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Sunday, July 31, 2011

325. The Cross Of Iron


    This summer's classic re-releases have given me a great chance to catch up on some movies which I either haven't seen or are at the recesses of my memory.
    I'm pretty sure having watched it yesterday, that this was my first view of Sam Peckinpah's occasionally surreal film about life as a German soldier on the front line in Russia.
    Heading the all-star cast are James Coburn as a brave but anti-establishment platoon leader, Maximillian Schell as a cowardly aristocrat who is desperate to be awarded the Iron Cross, James Mason as an enlightened colonel and David Warner as his battle-weary adjutant.
    David who? Warner is one of those actors who seems to be in everything and yet is amazingly low-profile.
    Look him up on imdb and you will recognise him straightaway and then be staggered by the extent of his career.
    I digress. The movie highlights two battles. Obviously, the one which the Germans are losing to the Russians and secondly, the psychological one between Coburn's character, Steiner, and Schell's, Stransky.
    Coburn plays the rebel in style. Steiner is all action on the battlefield but scornful of those who stay under cover and give out orders.
    His attitude borders on insubordination and infuriates the scheming Stransky.
    Schell, meanwhile, plays the mad Prussian aristocrat with real punch.
    Peckinpah does well to re-create the grisly scenes of the frontline. The battle scenes are a forerunner to what we saw in the likes of Saving Private Ryan and Band Of Brothers.
    I'd be surprised if when it was made, in 1977, it didn't cause something of a stir with its bloodiness.
    So, it was probably a bit ahead of its time, but watching it now there is a clear feel of a 1970s movie.
    In fact, simple things like the long hair, which I doubt German soldiers were allowed, and gratuitous boob scenes do much to place it in that decade.
    Also, some of the actors made a decent fist of a German accent but some seemed not to be trying at all. This became something of a distraction.
    But, saying that, many war movies before Cross Of Iron, seem a bit twee by comparison. It brings home the horror but still maintains a storyline which grips until the very end.
    Therefore, it gets 8/10 from me.

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325. The Cross Of Iron


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