Judged on its own terms–as a 70s ghoul movie–this film should be rated a 10 out of 10! The plot is well-structured and tightly directed, and contains lots of great elements: 1906 setting, fancy trans-Siberian train ride, a ghoul, a mad monk, alien theorizing a-la-X-files, zombie soldiers stalking, Peter Cushing sawing the top of somebody’s head off, a beautiful spy, eyeballs in a dish, a beautiful Polish Countess, and, believe it or not, it’s all very cohesive! That’s an admirable achievement
And the acting is great. The Monk is a scene-stealer. Christopher Lee gets to play a testy, priggish Edwardian scientist, and he does it very well. Cushing’s character plays off Lee’s stodginess as a laid-back deal-maker(yes, he actually smiles and cracks jokes)These two performances prove that Lee and Cushing were both gifted and versatile actors. Telly Savalas arrives for the final act, and proceeds to strut around and chew up the scenery on a level that would make Rod Steiger or Al Pacino jealous. This movie is one of the best of its type. Yes, in the first two minutes you can see signs of a limited budget, and yes, the microscope scene is ludicrous, but in a way, on the level of imagination and poetic license, it’s pure genius.
Corrections: a certain “Dik” offered this information while commenting:
1. “An Italian film”.(It’s a Spanish/UK production) 2. “Lee plays an American Scientist”(the first thing you hear in the movie is Lee saying he is part of the ROYAL Archeological Society, and there’s also a lengthy exchange about his character’s Englishness: “Queen Victoria, crumpets, Shakespeare”…etc.(The commentator actually goes on about how Lee’s portrayal of an American reflects how foreigners view Americans. Well…there’s a little problem with that idea, isn’t there?)