(director: Mark Robson; screenwriters: Abraham Polonsky/novel by Colin Forbes; cinematographer: Jack Cardiff; editor: Garth Craven; music: Allyn Ferguson; cast: Lee Marvin (Colonel Harry Wargrave), Robert Shaw (General Marenkov), Maximillian Schell (Colonel Bunin), Mike Conners (Haller), Linda Evans (Elsa Lang), David Hess (Geiger), Kristina Nel (Helga Mann), Sylvia Langova (Olga), Claudio Cassenelli (Molinari), Joe Namath (Leroy), Horst Bucholz (Scholten), Günter Meissner (Muehler), Cyril Shaps (Sedov); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer; Mark Robson: WB; 1979)
“Can always make time to watch an avalanche.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Mark Robson(“Bedlam”/”The Ghost Ship”) directs it straight in a formulaic way as a humorless and ineffective Cold War spy story. He’s not helped by the choppy script by Abraham Polonsky, who adapted it to the screen from a Colin Forbes novel. He’s also not helped by the incoherent execution of the film and the frozen acting from the noted ensemble cast. It should be noted that Gene (Roger’s brother) Corman filled in as producer, while Shaw’s lines were dubbed by the actor Robert Rietty.
The world-weary Soviet general, the KGB head (Robert Shaw, died of a heart attack at age 51 before the film wrapped), his wife committed suicide, is defecting to the West and traveling by train across Europe before going to Washington to be de-briefed. On the train he becomes the target of a ruthless Russian spy, a war hawk, involved in a biological germ-warfare program, Colonel Bunin (Maximillian Schell). The general is under the protection of veteran CIA operative Colonel Wargrave (Lee Marvin), who is reunited on this mission with his former agent girlfriend Elsa Lang (Linda Evans). Wargrave also travels with his loyal crack team led by Haller (Mike Connors) and having on the team the brave agent Leroy (Joe Namath, the ex-NFL quarterback).
The action takes place on the Dutch train, the Atlantic Express going from Milan to Rotterdam, that experiences an avalanche (highlight of the film created by Star Wars special-effects guy John Dykstra) caused by Soviet agents in the Alps and an attack on the train led by the terrorist group led by Geiger (David Hess) and orchestrated by Bunin. What Wargrave desires is to trap the dangerous Bunin by using the general as bait.
I thought the spy story was weak, but I like action pics on luxury intercontinental sleeper-car trains and can always make time to watch an avalanche.
REVIEWED ON 8/31/2021 GRADE: B-