Saturday, 6 August 2011

Tinseltown Sauerkraut

Peckinpah's Cross of Iron follows a pack of Nazi soldiers, lead into the bloody mess of WW2's Russian Front, by charismatic James Coburn. The barbarity of the mission and a long running conflict with his idiotic, cowardly, ranking officer gradually dissolve Marvin's fervour for the cause and produce disturbing. There's no shortage of noisy, bloody action drenched in Peckinpah's inimitable style (slow mo's and all) but it was Coburn's surprising effective turn as Sgt Steiner holding his own against an excellent, sweaty, rat like performance by Maximilian Schell and a cool, aristocratic James Mason. An action classic with some brains as well as balls.

Brando, Clift & Dean Martin star as 3 men soldiering for their countries during WW2 whose stories slowly intertwine in The Young Lions. Clift stars as an eager Jewish conscript who is befriended by a reluctant draftee, lounge singer Martin. The latter is on board to provide some lightness from Clift's difficult training/harrowing war experiences and Brando's privileged, pompous Nazi officer who slowly realises he's fighting a war he doesn't believe in. It's not bad, well directed and shot but it's a touch flabby and the characters are weak, half hearted stereotypes with predictable, propagandish journeys and it's only the competence of the acting that gives it any mojo. Clift & Martin do well with what they're given but Schell & Brando's Nazis thankfully colour - Brando in particular put's in a strange, semi-comedic, proto-Kurtz performance that's a good enough reason to watch on it's own.

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