Avalanche Express

I do not doubt that he does, yet I wonder how quickly his heart would beat for “Avalanche Express,” a 1979 thriller whose momentum does not match its promise in title or talent.

It boasts the screen’s lone, unlikely teaming of Lee Marvin, Linda Evans and Joe Namath. They’ll all CIA agents sent to secure a defecting Russian general harboring nuclear secrets, played by Robert Shaw, just a few years after his legendary role in “Jaws.” It proved to be his last, as he died during filming.

I didn’t know that until after watching the adventure, nor that director Mark Robson (“Earthquake”) also expired before the project wrapped, but it explains a lot. The film is a mess, but worse, a bore. Aside from the scenes in which the train falls prey to the avalanche — disaster was huge in this era of cinema, remember — nothing engages audiences. Even the dialogue — with Shaw’s distractingly dubbed — is too dull to serve as a driving force of interest. With five minutes left to go, one explosion is clearly animated.

For the made-on-demand release, Warner Archive has included the movie’s hyperbolic trailer, which takes the odd marketing angle of using stills almost exclusively, shaking them when needed. —Rod Lott

Rod Lott

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