The Cassandra Crossing” was born. Either realizing that disaster movies were starting to become a little passe by 1976, or realizing that a train only presents so many story opportunities, the filmmakers also threw in a story about a plague and a government conspiracy. This resulted in one of the darker films of the seventies disaster movie fad. The approach wasn't popular with critics or audiences. The film is more-or-less forgotten today.
Dr. Jonathan Chamberlain, world famous neurosurgeon, boards a train traveling from Geneva to Stockholm. He's surprised to find his ex-wife, famous author Jennifer Chamberlin, is also on the train. This is not the only surprise. Earlier, three terrorist infiltrated a lab where chemical weapons were being created. One man, infected with a dangerous new strain of plague, escaped. He's aboard the train now. Once the government finds out, they put the train into quarantine. The Colonel in charge of the case decides to send the train over the Kasundruv Bridge, also known as the Cassandra Crossing, a notoriously old and unstable arch bridge. The hope is the train will crash, everyone on-board will die, and the whole scandal will disappear. But the passengers on-board fight back.
Jerry Goldsmith's score also sounds better suited to a gritty crime film. It's full of sinister tones and odd, electronic noises.
This crime movie atmosphere eventually shifts towards something more conspiratorial. It's heavily implied the U.S. government is illegally manufacturing germ weapons. Col. Menkenzie puts a group of innocent people to death in order to cover up his involvement in this. It turns out the virus naturally works its way out of the body but he still insists on murdering the train's passengers. In scenes that recall George Romero's “The Crazies,” soldiers in white hazmat suits descend on the train. They are faceless voices of authority, with no interest in protecting the public. They point guns at harmless citizens, even firing at them when they try to leave. Before the movie is over, they are gunning down the train passengers. When the heroes eventually lead a rebellion against the soldiers, it's a natural reaction to a government that doesn't care about their well-being. And there's no happy ending either, proving what a grim world this film takes place in.
After over an hour of being a conspiracy thriller, “The Cassandra Crossing” moves back into disaster movie mode. The train goes over the titular bridge, which then collapses. Owing to the film's grim atmosphere, our heroes do not get everyone off first. As the bridge breaks apart and the train cars fall into the canyon below, the people inside scream. One man is impaled with a steel bar. Another woman screams in horror as she's crushed to death. The destruction in disaster movies is usually fun to watch. The carnage here is graphic and intense enough, the miniatures and special effects realistic enough, that there's no enjoyment factor. Genre expectations demanded a disaster and the movie delivered, without pulling any punches. The choice is off-putting but also quite bold.
Rambo: First Blood Part II” and “Cobra,” so those are clearly topics he enjoys.) The result is not the most consistent film. However, it's a pretty interesting one, at least from a cultural perspective. Oh, and did I mention that O.J. Simpson co-stars as the undercover cop that's after Sheen? And that he's specifically undercover as a priest? That's another weird disconnect in a film full of them. [7/10]
[THE DISASTER MOVIE CHECKLIST: 10 outta 10]
[X] Awards Bait Ballad
[X] Corrupt or Incompetent Authority Figures
[X] Destruction of Famous Landmarks*
[X] Grim Predictions
[X] Group In-Fighting
[X] Heroic Sacrifices
[X] Massive Collateral Damage or Explosions
[X] Pets or Kids are Imperiled but Survive
[X] Romantic Couple Resolves Problems
[X] Star-Studded Cast
*Kasundruv Bridge is pretty famous within the film