Cassandra Crossing the Rubicon

DATELINE: Old-Fashioned All-Star Thriller

Cassandra

Wow: Ava with Sheen, Loren, and Harris!

You might not believe what you are seeing with this old chestnut of a disaster thriller movie. Back in the day when Towering Infernos were all the rage, some producers came up a loony disaster thriller called The Cassandra Crossing.

A biotech terrorism movie from 1977 features one of those staggering all-star casts and a plot right out of kitsch horror. This time the bad guys are dressed in hazmat suits and are sending a train one-way to oblivion.

It seems terrorists have somehow escaped to one of Europe’s luxury train—and carrying some virus (before computer troubles usurped the idea) that condemns the 1000 passengers to sure death by plague, unless the United States can kill them all by another means to save the world from a pandemic.

The US government will not let anyone off the train. They have decided to send it to a condemned bridge in Poland where it will crash, collapse, and kill everyone.

The killer cast alone is eye-popping:  Sophia Loren is lovingly filmed as only the wife of the movie’s producer could insist (Carlo Ponti joined up with Sir Lew Grade).  Then, you have aging Ava Gardner and her boytoy lover Martin Sheen. Richard Harris is some kind of celebrity doctor, and O.J. Simpson is wearing a priest’s collar and carrying a gun.

To top it off, Burt Lancaster is back at International Health headquarters with John Philip Law and Dr. Ingrid Thulin, to round out the international cast. Oh, don’t forget that Lionel Stander is the train’s conductor.

When the men in hazmat suits take over, they board up the train and send it to Poland, sending shivers down the post-traumatic syndrome of Lee Strasberg as an old Jewish man who starts to relive his trip to a concentration camp.

The film is a bit intriguing as we wait to see Ava and OJ do a scene together or watch Martin Sheen take a knife away from OJ Simpson and let him kill people with automatic weapons.

The real star of the movie seems to be Ava Gardner’s basset hound who is airlifted off the train to be studied for bacterial viral symptoms. This nut-cake movie has to be seen through to its disaster climax at a bridge too far into Poland.

You may hoot too long and too often.

 

 

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Mo’gambo: Mo’Gable, Mo’Gardner, and Mo’Grace

DATELINE:  Safari Fun

Mogambo

Mogambo could have been made in 1953 as a movie chestnut with Stewart Granger, Maureen O’Hara and Gene Tierney. The title name isn’t even African. It’s portmanteau.

We might have found this trifle cast entertaining, but it would never have reached the electrifying fun of Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, and Grace Kelly, having at it in the jungles of Equatorial Africa.

Put John Ford in the director’s chair—changing his pace from Ireland and John Wayne’ Quiet Man, and you have glorious banter among stars at their peak.

You may find the beauty of Ava (playing Kelly) and Grace (not playing Gardner) overwhelming. It is topped off with Ava in one of her more delightful feisty roles, bantering with elan, with everyone in the cast. She even finds herself knocked into the mud by a baby elephant as she asks him to stomp on Gable when he grows up.

Some might say that Gable was on the downslide by mid 1950s, but no moreso than Gary Cooper or Spencer Tracy. He is Rhett Butler again, with gray at the temples.

Ford manages to weave his usual magical images with story and character here. Moonlight on the African Serengeti is matched with moonlight on Ava.

This is not one of those modern cartoon movies that directors today must merge with special effects. Life has enough effects for a movie with adults and for adults with a mature perspective.

Mogambo was lost in a plethora of on location movies of the era as Hollywood tried to play against television at the box-office, but the stars here were up to the task of adventure in the remote jungles. Oh, yes, African Queen, King Solomon’s Mines, and even Woman and the Hunter were glorious Technicolor romps—but for pure delight, this one wins, safari, so good.