"Cross Of Iron is one war film that will take repeat viewings to truly absorb all the material. With that said, I won't elaborate on the film's strong points since they've already been mentioned by many before. And this DVD release from Hen's Tooth is not the one to view this film from. It is a shortened edited version and the transfer is Full-Frame, it doesn't even appear to be Pan & Scan...simply a dead shot down the middle of the film. The quality of this Hen's Tooth release is absolutely atrocious for the DVD format. It appears as though it's almost a VHS transfer, or a heavily worn film transfer at best. There are numerous scratches and dust artifacts, and the color saturation is very faded in many scenes. The sound on the DVD is equally terrible during the entire movie, it's very hard to understand much of the dialogue at times.I've purchased bargain DVD's for $3 before that are 100% better in quality than this! Just by the sheer fact that the film is edited would have Peckinpah rolling in his grave. Hen's Tooth knows and have admitted that the transfer is horrible, yet they still charge $30 retail nearly 4 years after their DVD release?!?? There is no way that this disc is worth that much money. I would gladly pay the price if it was a Criterion edition, but not this poor edition.If you have the technical capability I recommend ordering either the UK DVD or Japanese DVD of Cross Of Iron. It won't cost you much more (perhaps less) than this unworthy Region 1 DVD release. The imports both present the film in it's original anamorphic widescreen format, with vastly superior picture and sound. If you don't have the technical capability, then buy a VHS edition of Cross Of Iron.5 stars for the film itself, 0 stars for the Hen's Tooth DVD...hence my 4 star rating."
A gruesome masterpiece -- intense, chilling
Grant A Thompson | 09/15/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cross Of Iron is a masterpiece, one of the greatest anti-war, anti-authoritarian movies. It is one of director Sam Peckinpah's two finest works -- the other being The Wild Bunch. It deserves to be ranked in the same great war movie company as Apocalypse Now, Das Boot, Full Metal Jacket, Paths Of Glory, Saving Private Ryan, Seven Samurai, and Zulu. Its setting on the World War Two Eastern Front, its gruesomeness, and its risk-taking viewpoint on ugly combat from the German side, have tended to count against fair assessment of its considerable artistic achievements. Viewers wary of the morality of its German viewpoint and its explicitness might find that it is fundamentally about humanity in general as a victim of war. The film reflects on the humanity which may be found on all sides of conflict--including Russian humanity portrayed variously as relentless, innocent, brave, and feminine.Cross Of Iron opens with an intense, chilling montage of nursery rhyme, propaganda, combat newsreel and atrocity. By the end of the main title the montage subtly introduces the central characters, a German reconnaissance unit patrolling on the 1943 Russian front.This 1977 film set rarely matched standards of cinematic mayhem. Cross Of Iron explosions don't look merely like pretty fireballs -- they blast fragments, rocks and debris, leaving no doubt as to why blood gouts from stumps of limbs and shrapnel-shredded entrails... Amid the screams of wounded and dying, as dust subsides from a mortar barrage, an artillery piece shorn of its crew by a near hit swings across a pocked battlefield, its traversing wheel spinning under its own momentum. The carnage occurs in the choreographed slow motion which Peckinpah made his signature.James Coburn turns in one of his finest roles as Rolf Steiner, a highly decorated NCO who leads a German reconnaissance squad. Steiner fights less for his country than for his comrades. He has low opinions of class and rank distinctions. He is contemptuous both of Nazism and the aristocratic Prussian arrogance of his new superior officer, Captain Stransky, played with great style by Maximilian Schell. But there are hints of a dark side. Although Steiner is articulate and philosophical he has no answer when his love interest during an enforced break from battle, nurse Eva (Senta Berger), bitterly accuses him of being afraid of what he would be without the war.Among the many fine supporting performances, James Mason plays the war-weary Colonel Brandt. He sees the immorality and futility of German war aims, but his sense of honour and duty about the prevailing struggle makes ceasing to fight unthinkable. David Warner plays Brandt's out-of-place and out-of-time adjutant, Captain Kiesel, who represents to his colonel the hope that a more enlightened postwar Germany might arise from the ashes of inevitable defeat.War movie buffs irritated by the technical inaccuracies common in many examples of the genre will find some satisfaction in attention to authenticity of weaponry. A range of genuine WWII German and Russian small arms appears. The T 34/85 tanks are real, although the very picky might argue that this is at least six months premature, and that for the summer of '43 they should be T 34/76. Tactics at times deviate from the textbooks, but this is a drama, not a combat manual.Cross Of Iron is a five-star movie. The Hen's Tooth Video release is a two-star DVD, with sub-standard picture and sound. But it is worth owning while this great film of a great American director lacks the high quality collectors' edition Zone 1 DVD release it deserves."
