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Cross of Iron(1977)
German officers along the Russian front engage in bitter rivalries.
For more about Cross of Iron and the Cross of Iron Blu-ray release, see Cross of Iron Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 26, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Writers: Julius J. Epstein, Willi Heinrich, James Hamilton (IV), Walter Kelley
Starring: James Coburn, Maximilian Schell, James Mason (I), David Warner, Klaus Löwitsch, Vadim Glowna
» See full cast & crew
Cross of Iron Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 26, 2011
Sam Peckinpah's "Cross of Iron" (1977) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include theatrical trailers; cast and crew interviews; Mike Siegel's documentary "Passion & Poetry: Sam Peckinpah's War"; and more. In English, with optional English and German subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Cross of Iron is Sam Peckinpah's only war film. Set during the final days of WW2, the film follows a platoon of demoralized and exhausted soldiers, led by Corporal Steiner (James Coburn, The Magnificent Seven Collection, Charade), as the German army is forced to retreat from the Russian front.
After a dangerous mission, Steiner meets his newly appointed commanding officer Captain Hauptmann Stransky (Maximilian Schell, Topkapi, A Bridge Too Far), an arrogant Prussian aristocrat who dreams of winning the prestigious Cross of Iron. Convinced that the Third Reich is invincible, Stransky immediately questions Steiner's recent decision to relocate his men to safer ground. Shortly after, the Russians launch a surprising attack. Stransky acts like a coward, while Steiner is seriously wounded and many of his men killed.
Steiner wakes up in an unnamed hospital where he befriends a beautiful nurse, Eva (Senta Berger, The Terror of Doctor Mabuse, When Women Lost Their Tails). A few days later, with some of his wounds still bleeding, he heads back to the front. After he is greeted by his men, Steiner is shocked to discover that Stransky has fabricated a report indicating that he led a counter attack against the Russians, hoping that his 'act of bravery' would win him the Iron Cross. Outraged and disgusted, he decides to testify against Stransky.
Peckinpah's Cross of Iron is an unusual film. It is a war film and there are massive battle scenes in it, but the focus of attention is on the universal soldier, the ordinary man who must fight an enemy he does not know or understand but feels that it is his duty to confront. The film is raw and intense, quite moody at times, but also incredibly poetic.
The conflict between Steiner and Stransky occupies a major part in the story and represents a fascinating clash of ideas. Steiner is an honest and brave soldier who has come to realize what men like him sooner or later do – that in war there are no winners. The realization has made him a cynic; now he fights to live, not because he believes in the Nazi cause. Stransky is a coward who wants to return home a hero. Ironically, like Steiner, he does not believe in the Nazi cause, even though he is convinced that the Third Reich is invincible.
Steiner's men also fight the enemy not because they unreservedly support their leader in Berlin but because they are patriots – or at least they were. Some of them, however, have already started realizing that they have been manipulated, tricked into a pointless war.
This rather unusual distinction Peckinpah makes in Cross of Iron - that not all Germans who fought the war were Nazis - is rarely witnessed in similarly themed period films. Naturally, as the story progresses it becomes increasingly clear that for the Germans and the Russians the 'enemy' is practically the same.
Shot on location in Yugoslavia - with a legendary budget that nearly bankrupted the film's producer, Wolf C. Hartwig, who previously had produced mostly exploitation and softcore pornographic films - Cross of Iron dazzles with its massive, notably realistic battle scenes. The editing, however, is occasionally problematic.
The film is complimented by a haunting soundtrack courtesy of Oscar winning composer Ernest Gold (Exodus, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World).
Note: In 1977, Cross of Iron was awarded a Golden Screen Award.
Cross of Iron Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.84:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
A wonderful high-definition transfer! It is not flawless, but it has a terrific organic look that does the film justice. I've gone through a couple of SDVD releases of Cross of Iron during the years and this is clearly the very best the film has ever looked. (Unfortunately, the press materials I received do not specify when and where the film was restored).
First of all, there are no traces of excessive DNR corrections. As a result, the overwhelming majority of the natural film grain has been retained. Some light noise occasionally pops up, but fine object detail is excellent, even during the massive fight inside the factory. Second, contrast levels remain stable throughout the entire film. Color reproduction is also excellent - the greens, brown, reds, blues, grays, and blacks look fresh and healthy (on the old R2 UK SDVD release, which uses a dated Studio Canal transfer, the film's delicate color-scheme is very problematic). This said, there are a couple of scenes where some extremely light sharpening is noticeable - for example, when Steiner's men meet the Russian women - but it is never overly distracting. Heavy artifacting or ringing are never a serious of concern. Finally, various flecks, debris, scratches, and small cuts have been removed. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content. Also, please note that the disc's main menu can be set in English or German).
Cross of Iron Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0 (with portions of Russian). For the record, Optimum Home Entertainment have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. (Optional German subtitles are also available if one sets the disc's main menu in German).
The English LPCM 2.0 track enhances the many battle scenes in the film very well. Obviously, the dynamic intensity is not as impressive as that of recent war films that have appeared on Blu-ray, but the sound has very pleasing depth and vibrancy; there are no balance issues either. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and easy to follow. For the record, there are no problematic pops, cracks, hissings, or audio dropouts.
Cross of Iron Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Cross of Iron Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Optimum Home Entertainment have put together a fantastic package for Sam Peckinpah's legendary Cross of Iron. The film has been beautifully restored, and I have every reason to believe that this will be its definitive release for years to come. The supplemental features on the disc are also impressive. Mike Siegel's outstanding documentary Passion & Poetry: Sam Peckinpah's War, for instance is included, as well as other informative interviews and featurettes. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Note: If interested in director Sam Peckinpah's legacy, I strongly recommend Mike Siegel's superb Passion & Poetry - The Ballad Of Sam Peckinpah (Special Edition 2DVD set), which is available in Germany through El Dorado Productions.
Note: The newly restored version of Cross of Iron will be showing at the Odeon Panton St. (in London) from June 17th. So if you are visiting London, this would a terrific opportunity to see the film theatrically.
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Cross of Iron Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Cross of Iron Blu-ray Announced - May 3, 2011
On June 6th, British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment will release on Blu-ray acclaimed director Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron (1977), starring James Coburn (The Magnificent Seven, Charade), James Mason (North by Northwest, Lolita), Maximilian Schell (Judgment ...
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