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Friday, November 1, 2013

Breakthrough (released in 1979) - Starring Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum and Rod Steiger

The film is a sequel to the 1977 Eastern Front war flick - Cross of Iron. Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, the film has a new cast in reprise characters. May 1944, the German Forces are retreating from the Eastern Front. Although the two were depicted as having had differences in the Cross of Iron - Sgt. Rolf Steiner (played by Richard Burton) of the Wehrmacht (German High Command of the Army) once more teams up with the  ambitious and cut throat Captain Stransky (played by Helmut Griem) to blow up a railway tunnel thus cutting off the line of supply for the Russians. However, the presence of a Russian tank ensures that the attack is foiled, and Steiner’s squad returns to base, defeated. The Sergeant proceeds to Paris on a fourteen day furlough, to nurse battle wounds and rest his battle weary senses - it is cut short because the Allies have landed in Normandy.
His unit is transferred to a France, in the village of St.Bologne. Unknown to most of the Wehrmacht, there is a conspiracy to overthrow and assassinate The Führer, Adolf Hitler. This he is told by General Hoffman (played by Curd Jürgens), his divisional commander in the past, tells him so, sharing with him the disgruntlement and discontent of the officers and men in the Wehrmacht. Those familiar with the character of Steiner from Cross of Iron are aware that he is a principled ‘soldier’s soldier’- fighting for the Vaterland (Fatherland), he personally harbors no allegiance to The Führer, a good guy caught on the wrong side.
General Hoffman would have the lowly sergeant convey the plan to the Americans across enemy lines of the plan, and that they would like to surrender to them. The men across are Colonel Rogers (played by Robert Mitchum) and General Webster (played by Rod Steiger), who are willing to assist, however Stransky is the spanner in the works - how do they deal with him?

We know from history that the assassination plot went kaputt. All the co conspirators were rounded up and faced a firing squad, or were hung to death by the Gestapo (and this was done painfully, being hung on piano wire). As for General Hoffman, he committed suicide with a bullet to the head.
The Americans advance towards St.Bologne, as Stransky has the evil plan to blow up the village, irrespective of massive collateral damage.
The film received brickbats for not really living up to the stature of the prequel - in fact many critics questioned why there had to be a sequel in the first place? Richard Burton with a Irish-Germanic accent (if at all such, as this, exists) is awkward, and too old for the role - he looks jaded and uncomfortable (he died five years later). His character, that of the ‘good German’ is more a Hollywood creation than one based on real life. The General confiding in a man from the ranks is next to unimaginable, no matter how civil or laissez faire the army! Steiner walks around in perfectly clean uniform (and it isn’t even battle fatigues) through the combat front lines, his helmet sitting awkwardly on his head; an all in all disappointment, with hardly any worthwhile action against the Russians.

Breakthrough (released in 1979) - Starring Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum and Rod Steiger

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