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Cross of Iron 4K


‘…a great, thought-provoking, guelling film that deserves to carry an appreciative audience from generation to generation…’

Didn’t you review Cross of Iron last year? Yes, guilty as charged, when StudioCanal asked me to pick some favourite films to review from their substantial back-catalogue, I chose Sam Peckinpah’s 1977 anti-war classic, little knowing that there was a substantial 4K, two disc restoration in the pipeline. You can read my glowing five-star review of the previous pressing here, but my enthusiasm for this film is such that I couldn’t help re-watching the whole thing again; there’s fresh extras in the form of lobby cards and posters from the film’s original release, but also the restored and startling images from the film itself which look fresh and reflect the director’s unique and fluent gift for mise en scene. Screenerwriter Julius J Epstein, of Casablanca fame, never heard a contemporary song he didn’t feel was relevant to a film’s narrative, and Cross of Iron’s mature conflicts play out against a background of children’s voices and songs reflecting lost innocence.

One of the opening images here is of a wheel stuck in the mud on the Eastern front circa WWII; the wheel belongs to the transportation of the aristocratic Prussian officer Stransky (Maximilian Schell) and Peckinpah gets straight to the point about the attritional battlefront between Germany and Russia. As explosions and bullets fly, it’s hard to expect much from Stransky’s unlikely promise that he’s going to ‘destroy the myth of Russian invincibility.’ But a fly in the ointment of Stransky’s expected military success arrives via Sgt Steiner (James Coburn) a salt-of-the-earth soldier whose goal is nothing but survival, and who despises the cause he’s fighting for. ‘I do as I am ordered,’ says Steiner, while Colonel Brandt (James Mason) demurs on Steiner’s efforts ‘He’s a first rate soldier…so we look the other way.’ While the shells rain down on their bunker, Stransky and Steiner are on a collision course, and although Steiner ends up recovering in an army hospital, the war isn’t done with either man just yet…

Cross of Iron takes a break from the front-line to follow Steiner’s medical rehabilitation, but when Steiner gets back to the hopeless fray, Stransky offers him ‘a fresh start’ and aims to impress by uncorking a fine wine, a 36 Mosel’; Steiner pours a glass for his supposed superior, then drinking the rest directly from the bottle. That’s about as far as his direct defiance goes, but Cross of Iron’s structure re-inforces Steiner’s insolent belief that Stransky will be undone by his own ineptitude…although a sequel followed in 1979, with Richard Burton playing Steiner, its arguable that the use of freeze-frames in the final scene suggests all the protagonists die, and that Steiner’s laughter is at the irony that his own best hope of survival was that Stansky would turn out to be a soldier after all…

‘I will show you where the iron crosses grow,’ promises Steiner, but Stransky is incapable of improving himself, and Steiner is left without even the most hapless ally in his own personal fight. Cross of Iron is a rare war film that doesn’t deal with flag-waving patriotism, but instead settles for exposing moral turpitude and corruption; Stransky’s willingness to turn his own supporter’s factions on each other for his own gain still feels relevant today. Peckinpah’s unconventional edits and slow motion asides help tease out and crystallise microscopic moments of visceral drama, like Steiner’s tired casting aside of a spent shell. War is hell, and few have made that hell more comprehensible that Cross of Iron; looking better than ever in this spanking 4K print, it’s a great, thought-provoking, guelling film that deserves to carry an appreciative audience from generation to generation.




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)

133 mins approx (UHD / Blu-Ray) / 128 mins approx (DVD)

English Language/ Cert: 18 / Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired



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  1. You can review this movie every year as far as I’m concerned. Every viewing brings out something different. Though sometimes that was just because it came out with more minutes with each successive video/dvd release. But it does bear repeated viewings. You have prompted me to look this version out, especially as the extras look so interesting.

    • As many times as I’ve seen this movie, 4K really brings something new to a film that has frequently looked awful. Physical media is a great way to make something solid of a film you really dig. Just because you can stream something today doesn’t mean it’ll be around tomorrow.

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