

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: January 1974 (USA)

Reviews        More Reviews       DVD Reviews

Comparison:

Image Entertainment (Euroshock Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Severin Films (Dual Format) - Region FREE - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for all the Screen Caps!

(Image Entertainment (Euroshock Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Severin Films (DVD + Blu-ray editions) - Region FREE - RIGHT)

Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

Image Entertainment

Region 0 - NTSC

Severin Films
Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:28:06 1:27:39 / 1:27:45.000
Video

1.62:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.82 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.62:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.72 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 22,580,564,800 bytes

Feature: 12,584,325,120 bytes

Video Bitrate: 17.58 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 

Image Entertainment (Euroshock Collection)

 

Bitrate:

 

Severin Films (DVD edition)

 

Bitrate:

 

Severin Films (Blu-ray)

 

Audio English Dolby Digital 1.0 mono; Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 mono

DVD: English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono; Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono

Blu-ray: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles none none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Image Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterboxed - 1.62:1

Edition Details:
• Isolated Music and Effects Track
• Filmographies for Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing
• Fold-out Liner Notes by Marc Walkow

DVD Release Date: 21 March 2000
Snapper Case

Chapters 18

Release Information:
Studio: Severin Films

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.62:1

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 22,580,564,800 bytes

Feature: 12,584,325,120 bytes

Video Bitrate: 17.58 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:
• Introduction by Fangoria editor Chris Alexander (4:3; 6:50)
• Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express: Interview with director Eugenio Martin (16:9; 13:59 in 1080P on
Blu-ray)
• Notes from the Blacklist: Producer Bernard Gordon discusses the McCarthy Era (16:9; 30:28)
• 1973 Audio Interview with Peter Cushing
• Telly and Me: Interview with composer John Cacavas (16:9; 8:04 in 1080i on
Blu-ray)
• Theatrical Trailer (16:9; 2:53
n 1080P on Blu-ray)
• Trailers for PSYCHOMANIA, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, and NIGHTMARE CASTLE
• Easter Egg: visit to the train station location (16:9; 0:59)

 

Blu-ray Release Date: November 29th, 2011
Standard Blu-ray Case

Chapters 17

 

Comments

NOTE: These Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

 

ADDITION: Severin - Region FREE - Blu-ray (November 11'): This is a dual-format package with the film, Horror Express, offered in both DVD (reviewed by Eric below) and Blu-ray transfers. The 1080P rendition is fairly modest being shy of 3X the bitrate of the included SD. It has less noise and things tighten up very marginally - it is also in the same approx 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Frankly it's a puny Blu-ray that exports a modicum of depth but still gave me a decent presentation. As opposed to the two discs - I'd have preferred a more robust, lone Blu-ray.

 

Severin have not taken advantage of the new format not including an uncompressed audio track - it appears to be exactly the same as the quality as the DVD - as are the menus and added extras including the audio interview and 1/2 hour Notes from the Blacklist with producer Bernard Gordon - as discussed by Eric below - although two of the supplement pieces (interview with director Eugenio Martin and interview with composer John Cacavas) and the trailer are in HD. Like the DVD the Blu-ray is also region FREE.

 

I really loved this - Lee and Cushing are perfect and it's a very cool build. It's one of the better of the genre that I have seen this year. The Blu-ray is not top-shelf but fans of Horror Express will appreciate it anyway. Lastly, its a great price and for a solid nostalgic film experience - we recommend! 

Gary Tooze

 

***

ON THE DVDs: Released officially on VHS in the United States by both Media Home Entertainment and Prism Entertainment (in a clamshell case with beautiful artwork), HORROR EXPRESS made its widescreen digital debut as part of Image's Euroshock Collection. The non-anamorphic letterboxed transfer - which is a couple seconds longer due to the TV Matters logo at the start - was given an interlaced encoding and offered only a Spanish dub track and an isolated music and effects track as extras. The transfer was a great upgrade to the many PD VHS and DVD releases, but the colors were somewhat faded and the image was featured occasional rainbow moire patterning on the check patterns of some of the period clothing. The snapper case artwork did feature a fold-out section containing liner notes by Marc Walkow.

