Avalanche Express

Avalanche Express
Directed byMark Robson
Screenplay byAbraham Polonsky
Based onAvalanche Express
1977 novel
by Colin Forbes
Produced byMark Robson
StarringLee Marvin
Robert Shaw
Linda Evans
Maximilian Schell
CinematographyJack Cardiff
Edited byGarth Craven
Music byAllyn Ferguson
Color processColor by De Luxe
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • August 30, 1979 (1979-08-30) (Netherlands)
  • October 19, 1979 (1979-10-19) (United States)
Running time
88 minutes
CountriesUnited States
Budget$12 million[1]

Avalanche Express is a 1979 Cold War adventure thriller film starring Lee Marvin, Robert Shaw, Maximilian Schell, and Linda Evans and produced and directed by Mark Robson. The plot is about the struggle over a defecting Soviet general. The screenplay by Abraham Polonsky was based on a 1977 novel by Colin Forbes. It was the last film for both Shaw and Robson, who each died in 1978.


Soviet general Marenkov (Robert Shaw) decides to defect to the West and CIA agent Harry Wargrave (Lee Marvin) leads the team that is to get him out. Wargrave decides that Marenkov should travel across Europe by train, on the fictional Atlantic Express. The idea is to lure the Russians into attacking the train and thus discover who their secret agents in Europe are. Consequently, during the train journey they must survive both a terrorist attack and an avalanche, all planned by KGB spy-catcher Nikolai Bunin (Maximilian Schell).


Production problems[]

During production in Ireland, both director Mark Robson and starring actor Robert Shaw died of heart attacks within weeks of each other. Monte Hellman was brought in to finish the direction and Gene Corman (Roger Corman's brother) was called in to complete Robson's duties as producer.[2]

Robert Rietti was hired to re-record Robert Shaw's dialogue in the opening scene, as it was decided to redo that scene in Russian with English subtitles instead of having the Russians speak broken English. As a consequence, for continuity, all of Shaw's dialogue throughout the film was re-recorded by Rietti.

Hellman, Corman and Rietti were not cred for their work, but the film's end cr contains a note stating: "The producers wish to express their appreciation to Monte Hellman and Gene Corman for their post production services."

Critical reaction[]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times criticized the film's tackiness, suggesting it was copied from The Cassandra Crossing and likening it to the work of exploitation filmmaker Lew Grade, criticising the actors as appearing "at a loss".[3] Time Out called it "awful", "formulary" and "hammily acted" but explained its curious ing as resulting from the production problems.[4] The Radio Times gave it 2/5 stars, noting its disjointed quality but praising the acting and snowy special effects.[5] Leonard Maltin's annual publication "TV Movies" gives the film a BOMB rating.

See also[]


  1. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Pres58
  2. ^ Monte Hellman: his life and films, pages 130 to 133
  3. ^ Canby, Vincent (October 19, 1979). "Film: 'Avalanche Express':Snow Job". New York Times. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Avalanche Express". Time Out. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  5. ^ Hutchinson, Tom. "Avalanche Express". Radio Times. Retrieved 9 July 2015.

External links[]