Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cross of Iron

Continuing my rediscovery of forgotten Sam Peckinpah movies, I rented Cross of Iron, his 1977 film set on the Russian Front during World War II, featuring a dynamite international cast headed by James Coburn, Maximilian Schell, David Warner, James Mason, and Senta Berger, but teaming with excellent supporting players.

In Cross of Iron, Peckinpah takes the viewer to the hell of war, and there is no escape. Even the hero, German soldier Rolf Steiner (wonderfully played by under-rated actor Coburn), beloved by his men and decorated for bravery, is unable to escape the unrelenting savagery, even though he has a chance when he is injured in a ferocious battle with the Russians and sent to hospital where he meets the gorgeous nurse Eva (played by lovely Senta Berger). Unable to abandon his men who are still waging war with the overwhelming Russian army, Steiner leaves her and returns to the front line where more horror awaits.

Though a box office dud at home in the U.S., Cross of Iron was a huge success in Europe.

While watching this forgotten masterpiece from American original Peckinpah, I found myself thinking of Quentin Tarantino's excellent WWII film Inglorious Basterds. Knowing that QT is a total film geek, I wonder if he had Cross of Iron in mind as he crafted his fantasy film about the war?

Tarantino's entertaining film feeds our wish fulfillment by depicting an alternate ending to the war, while Peckinpah, the grim realist, gives us mud, blood, agony, and death.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, June 10, 2010

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