Monday, October 21, 2002


I finally saw this film whose reputation has grown over the years. Unfortunately, the DVD was not letterboxed or restored; in fact, it looked like a dub from a TV print. Still, it was an interesting hybrid of a movie, like a cross between THE THING and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, with a religious element that is not fully explored. Christopher Lee is Professor Saxton, an archeologist who is carting the fossils of a supposed "missing link" creature along with him on the Trans-Siberian Express. Peter Cushing is a curious doctor who butts into Lee's business and inadvertantly has a hand in allowing the fossil (which has returned to life) to escape and wreck havoc on the train. There are some interesting characters introduced, including Telly Savalas as a brutal Cossack who boards the train along the way to wreck some havoc of his own, and a sexy & mysterious woman whose sole purpose seems to be sexy & mysterious. There is also a Rasputin-ish mad monk (Angel del Pozo) who seems to shift his alliances from God to Satan, but does he? The plotting here is handled rather ineptly so I honestly don't know whether the monk is supposed to be bad or not. But these characters aren't developed very well because mostly they're around to serve as creature bait.

The missing link winds up being an extraterrestrial life force that can hop from body to body when its host dies (as in John Carpenter's version of THE THING). In a particularly outrageous plot development, Lee and Cushing discover that images of what the creature saw in prehistoric days are available for viewing through the blood of its eyes (!!). It moves the plot along nicely, but it's hard to get past the silliness of the gimmick. The abovementioned religious element involves the idea that the creature really is Satanic; even though that would not seem to be true, there is no explanation for a scene early on when the monk tries to draw a protecting cross on the fossil box, but the cross image fails to materialize. There are some effective shocks along the way, but the climax is truly worth sticking around for--it turns out that the creature can bring the dead (or at least the dead that it has killed) back to life, and in a truly creepy scene, dozens of dead bodies rise up and head for the train car where the last survivors are trapped. This movie has everything but the kitchen sink, and that's why it's fun to watch.

No comments: