Eire, 1979, 88 minutes, Colour.
Robert Shaw, Lee Marvin, Linda Evans, Maximilian Schell.
Directed by Mark Robson.
Avalanche Express is the last film of veteran of all genres Mark Robson and actor Robert Shaw. The film seems patchy, hasty. There are post production credits especially to director Monte Hellman. It is cold war C.I.A.-K.G.B. espionage and terrorism, swiftly paced, far-fetched, enjoyable at the moment (despite model trains and effects, although the avalanche is quite a highlight) but not bearing too much reflection. Lee Marvin soberly-granite-jawed has the heroics. Shaw is an enigmatic defector and Maximilian Schell is all exaggerated villainy. Plenty of action, little motivation and all in a range of attractive European locations which justifies the train trip. Avalanche Flight might have been more effective, quicker espionage.
1. An enjoyable espionage adventure? The basic appeal of such spy films, adventures, journeys?
2. How evident was it that the director died before completion of the film? How well was the film edited ? salvaged? The 'bare bones' of the basic script and intentions?
3. Location photography in Europe, Panavision, mountain and snow scenery, Holland? The avalanche and special effects? The score?
4. Audience response to the basic cold war situation - the pre credit sequences in Russia with subtitles and plans of the Kremlin? Internal disputed, the dominance of the hawks? Corresponding American reaction?
5. An atmosphere of realism about the screenplay with the focus on the Kremlin, espionage and agents in Europe? The imaginative adventure with so many incidents, coincidences, avalanches and sieges?
6. The portrait of the K.G.B. and the C.I.A., the contacts and the methods of communication in Europe e.g. at railway stations? Espionage, betrayal, motives?
7. The basic framework of the journey ? the train ride, the culmination with the boat and escape? Sense of movement, rapid moving through locations.. the impact of the avalanche in the middle and the way this was edited in? The final siege at the bridge and the attack on the boat?
8. The staging of the action sequences, the sabotage of the boat at the end?
9. Marenkov and Robert Shaw's impersonation, at the Kremlin, at Milan? The explanation of his motives? His participation in the journey?
10. The contrast with Bunin, Maximilian Schell's intensity in the portrayal, the hawkish attitudes, the plan, the disguises, the communication with spies, violence, the ending?
11. Lee Marvin as Wargrave and hero? Tough, his relationship with Esla and their reconciliation, the fake death, his sudden reappearance, the flushing out of the European spies, the avalanche and the train, his participation at the siege? American C.I.A. hero?
12. His helpers and their characters, collaboration, participation in the trip, the shoot-outs, deaths?
13. The picture of European espionage and its atmosphere, the variety of people involved and the connections, mode of communications?
14. The impact of the avalanche and its destructiveness?
15. The build-up to the terrorist siege and the device of the C.I.A. donning the terrorist garb and attacking the boat? An explosive ending?
16. The final film and its impact compared with the intentions of a two-hour spectacular multimillion dollar adventure?