Cross of Iron [1977]

Genre: Action, Drama, War
Sam Peckinpah weighs in on World War II--and from the German point of view. The result is as bleak, if not quite as bloody, as one expects, in part because the 1977 film was cut to ribbons by nervous studio executives. The assorted excerpts that remain don't constitute an exhilarating or even an especially thrilling battle epic. The war is grinding to a close, and veterans like James Coburn's Steiner are grimly aware that it's a lost cause. The battlefield is a death trap of sucking mud and barbed wire, and the German generals (viz., the martinet played by James Mason) seem to pose a bigger threat to the life and limbs of Steiner's men than the inexorable enemy. Not even Peckinpah's famous sensuous exuberance when shooting violence is much in evidence; the picture is a depressive, claustrophobically overcast experience. The bloody high (or low) point isn't a shooting; it's a wince-inducing de-penis-tration during oral sex. For a fun time with the men in (Nazi) uniform, try Das Boot instead. --David Chute

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