Review

  • A passenger train traveling from Geneva, Switzerland, to Stockholm, Sweden, is infected by a strain of pneumonic plague via a terrorist. Under questionable orders, the US Colonel in charge of the situation (Burt Lancaster) reroutes the train to Poland where it has to cross a long defunct steel arch bridge.

    "The Cassandra Crossing" (1976) is a disaster thriller that's part train movie and part plague flick. It's not great like the later "Runaway Train" (1985) nor as good as "Outbreak" (1995), but it's almost on par with "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory" (1995).

    Besides Lancaster as the Colonel, the impressive cast includes: Ingrid Thulin as the doctor the Colonel contends with; Richard Harris as a famous neurologist; Sophia Loren his ex-wife; Lee Strasberg a Holocaust survivor; Ava Gardner a wealthy aging lady; Martin Sheen her dubious boy toy; OJ Simpson a "priest"; Ann Turkel a hippie-ish musician; and John Phillip Law the Colonel's subordinate.

    Comparing this to the highest standard of 70's disaster flicks, "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972), it's just not as compelling because "Poseidon" has superior human interest, a more remarkable challenge and better women. Parts of it are quite good though, even great, like the superb sky-view cinematography and the score by Jerry Goldsmith. The last act is thrilling and worth the price of admission, but the first 90 minutes contains too many tedious parts with characters you don't much care about.

    Sophia still looks good at 41 during filming whereas Richard Harris was 45, but looks older. Gardner was 53 during shooting and also looks older, but then the last movie I saw her in debuted a dozen years earlier wherein she was still alluring. Hey, age happens.

    The film runs 2 hours, 8 minutes. Interiors were shot at Cinecittà studios in Rome with exteriors done in France and Switzerland. The steel arch bridge pictured in the movie is in reality the Garabit Viaduct in southern France, designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1880-1884, who later constructed the Eiffel tower.

    GRADE: B-