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Breakthrough (1979)

Steiner - Das Eiserne Kreuz, 2. Teil (original title)
PG | | Drama, War | February 1979 (Austria)
In 1944 a German sergeant gets involved in an anti-Hitler conspiracy, and saves the life of an American colonel.


Andrew V. McLaglen


Peter Berneis (screenplay), Tony Williamson (screenplay)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Burton ... Sgt. Rolf Steiner
Rod Steiger ... Gen. Webster
Helmut Griem ... Maj. von Stransky
Klaus Löwitsch ... Uffz. Krüger
Michael Parks ... Sgt. Anderson
Werner Pochath ... Schütze Keppel
Véronique Vendell ... Yvette (as Veronique Vendell)
Horst Janson ... Capt. Berger
Joachim Hansen ... Capt. Kistner
Walter Ullrich Walter Ullrich ... Schütze Hauser
Dieter Schidor Dieter Schidor ... Cpl. Paul Anselm
Bruno Dietrich ... Schütze Nissen
Sonja Jeannine Sonja Jeannine ... Jeanette
Günter Clemens Günter Clemens ... Cpl. Dorfmann
Michael Büttner Michael Büttner ... Schütze Junghans (as Wolfgang Büttner)


In 1944 German sergeant Rolf Steiner is on the Russian Front where out of frustration he hits an officer. Steiner is sent on leave to Paris to avoid further incidents. In Paris news of the Allied Invasion of Normandy arrive and Steiner meets up with his unit there being recently transferred from Russia. Steiner finds out that his old company commander from the Russian Front, Major Von Stransky, is his new commander. Steiner and Von Stransky hate one another. The German general in charge of the area is General Hofmann who's a member of the conspiracy to kill Hitler. Hofmann hopes to surrender his troops to the Americans. He reveals his plans to Sergeant Steiner and asks Steiner to meet the Americans to negotiate a possible surrender if Hitler is eliminated. When the plot to kill Hitler fails, the surrender plan is in jeopardy. Written by nufs68

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Burton...Mitchum...Steiger...Enemies...Yet Allies In Combat With Destiny!


Drama | War


PG | See all certifications »



West Germany


German | English | French

Release Date:

February 1979 (Austria) See more »

Also Known As:

Breakthrough See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Richard Burton was felt to be miscast as Steiner, since he looked too old for the character and sounded too English to be convincing as a German. See more »


Some German soldiers are seen carrying American M1 rifles, even at the Russian front scenes. See more »


Sgt. Rolf Steiner: NCOs cannot resign.
See more »

Alternate Versions

A longer German language version runs at 126 minutes, extra scenes includes:
  • An opening scene that starts at the railway station, Rolf Steiner and Paul Anselm meet again and discuss their current predicament. Captain Stransky appears out of the station building and sends Steiner and Anselm to check out a railway tunnel down the line. Steiner and Anselm meet up with Corporal Kruger before returning to the station. (8mins approx)
  • When Steiner returns to German lines, the scene where he meets his new platoon is longer and includes introductions to new comrades Rothe, Dorfmann and Keppel.
  • An extended scene between Yvette and Steiner at her apartment.
  • Steiner is mocked by an old woman as he leaves Yvette's apartment.
  • The two orphaned children Steiner looks at, at the end turn up earlier and throw rocks at Steiner.
  • The final battle is extended, there is more footage of the American GIs attacking the town, the American tanks cause greater damage to the town. Steiner shoots GIs whilst trying to defend the townspeople.
See more »


Follows Cross of Iron (1977) See more »

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User Reviews

The only iron you'll run a-"cross" in this is Burton's performance
4 November 2005 | by vandino1See all my reviews

Another in the never ending supply of "War is Hell" films, this one is a time killer and nothing more. Thankfully Mitchum and Steiger are playing Americans, but no thanks to having Burton play a German Sergeant. Now, in my opinion, James Coburn was also miscast as Steiner in 'Cross of Iron,' but since most everything else was well done in that film, his Americanisms could be tolerated somewhat. Not so with the ageing and mostly immobile Burton, his growling Welsh baritone making no pretense of Germanic origin. Surrounded by an all-German supporting cast, Burton stands out badly. And, worse, he's a bore. He rattles his booze-ravaged physique through the motions while his craggy, scowling face makes occasional movements belying its near-comatose state... meanwhile his Great Actor's voice grumbles or barks its lines. Then there is the ever-lethargic Mitchum, phoning it in as an American Colonel. His character's obsession with discovering the German Army's anti-tank capabilities is ludicrous. Sure, it could've been a point to ponder, but having Mitchum prowling behind enemy lines and grabbing German soldiers just to find out what they might have handy to destroy Allied tanks is ignorant nonsense. Just as absurd is the final battle with Burton's character submerged into a muddle of conflicting emotions and actions, alternately killing Americans and trying to save them. Jurgens, as a German General, need not appear on set at all: his performance could have been spliced from footage in any one of a number of films where he plays the same part. And Steiger, as an American Brigadier General, does his surly over-emotional routine yet again... but at least we're spared his usual dissolve into tears.

Technically the film is mostly a bust. Unlike 'Cross of Iron' which benefited from its Yugoslavian location and availability of correct tanks from that period, this one was filmed in Austria and thus uses that country's available hardware which is the usual anachronistic post-war tanks that annoy war buffs. Only the opening footage of the film, which is lifted from 'Cross of Iron' shows the correct tanks of the period. In addition, the main thrust of the plot, concerning Jurgens' and Burton's attempt to obtain a cease fire after Hitler is ostensibly assassinated, is interesting, but badly handled. For instance, it features a forced meeting of our two stars: Mitchum absurdly searching behind the lines for info on those anti-tank guns he's obsessed with, and Burton a lowly sergeant looking for an American to make his cease fire pitch to. Steiger's character is absolutely correct to scoff at the notion that a mere sergeant would be the point man to offer surrender of an entire army AND be privy to a plot to kill Hitler. The only two things that feel right in this film are Parks as the laconic, drily humored sidekick of Mitchum's, and the few scenes of German soldiers razzing each other with the dark humor of soldiers near their doom. And the music score is terrible: a weird mixture of futuristic electronic noodling and medieval-like horn blare.

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