DATELINE: Old-Fashioned All-Star Thriller
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.