16 user 10 critic

Avalanche Express (1979)

Soviet KGB General Marenkov defects to the Americans and together with his CIA handler Harry Wargrave they plan an operation meant to reveal the KGB agents in Europe.


, (uncredited)


(screenplay), (novel)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Gen. Marenkov
Col. Nikolai Bunin
Julian Scholten (as Horst Bucholz)
Col. Molinari
Kristina Nel ...
Helga Mann
Rudi Muehler (as Günter Meissner)
Sylva Langova ...
Olga (as Sylvia Langova)
Zannbin (as Vladets Shebal)
Arthur Brauss ...


When a senior Russian official, Gen. Marenkov, decides to defect to the west, CIA agent Harry Wargrave is sent to lead the team to get him out. Malenkov reveals that the Russians are trying to develop biological weapons. Wargrave decides that Malenkov should travel across Europe by train, on the "Atlantic Express", in an attempt to try and lure the Russians into attacking the train so that they can discover who the Russian secret agents in Europe are. During the journey they must survive terrorist attack and an avalanche, all planned by Russian spy-catcher Nikolai Bunin. Written by Matt <matt@measham.force9.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The Fast Track For All-Star Adventure.


Action | Thriller


PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

19 October 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El expreso de los espías  »

Filming Locations:



Box Office


$12,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Robert Shaw and Director/Producer Mark Robson both passed away during the post-production of this film. Both suffered heart attacks within months of the other; Robson passed away in June 1978 while Shaw passed away in August 1978. See more »


The tyres of the terrorists Mercedes squeal but they are on snow. See more »


Referenced in Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

Average Spy/thriller/catastrophe movie with all-star-cast and weak direction
2 September 2015 | by See all my reviews

This regular action tale contains thrills , intrigue , tension , excitement galore , entertainment and loads of falling snow . Suspenseful spy movie packs exceptional plethora of prestigious actors incarnating the motley group of spies for this All-Star Adventure and sadly ending picture for both , actor Robert Shaw who was very ill during filming and filmmaker Mark Robson . This his last movie was a jinx , appropriately titled ¨Avalancha express¨. Soviet KGB General Marenkov (Robert Shaw who died during its production) defects to the Americans and together with his CIA handler Harry Wargrave (Lee Marvin , he is mentioned in the novel the movie is based on) they plan an operation meant to reveal the Russians are attempting to develop biological weapons and several KGB agents in Europe . During the trail they must survive a lot of dangers : spy-catchers , terrorist attacks , crossfire , double-crosses and avalanches . All planned by a Russian top agent named Col. Nikolai Bunin (Maximilian Schell) . As the route of the train journey on the "Atlantic Express" , was from Milan, Italy to Rotterdam, Holland.

This exciting film contains noisy action , thrills , shootouts and results to be mediocre . And a great cast though wasted formed by the Hollywood Wax Museum . Besides , a large support cast such as Maximilian Schell , Joe Namath , Horst Buchholz , Mike Connors , Claudio Cassinelli , David Hess , Sky du Mont , Dan Van Husen and Günter Meisner . The picture has elements of ¨disaster genre¨ as when a train is threatened by lots and lots of falling snow . Passable acting by trio protagonist : Lee Marvin , Robert Shaw and Linda Evans . Robert Shaw is acceptable as KGB head who tries to defect , Shaw passed away during filmmaking , in fact most of his dialog had to be dubbed by a mimic . Colorful cinematography in Panavision by Jack Cardiff , though uncredited . Thrilling as well as atmospheric musical score by Allyn Ferguson .

Lavishly produced by Guthrie and Robson with a reported budget of $12 million , it was the most expensive film project shooting in Europe . The motion picture was middlingly directed by Mark Robson , though the film's closing credit tells the following : "The producers wish to express their appreciation to Monte Hellman and Gene Corman for their post production services¨ . In the early 40s Mark Robson was much involved with the low-budget terror unit in charge of producer Val Lewton , for whom made ¨Seventh victim¨, ¨The ghost ship¨, and ¨Island of the dead¨. In the late 1940s Robson joined Stanley Kramer's independent company and directed his biggest commercial hit to date with ¨The champion¨. Years later Robson made another good film about corruption in boxing world titled ¨The harder they fall¨ with Humphrey Bogart. In the late 1960s, his work did decline . And of course , ¨Von Ryan Express¨ was one of his best films ; this one is certainly one of the best movies ever made about the WWII escapes . And this ¨Avalanche Express¨ turned out to be an unfortunate film in which Robson and his main star , Robert Shaw, died suddenly from heart attacks . As Monte Hellman finished the direction and Gene Corman -brother of Roger Corman- completed Robson's duties as producer . In spite of a top-notch cast , spectacular images , tense images and noisy action , all of them don't make this one a good effort of its kind . This is an ordinary spy movie , being a little boring and embarrassing . Rating : 5 .

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