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Avalanche Express (1979, Lee Marvin, Robert Shaw)



In action thriller Avalanche Express, when Russian General Marenkov (Robert Shaw) decides to defect to the West, CIA agent Harry Wargrave (Lee Marvin) is sent to bring him out. Going against orders, Wargrave decides to get Marenkov to safety by train, using it as a chance to flush out renegade Russian Nikolai Bunin (Maximilian Schell), mastermind of a plan to launch biological warfare on the West. As the train makes its way from Italy to Holland, Bunin’s attacks grow in ferocity, including a spectacular avalanche that the train must out-run.

The film was Shaw’s last – he died just after shooting finished and some of his lines had to be dubbed post-production. It seemed doubly cursed when veteran director Mark Robson, best known for Valley of the Dolls and Van Ryan’s Express, died during shooting. Equally experienced Monte Hellman (The Shooting, Two Lane Blacktop) took over to finish the project and turned in a slick, fast-moving thriller with the added novelty of an appearance by Joe Namath, one of American Football’s greatest players, who turned his hand to acting after retiring from the sport.

production details
USA | 85 minutes | 1979

Directors: Mark Robson, Monte Hellman
Writer: Abraham Polonsky, based on Colin Forbes’ novel

Robert Shaw as Markenkov
Lee Marvin as Wargrave
David Hess as Geiger
Vladek Sheybal as Zannbin
Horst Buchholz as Schotten
Linda Evans as Else Lang
Joe Namath as Leroy
Maximilian Schell as Bunin
Mike Connors as Haller
Arthur Brauss as Neckermann
Kristina Nel as Helga Mann
Günter Meisner as Rudi Mueller
Claudio Cassinelli as Molinari
Robert Rietty as Markenkov (voice)
Sylva Langová as Olga
Cyril Shaps as Sadov
Sky du Mont as Philip John
Richard Marner as Field Marshall Prachko
Arnold Drummond as Commissar
Paul Glawion as Alfredo
Dan van Husen as Bernardo
Rainer Steffen as 1st Policeman
Dieter Groest as 2nd Policeman
Hans-Jürgen Leuthen as Dutch Customs Man
Maximilian Wolters as Swiss Officer
Gudo Hoegel as Adjutant of Molinari
Rudolf Waldemar Brem as 1st Signal Man
Erland Erlandsen as 2nd Signal Man
Walter Kraus as Engineer
Osman Ragheb as Security Agent