"What will we do when we have lost the war?
"Prepare for the next one.
"Then I will show you, where the Iron Crosses grow."
— Sergeant Steiner
A 1977 film directed by Sam Peckinpah
, and his only war movie, based on the novel The Willing Flesh
by Willi Heinrich, who served during the war and was wounded five times. According to Quentin Tarantino
, the inspiration for Inglourious Basterds
. It is set on the Eastern Front during World War Two, specifically the retreat from the Taman Peninsula during the Russian offensive of 1943-1945. It is also notable for using a large number of accurate Soviet and German weapons and vehicles, thanks to being filmed in Yugoslavia
During the fighting, a battle-hardened Corporal (later Sergeant), Steiner (James Coburn), clashes with Captain Stransky (Maximilian Schell), an arrogant, aristocratic Prussian and a Glory Hound
, who wants to win the Iron Cross.
It did poorly at the box office and received a mixed critical reaction, but is now considered one of the finest war movies ever made. It did, however, perform well in Germany
, possibly because it portrays the average German soldier with sympathy without any Neo-Nazi themes. Fun fact: it earned the best box office takings of any movie released there since The Sound of Music
Provides Examples Of:
- All Germans Are Nazis: Strongly averted, most of the characters express disdain for the Nazi Party and the war they started.
- Amazon Brigade: The squad captures several female Russian soldiers in the third act.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: The Prussian Captain Stransky is arrogant and a Glory Hound. He tries to claim the heroism of the (deceased) Lieutenant Meyer as his own, and when Steiner threatens to get in his way, blackmails Triebig, whom he has deduced is gay, to kill Steiner.
- Asshole Victim: Zoll.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Colonel Brandt and Lieutenant Meyer.
- Badass Mustache: Lance Corporal Reisenauer sports a doozy. His nickname is Schnurrbart (German for mustache.)
- Bayonet Ya: Lieutenant Meyer is killed by a Russian bayonet.
- Blackmail: Stransky deduces that Triebig is gay, and has a relationship with his orderly. He uses this knowledge, first to get Triebig to sign a recommendation for the Iron Cross, then to force him to kill Steiner.
- Bolivian Army Ending: Brandt, when the situation becomes hopeless, rallies several soldiers and leads a counterattack. The way the scene is shot strongly implies he will be killed in action.
- Brutal Honesty: See the entry for Nothing Personal.
- Child Soldiers: The squad capture one during an attack on a Russian mortar position. They adopt him, but Steiner eventually releases him. he is gunned down by attacking Russians.
- Another one, played by the same actor but with dyed hair, shows up in the finale and shoots at Stransky.
- Cool Guns: Several of the squad, including Steiner, carry captured Russian PP Sh submachine guns, to great effect.
- Crapsack World: For the Wehrmacht, forced to fight in miserable conditions for a war that they are going to lose.
- The Eeyore: Captain Kiesel shows traits of it, but given the setting he's justified.
- Everybody Calls Him Barkeep: Lance Corporal "Schnurrbart": see the entry for Badass Mustache.
- Fake Nationality: Steiner (played by American James Coburn) and Brandt and Kiesel (played by British actors James Mason and David Warner) as German soldiers, but native German actors make up a decent size of the cast though, notable Maximilian Schell, who plays Stransky.
- A Father to His Men: Sergeant Steiner, Lieutenant Meyer and Colonel Brandt.
- Gasshole: Kern.
- Glory Hound: Stransky.
- Groin Attack: Zoll has his...member bitten off by a Russian soldier he forces to perform oral sex.
- Hopeless War: And the German soldiers are fully aware of it.
- Honey Trap: One of the female Russian soldiers seduces Dietz, then stabs him.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Stransky's plan to kill Steiner involves having him and his squad gunned down by a machine gun in a "friendly-fire" accident. It doesn't kill Steiner, but does succeed in wiping out most of his men.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: Said word-for-word by Stransky.
- Nazi Nobleman: Averted, Stransky disdains the party, not because he has any liberal leanings but because of his distaste for the Nazi belief in social mobility among Germans.
- The Neidermeyer: Stransky.
- New Meat: Private Dietz.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: David Warner plays Captain Keisel with an unapologetic English accent.
- Nothing Personal: Steiner out and out tells Brandt and Keisel he hates them, not because of any personality faults, but because he hates officers as a class.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Steiner's reaction to Zoll raping on of the Russian female soldiers then beating her is to lock him in a room with the girls comrades.
- Sanity Slippage: Steiner goes through this when recovering in the hospital.
- Sergeant Rock
- The Squad
- Straight Gay: Triebig and his orderly show no stereotypical behaviour.
- Tanks, but No Tanks: The film takes place in 1943; the Soviet tanks in the movie are T-34-85s which weren't even used until 1944.
- Tank Goodness: The Russians during their second attack on the German line.
- Took a Level in Badass: Subverted. Stransky joins Steiner in the end during a counterattack...then completely fucks it up because he doesn't even know how to reload his submachine gun.
- Unfriendly Fire
- War Is Hell: The plot follows a squad of war-weary soldiers simply fighting to stay alive.
- World War II