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Blu-ray Review: Cross of Iron – “A fantastic restoration for a brilliant film”

Sam Peckinpah’s Cross of Iron has had a new 4K restoration and is coming to UHD Steelbook, Blu-Ray & DVD and with new bonus material, on 31st July as part of STUDIOCANAL’s iconic Vintage Classics brand.

The film stars James Coburn (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN), James Mason (NORTH BY NORTHWEST) and David Warner (TRON, TIME BANDITS), alongside international stars Maximilian Schell (A BRIDGE TOO FAR, THE BLACK HOLE) as the standout Battalion Commander and Senta Berger (THE GLORY GUYS), this important anti-war film is based on the 1956 novel of the same name by Willi Heinrich.

A World War II tale told from the German perspective, CROSS OF IRON follows a platoon of German soldiers in Russia when the German Wehrmacht forces had been decimated and the Germans were retreating along the Russian front. Rolf Steiner (James Coburn) is a German corporal and recipient of the Iron Cross who has grown disenchanted with Hitler’s war machine. When Captain Stransky (Maximilian Schell) assumes charge, the pair are thrown into immediate conflict, the autocratic but ultimately cowardly Stransky coveting the loyalty and honour Steiner commands.

This was Peckinpah’s only war movie and it was near the end of his career. It features many of this trademarks from earlier films – the frenetic action scenes with occasional slow motion, big explosions, blood and guts showing the results of violence and tough guys doing what they think, or hope, is the right thing to do. The film itself is a classic, and rightfully so, but it does lack some of the flair and innovation that Peckinpah had in his earlier films such as The Wild Bunch.

However, that does not lessen the impact of this powerful anti-war and anti-authoritarianism film. It shows the true horror of war and the class conflict between the ruling elite and those beneath them. We follow James Coburn’s world-weary soldier who is trying to ensure both himself and the soldiers under his command survive the horrors of the war. Coburn gives an incredible performance as Steiner, an almost mythical figure to his men, he seems to come from a different time as he keeps them as sane and as safe as the war allows.

Into the mix comes, Schell’s Captain Stransky whose cowardice and intelligence bring conflict and distrust. His declaration that he transferred to the front-line in Russia so he can win the Iron Cross is met with both wonder and bafflement from the regiment’s Commander.

The motivations for most of the characters are quite simple but that does not detract from the story and makes them almost archetypes. The fact that we are following a group of German soldiers also makes little difference as it could be any soldiers in any war as the conflicts across countries and class barriers are the same all over.

All the actors involved give amazing performances, with Coburn and Schell being the obvious standouts. Coburn is always such a joy to watch and while he is mainly stern and taciturn through most of the film, the moments he lets his guard down with his men during downtime, bring Steiner to life. The supporting cast do a wonderful job of showing the camaraderie that soldiers would have in those situations.

When battle erupts, the blood goes flying and we see just how ugly violence is. The explosions are vivid and brutal, the gunfire deadly and it is a wonder anyone is left standing by the end of it.

It constantly makes us look at ourselves and our relationships with others. It points out the futility of war and the corrupting influence of power.

The film was shot on 35 mm film and the 4K scan by Studiocanal was from the original camera negative with over 240 hours of restoration work.

The new restoration is stunning. It is well-detailed and the colour pops, while still retaining that cinematic sheen and grain that you want from the films of this era. The audio is good with the dialogue being clear and the mix working well. The only slight issue is I wish the bass had been a bit beefier as some of the explosions lacked depth.

On the whole, it is a fantastic restoration for a brilliant film with a stand-out performance by Coburn. My only gripe is that I did feel it ran a little too long

4K UHD Steelbook, Blu-Ray & DVD Extras

  • Audio Commentary by filmmaker and film historian Mike Siegel
  • NEW Promoting STEINER (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • NEW STEINER on the set (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • NEW Filming STEINER (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • NEW Filming STEINER pt 2 (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • NEW STEINER in colour (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • On Location: Sam Peckinpah (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • On Location: James Coburn (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • On Location: Maximilian Schell (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • On Location: James Mason (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • On Location: David Warner (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • Passion and Poetry: Sam Peckinpah’s War (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • Kruger Kisses Kern (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • Vadim & Sam: Father & Son (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • Cutting Room Floor (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • Steiner in Japan: Ads filmed in 1977 (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • Mike’s Home Movies: Steiner & Kiesel Meet Again (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • US/UK Trailer (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • German Trailer (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)
  • US TV Spot (Steelbook & Blu-Ray only)

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4K UHD Steelbook, Blu-Ray & DVD Extras

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