A Realistic Russian Front Epic, Far Better than Stalingrad
Grant A Thompson | 12/18/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Take it from someone who was an Army "grunt" for 12 years -- this movie was filmed as realistic as one could get without being on the battlefield, and during my time in service, Cross of Iron was one of the favorites of infantrymen and WWII buffs everywhere. Many wellknown (at least in Europe) German actors were featured in this film. It is one of the few movies I've seen that accurately depicts the spite and tension that exists between officers (seeking career advancement at the expense of their men) and enlisted men (just trying to survive). Having lived in Germany and conversed on many occasions with Wehrmacht veterans who were on the Russian front, I found Cross of Iron to be very close in detail to the conditions and experiences they described. A previous writer describes the movie's mood as depressing (not as much as Das Boot or Stanlingrad, IMHO!); yet it reflects exactly the realization of fighting for a lost cause that many German soldiers experienced. And hell, war IS depressing! Aside from the farmhouse scenes involving a female Soviet unit, this movie is as real as any German depiction of fighting on the Russian front that I have ever read, and there are many books in this genre. If you want to know what it was really like to fight in the elements in East Europe in WWII, in the mud, sweat, and shrapnel, and to understand what comaraderie is about (without all the surrealism and eccentricities of "Stalingrad") then this under-appreciated classic is the one to see! The artillery and trench warfare scenes are incredible, some of the best I've ever seen... Sam Peckinpah was able to effectively show all the sharp contradictions of war: courage and cowardice, sensitivity and crudeness, mercy and cruelty, and in the end, irony and justice."
WW2 Russian Front from German point of view
Seen Them All | SoCal Desert | 02/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an outstanding movie about the WW2 Russian Front as told from the German point of view during the retreat in the Crimea. More powerful and a better movie than "Stalingrad" and "Enemy At The Gates". Coburn plays a much decorated senior sergeant who is fed up with the war and just trying to survive. Schell plays an inexperienced officer newly arrived at the front and looking for a medal...The Cross of Iron. Is he truly a hero or a coward..??? Mason plays the regimental commander and their commanding officer. Brutal and violent. It tells of the hopelessness of the German position and the dispair of the men who are forced to fight this hopeless war and trying to survive. Well worth watching. NOT for the squeamish...!!!"
Peckinpah's first and only war film is savagely beautiful
A. Sandoc | San Pablo, California United States | 03/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"1976 saw Sam Peckinpah release the only war film he ever made in the form of Cross of Iron. Peckinpah hadn't made any relevant films as the 1970's rolled around as his bouts with alcoholism and reputation as an impossible director to work with cut into the amount and type of projects he was allowed to make. But with Cross of Iron, we get to see once again what made Sam Peckinpah such a maverick director and the first true auteur of cinematic violence. Another thing that was surprising was the fact that despite all the westerns and other violent-laden films in his library of work, Peckinpah never made a war film. One would've thought that Peckinpah's penchant for creating innovative, almost balletic mayhem on the screen would've been a perfect marriage with a war film script. Cross of Iron might be his first and only war film, but Peckinpah brings to it his very own style that would help influence future directors such as John Woo, Quentin Tarantino, and Luc Besson.
A rarity amongst WW2-based films, Cross of Iron is told through the eyes of the Nazis as they try to survive their retreat from the Eastern Front of 1943. Rarely do Germans play the protagonists in WW2 films and Cross of Iron helps show that the German soldiers, beat-up and shellshocked, were not so dissimilar from the typical American and British soldier. All they want is to live another day as they try desperately to retreat from Russia. This theme is seen most evidently in the character of Sergeant Steiner (well-played by James Coburn who seemed born to play the tough, hardened veteran) who stoically, almost resignedly, lives day to day through the crucible of perpetual battle that was the Eastern Front. Steiner is well-loved and respected by the men he leads for they know that he would try to find a way to save them all. The fact that Steiner also has an antiauthoritarian streak in him makes him popular with the grunts. Finally, having won his own Iron Cross (German military's award for bravery above and beyond) from earlier engagements earns him the respect of his men. On the polar opposite is their new commanding officer, the high-blood Prussian Colonel Stransky (played with an aloofness that only Maximillian Schell seems perfect for) whose aristocratic upbringing ill-prepares him for the horrors of combat. But despite his lack of charisma with the men and for not being anything like Steiner, Stransky's still wants an Iron Cross of his own even if he has to resort to outright deception to get one. Caught between these two dynamic characters are the soldiers who bleed and die during these pair's struggles against each other.
It's these battle scenes where Peckinpah makes his stylistic mark. Using the same techniques he relied on for his seminal and best work, The Wild Bunch, Peckinpah shows the horror and brutality of war (especially that of the Eastern Front). Through slow-motion scenes of bullets ripping into flesh and bodies being blown into the air as explosions rip the earth. The effects work in Cross of Iron is abit more advanced than in The Wild Bunch and Peckinpah might've used it abit too much of it for the film. It sometimes felt as if ever quiet moment was broken up by a sequence of battle and violence just so Peckinpah could showcase his talent for creating beautiful violence. Maybe he did it on purpose to show the unending cycle of horror inflicts on even the toughest of men, but after awhile even I became somewhat numb to the violence on the screen.
Despite that little quibble, I still think that Cross of Iron shows Peckinpah at his best late in his tumultous career. Despite a string of forgettable films through most of the 1970's, Sam Peckinpah gets one more chance to work his cinematic magic in 1976. After Cross of Iron, Peckinpah's descent into obscurity continues right up until his death years later. While Cross of Iron might not be on the same level as The Wild Bunch and The Killer Elite, it does have in its execution everything that made Peckinpah great."