01st Aug2023

‘Cross of Iron’ Blu-ray Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: James Coburn, Maximillian Schell, James Mason, David Warner, Senta Berger | Written by Julius J. Epstein, Walter Kelley, James Hamilton | Directed by Sam Peckinpah

Cross of Iron might not be as well-known or well-reviewed as some of the most popular World War II films. If you Google this subgenre you will soon see the likes of The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape, The Thin Red Line, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. But whilst Cross of Iron might not be on the list, it’s worthy of every film fan’s attention and the new 4K release is a perfect way to do that.

Set on the Eastern Front in World War II during the Soviet’s Caucasus operations against the German Kuban bridgehead in late 1943. But interestingly, the story focuses on the class conflict in the German army and it is all the more interesting for it. It’s a take I haven’t seen before in a war film and without it this would be even lesser known than it is. It’s this part of the story that will hook many viewers to it and grab your attention to the very end. But, Cross of Iron has many more things going for it and maybe none more so than the performances. It’s a really strong cast throughout and the lead roles are perfectly cast. James Coburn, Maximillian Schell, James Mason and David Warner are all excellent.

It’s perhaps no surprise to learn that Quentin Tarantino is a fan of the film and that it was one of the influences for his war movie Inglorious Basterds. It really does show the ‘horrors’ of war and does not hold back on any of the violence. Blood is constantly sprayed across the screen in all of the action scenes. Some may not like the focus on this but it feels very real and that can be important in war films. This does not glorify war in the slightest. It shows it as a horrible, almost pointless exercise that no one that was actually fighting, benefits from.

Maybe some of its most interesting stuff is that it doesn’t show all Germans during World War II to be awful people. Many films would have you believe this but not Cross of Iron. The performances obviously help get this across on screen but the movie also shows what war does to people and how it makes them act. Seemingly ‘good’ and ‘nice’ people do horrible things.

One of the reasons, Cross of Iron might not be as celebrated as other war films, is its trouble production. Director Sam Peckinpah was apparently constantly drinking through filming and this, along with a few other issues, meant that filming was constantly delayed and the budget spent too quickly. This does affect the film on screen as well too because as I watched it for the first time, I thought the ending seemed a bit rushed and odd. This would be because all the budget was used before the final scene was shot so a quick improvised ending was hot by the director.

The 4K restoration itself looks fantastic. Clearly, a lot of care has gone into this the picture quality cannot be faulted. There’s also a whole host of extras, many that haven’t been seen before, including interviews, on-set footage and stills and an audio commentary. If you have any interest in Cross of Iron or war films in general, this 4K restoration release is a must-buy.


Blu-Ray Disc 1

  • Audio Commentary by filmmaker and film historian Mike Siegel
  • NEW Promoting STEINER
  • NEW STEINER on the set
  • NEW Filming STEINER
  • NEW Filming STEINER pt 2
  • NEW STEINER in colour

Blu-Ray Disc 2

  • On Location: Sam Peckinpah
  • On Location: James Coburn
  • On Location: Maximillian Schell
  • On Location: James Mason
  • On Location: David Warner
  • Passion and Poetry: Sam Peckinpah’s War
  • Kruger Kisses Kern
  • Vadim & Sam: Father & Son
  • Cutting Room Floor
  • Steiner in Japan: Ads filmed in 1977
  • Mike’s Home Movies: Steiner & Kiesel Meet Again
  • US/UK Trailer
  • German Trailer
  • US TV Spot

Cross of Iron is out now on DVD, Blu-ray and 4k UHD from StudioCanal.


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