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The Cassandra Crossing

The Cassandra Crossing

The Cassandra Crossing is a 1976 British disaster film directed by George Pan Cosmatos and starring Richard Harris, Ava Gardner, Sophia Loren, Martin Sheen, Burt Lancaster, Lee Strasberg and O. J. Simpson.

Passengers aboard a European transcontinental train bound from Geneva to Stockholm are infected with a bacterial plague from a Swedish terrorist, who is fleeing a botched attack on the U.S. mission at the fictional International Health Organization (based on the WHO).

U.S. Colonel Stephen Mackenzie wants to send the train across an abandoned ex-Nazi railroad line to a quarantine camp in Janov, Poland. The twist, however, is that the line crosses a dangerously unsound steel arch bridge known as the Cassandra Crossing. Mackenzie understands that the bridge might collapse as the train passes over it. He reasons that, if the train does not make it across the bridge, he can lay the blame for the situation on the terrorists.

The passengers include Dr. Jonathan Chamberlain and his ex-wife Jennifer Rispoli Chamberlain. Another is Nicole Dressler, who is the wife of a German arms dealer. She is embroiled in an affair with a young narcotics trafficker named Robby Navarro.

Dr. Elena Stradner is an IHO physician who wants to save the passengers and desperately tries to convince Mackenzie to stop the train.

The passengers remain unaware of their predicament until, while approaching Paris, theyre re-directed to Nuremberg, where the train is sealed with an enclosed oxygen system and a U.S. Army medical team is placed aboard for health and security concerns.

While the train is being locked down, a passenger and Holocaust survivor, Herman Kaplan, discovers the Polish quarantine center is located at the site of an ex-concentration camp in Janov where he had been imprisoned by the Nazis during WWII. Determined not to relive such horrific memories, he panics and attempts to escape from the train, but is shot and wounded in the process.

While being treated by Dr. Chamberlain, Kaplan informs him about the Cassandra Crossing. Chamberlain is very concerned about the risk of crossing such a bridge and soon, infected passengers begin to recover from their sickness, owing to the pure oxygen being distributed throughout the length of the train. Chamberlain informs Mackenzie and Dr. Stradner of this development so that the train doesnt need to continue into Poland. The latter agrees with Dr. Chamberlain, but the former, of course, refuses to allow the train to stop en route.

Chamberlain begins to realize Mackenzie has no intention of stopping the train - the audience is led to deduce that his superiors are willing to let the bridge collapse and let all the passengers perish in order to cover up the fact that the U.S has been developing germ warfare in a neutral country. Chamberlain starts a race against the clock with other passengers to take control of the train from the Army security detail as they race towards an uncertain fate at the Cassandra Crossing.

Failing to get anywhere close to the locomotive, Chamberlain resorts to blowing a hole in the floor of the restaurant car using the propane gas cylinders in the kitchen to gain access to the coupling release to separate the heavier second class section of the train and stop it before the train reaches the bridge.

After successive attempts to set off the explosion fail, Kaplan sacrifices his own life to ignite the escaping gas by entering the kitchen with a lit cigarette lighter. Amid the wreckage of the restaurant car, Chamberlain struggles to pull the coupling release lever as the front of the train begins to cross the bridge but manages to uncouple the second class section at the last possible moment.

As the first class section gets across the bridge, it gives way and all of the first class carriages fly off the broken end of the bridge and as the last car falls off, it blows up, causing the arch section of the bridge to collapse. Luckily, a conductor on the other half of the train puts the brake on and the passenger cars stop a few hundred feet from the end of the track.

The remaining, presumably uninfected, passengers are seen disembarking from the train, and they escape. Colonel Mackenzie is seen leaving the IHO headquarters in Geneva. Coda: an off-screen character informs Mackenzie's superior officer that Mackenzie and Stradner "are both under surveillance."

Guinea, 2001, The Cassandra Crossing


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