Sunday, October 17, 2021

Exhibitor's showmanship manual for 1972's "Horror Express"

"A NON-STOP RIDE TO HELL!!" screams the advertising copy in this exhibitor's showmanship manual for the underrated 1972 Spanish/British movie Horror Express. The front of this (in the first image) measures 10½ inches by 16¼ inches. It then opens up to twice that size inside for the two interior pages, which can be seen in the final photograph of the post.

The guide, from Scotia International Films, provides a full page of information about the movie's plot, cast and production. And then there are two pages of advertisements suitable for placement in newspapers and other media outlets. (Remember when newspapers ran movie ads?) The production notes include this interesting tidbit: "The entire action of the tension-filled suspense-drama takes place on the Trans-Siberian Express, and the private cars, dining cars and baggage cars were built, suspended on springs, on the stages of the studio, by Spain's noted art director, Ramiro Gomez."

I first watched Horror Express with Joan on Oct. 29, 2008, according to our Movie Book. That was the same night the Phillies won the World Series. (It seems odd that we also fit a movie in!) I wrote that the movie had too much plot for its own good, but lots of good ideas. Joan liked the interesting plot twists, even if some of them didn't make much sense. One thing I failed to connect at that time was that some of the "good ideas" in Horror Express, were clearly inspired by John W. Campbell Jr.'s 1938 novella Who Goes There?, upon which the 1982 movie The Thing is based. Campbell's work is not credited in Horror Express.

I find it interesting, too, that the movie's two stars are horror icons Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Yet their images are nowhere to be seen on these advertisements provided by Scotia International Films. (I've seen other posters that do show Lee and/or Cushing, and at least one that puts Telly Savalas front and center.)

It might be simply that they wanted to emphasize the horror (the monsters) in Horror Express for the advertisements, rather than the heroes (which is what Lee and Cushing are this time around). It might also be that, by 1972, Lee and Cushing were losing their status as marketable horror icons. A July 2021 essay by Andy Roberts on the website Horrified reinforces that idea:
"...horror was changing and changing rapidly at that. The reliable motifs and formulae of the hugely successful Hammer and Amicus paragons that dominated the worldwide film scene were no longer as lucrative as their previous content. Even the presence of the recognisable stalwart duo of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing did little to win over a more selective audience, who were coveting more and more graphic elements as time wore on. Horror Express was conceived originally in 1971, at the same time as these cultural changes began to have notable effects on the box office, and rather interestingly for a film featuring the acting chops of both Lee and Cushing, it begins to show a glint of the calibre of material that was about to utterly flood the market in the daring arena of the ‘70s grindhouse."
It's a great essay with some other thoughtful and compelling points by Roberts, and I recommend it if you have further interest in this movie or the genre. (Horrified really has a lot of great essays about movies from the my wheelhouse of the 1970s, including one on Night Gallery and its best segment.)

There's also an entire book about this movie, Horror Express by John Connolly, which I felt to be insightful but also, even at just 160 pages, a bit padded out. 

Here are the rest of the images from the exhibitor's guide... 

No comments:

Post a Comment