BREAKTHROUGH , the unofficial 1979 sequel to Cross Of Iron, didn’t wash ashore in the States until 1981. This was after undergoing a title change from Sergeant Steiner, the name of the soldier played by James Coburn in the 1977 Peckinpah work.
Richard Burton takes over from Coburn, and is backed by Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger, Curt Jurgens, Helmut Griem and Michael Parks. All past their glory days, they are pitifully marshalled here by Andrew V.McLaglen, who set a template for laziness in direction that ran flop-to-flop with Michael Winner and J.Lee Thompson. Footage is lifted from the Peckinpah film, itself no gift to war movie glory; the plot is lousy, continuity is poor and the music score is terrible.
No one comes off well, but it’s particularly distressing to see Burton, 52 going on 75 thanks to booze, as he ghostwalks through the proceedings. Mitchum, hardly a spring chicken at 62, said Burton was so debilitated by his vodka intake that he had to be carried onto the set. Sad. Bob was slumming, collecting a check as he’d done in his previous five pictures; so was Jurgens at 64, two decades after he and Mitchum battled it out in The Enemy Below. The three—and Steiger as well— had all featured in The Longest Day, in better condition and a vastly better product.
There was another flick with this title, a Warner Bros. WW2 saga from 1950. While hardly a great movie, it’s much better than this write-off.