Severin's HD-mastered, progressive, anamorphic encoding has similar framing to the older transfer (Image's transfer features a negligible sliver more picture information on all four sides), and is a considerable upgrade. While the greater definition does reveal the seams of some prosthetics (the blank and glowing eye effects) and some of the miniatures suffer (although nowhere near as much as the digital transfer of AMOK TRAIN / BEYOND THE DOOR 3, another supernatural runaway train pic), the muted browns and grays of the sets and wardrobe rendered nicely while some eye-popping blues and glowing reds stand out without any distortion. Derived from a Spanish print source, the opening shot of the train rushing past the camera is restored (this bit happens over black in most English prints) and the end cast scroll has been restored (most English versions let the music continue on black after the FIN card). Whereas the English language prints credit only Lee and Cushing above the title, the Spanish version also gives Alberto De Mendoza (who plays the monk Pujardov) billing before the Spanish title card PÁNICO EN EL TRANSIBERIANO. Severin's release is their first DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack, which is a nice gesture to those who have not upgraded equipment. The Blu-Ray version features a 1080P AVC-encode, but only Dolby Digital 2.0 192 kpbs tracks (while the DVD menu identifies the Spanish track as mono, the Blu-Ray menu says that it is stereo [both state the English track is mono]).

Severin have unfortunately dropped the isolated music and effects track (although a stereo CD of John Cacavas' score was released by Citadel), but have included a 1973 audio interview with Peter Cushing as a third audio option with which to view the film. The humorous interview is about eighty minutes and is career-wide, starting with his early influences (he liked the Tom Mix films and first wanted to be a cowboy, rather than an actor) and work while trying to break into films. He starts discussing his Hammer and Amicus work at about 35 minutes into the film and takes questions from the audience (he makes some interesting comments about the increasing amount of gore in his horror movies as well, and mentions the "Eastern" versions of some of the early Hammer films), and his collaborations with Christopher Lee. It is also a valuable track because it discusses some of his television work that is likely now lost.

Fangoria editor Chris Alexander provides an infectious introduction to the film (which also sites John Campbell's "Who Goes There?" - the story that inspired THE THING - as an influence on the film and traces the body counte element of the film to Agatha Christie's TEN LITTLE INDIANS). Director Eugenio Martin cites the inspiration for the film as the producers' desire to take advantage of the train sets they had already created for PANCHO VILLA. He points out the differences in the consistent acting styles of Lee and Cushing and Savalas' more improvisational methods (and the differences in the comic touches that each brought to their performances). He also discusses the film's special effects (including himself, Lee, and Cushing playing with the electronically-countrolled miniature train model) and the difficulties of the actors when they had to wear the blank contact lenses.

The interview with producer Bernard Gordon - who lead the protest against the honorary Oscar for Elia Kazan who named names before the House Un-American Activities Committee - was conducted back in 2005, and was recorded for an ultimately shelved release of Samuel Bronston's films - and focuses on his working relationship with Bronston and producer Philip Yordan during his years as a blacklisted writer (including some frank and amusing anecdotes about Yordan ["He didn't write a word, but he had good ideas for exploitation"] and some of the egos of the stars with whom they worked). Although Gordon does not speak about HORROR EXPRESS (a card does mention Gordon's producing credits for HORROR EXPRESS, PANCHO VILLA, and PSYCHOMANIA), the featurette does use snippets of John Cacavas' score (which may have been added by Severin's editors). Cacavas talks about his scoring work in the context of his friendship with Savalas (with whom he penned the theme song for PANCHO VILLA), but he also mentions his scores for BLADE, SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, REDNECK, and eventually the Savalas TV series KOJAK. An Easter Egg features a minute-long visit to the train station location from the beginning of the film.

 - Eric Cotenas

 



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(
Image Entertainment (Euroshock Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Severin Films (DVD edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - RIGHT)


 

 

Severin - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 


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 Screen Captures

 

1) Image Entertainment (Euroshock Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Severin Films (DVD edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Severin - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Image Entertainment (Euroshock Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Severin Films (DVD edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Severin - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Image Entertainment (Euroshock Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Severin Films (DVD edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Severin - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Image Entertainment (Euroshock Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Severin Films (DVD edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Severin - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Image Entertainment (Euroshock Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Severin Films (DVD edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Severin - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Image Entertainment (Euroshock Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Severin Films (DVD edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Severin - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Image Entertainment (Euroshock Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Severin Films (DVD edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Severin - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

More Severin - Region FREE - Blu-ray Captures

 

 


 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Draw

Extras: Blu-ray (3 in HD)

 
Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

Image Entertainment

Region 0 - NTSC

Severin Films
Region FREE - Blu-ray

 




 

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Gary Tooze

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