THE GUNS OF NAVARONE  [50th Anniversary Edition] [Blu-ray] The Greatest Adventure Ever Filmed!
Academy Award® winners Gregory Peck [1962, Best Actor: ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’], David Niven [1958, Best Actor: ‘Separate Tables’], and Anthony Quinn [1952, Best Supporting Actor: ‘Viva Zapata!’ and 1956, ‘Lust For Life’] star as a team of Allied military specialists recruited for a dangerous but imperative mission: to infiltrate a Nazi-occupied fortress and disable two long-range field guns so that 2,000 trapped British soldiers may be rescued. Faced with an unforgiving sea voyage, hazardous terrain, and the possibility of a traitor among them, the team must overcome the impossible without losing their own lives. Adapted by screenwriter Carl Foreman from Alistair MacLean’s best-selling novel “The Guns of Navarone.” James Robertson Justice Prologue Narrator.
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: Academy Award®: Won: Best Effects, Special Effects for Bill Warrington and Chris Greenham. Golden Globe® Award: Won: Best Motion Picture for Drama. Won: Best Original Score for Dimitri Tiomkin. Academy Award®: Nominated: Best Picture. Nominated: Best Director for J. Lee Thompson. Nominated: Best Film Editing for Alan Osbiston. Nominated: Best Original Score for Dimitri Tiomkin. Nominated: Best Sound for John Cox. Nominated: Best Writing for Adapted Screenplay for Carl Foreman. Directors Guild of America: Nominated: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for J. Lee Thompson. Grammy Award: Nominated: Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture for Dimitri Tiomkin. ‘The Guns of Navarone’ had its Royal World Premiere in aid of the Edwina Mountbatten Trust and in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh on April 27th 1961 at the Odeon Leicester Square in London's West End.
Cast: Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, James Darren, Irene Papas, Gia Scala, James Robertson Justice, Richard Harris, Bryan Forbes, Allan Cuthbertson, Michael Trubshawe, Percy Herbert, George Mikell, Walter Gotell, Tutte Lemkow, Albert Lieven, Norman Wooland, Cleo Scouloudi, Nicholas Papakonstantinou, Christopher Rhodes, Victor Beaumont (uncredited), Victor Buono (uncredited), Jack Cooper (uncredited), Carl Duering (uncredited), Wolf Frees (uncredited), Peter Grant (uncredited), William Hoehne Jr. (uncredited), Rosemary Nicols (uncredited), Robert Rietty (uncredited), Michael Sarne (uncredited) and Bob Simmons (uncredited)
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Producers: Carl Foremanm Cecil F. Ford and Leon Becker
Screenplay: Carl Foreman (screenplay) and Alistair MacLean (novel)
Composer: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematographer: Oswald Morris, BSC
Video Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 [CinemaScope]
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, German 5.1 DTS-HD, Italian 5.1 DTS-HD, Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Danish, English, Finnish, Greek, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish
Running Time: 158 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Columbia Pictures / SONY Pictures Home Entertainment
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: "Men-on-a-mission" films are almost always great fun. Watching a disparate group of no-nonsense soldier’s band together for the greater good against a common enemy can be popcorn entertainment at its best. While it may be a pretty tried-and-true formula, it's also one that happens to work more often than not, and sometimes manages to serve as a perfect basis for action-packed cinematic bliss. A classic and highly influential entry into that irresistible genre, 'The Guns of Navarone' sparks with exciting action, memorable performances, and a surprising amount of depth. Far from a brainless exercise in tough guy bravado, the film manages to form a thought provoking and well-rounded examination of wartime ethics and morality. Also, it kicks ass and it's the best of both worlds.
Based on the novel of Alistair MacLean with the same name, the script details a fictional mission set during WWII to blow up two incredibly large, long-range field guns on the Greek Island of Navarone, which doesn't actually exist. In classic genre fashion, the team is made up of a group of specialists, each with their own specific skill, personality quirk, fatal character flaw, and irresistible charm. Headlining the gang are Capt. Keith Mallory [Gregory Peck], a steadfast leader and skilled mountain climber, Corporal Miller [David Niven], an explosions expert, and Col. Andrea Stavros [Anthony Quinn], a Greek solider with a personal vendetta against Capt. Keith Mallory. Together they must embark on the dangerous and potentially suicidal mission, outsmarting and outgunning German soldiers through equally perilous seas and terrain. Filled with exciting set pieces, powerful emotional conflicts, and ambiguous moral dilemmas, the story runs the full gamut of suspense and drama.
With an ensemble piece like this, the success of the film really lives or dies on the strength of its performers and the chemistry between them. Thankfully, the entire actors do a wonderful job, and the dynamics that develop within the group are fun to watch grow and evolve. Gregory Peck is fantastic as the stalwart leader, exuding confidence and compassion all at once. From the moment he appears on screen, he instantly embodies exactly the type of man one would follow into battle. David Niven is also great as the British explosives expert. The conflict that develops between his character and Gregory Peck's Capt. Keith Mallory helps to form the central moral question of the film and serves to elevate the material. As Col. Andrea Stavrou [Anthony Quinn] oozes cool and becomes a genuine on-screen badass. Tension hangs high between the Greek and Mallory, and one gets a sense that their conflict could turn deadly at any moment. The rest of the team is rounded out by several more extremely capable actors, including Anthony Quayle, Stanley Baker, and James Darren. Though their characters are given less focus, particularly James Darren and Stanley Baker, but each member gets their moment to shine and little details are organically revealed throughout the picture, helping to flesh out back-stories and inform present-day decisions. Two female stars also join the team, and Irene Papas and Gia Scala do an admirable job of holding their own against the men, creating strong female characters that are much more than mere love interests.
Director J. Lee Thompson utilises the majestic of CinemaScope presentation to its fullest, injecting the widescreen frame with big budget action and exotic locales. Shot in part on studio sets and real locations, primarily the Greek Island of Rhodes, the film features some strong production value and occasionally lush cinematography. Thompson does a great job of creating tension, and as pointed out in the included commentary with film historian Stephen J. Rubin, the climax plays out more like a Hitchcock thriller than a generic war picture. Most notable of all, however, is a brilliant dialogue free section where the team gets shipwrecked by a massive storm and then has to scale a mountain in the unrelenting downpour and dead of night. With only score and effects, J. Lee Thompson creates a truly visceral experience that manages to remain gripping through visuals alone. Though the director expresses regrets about the sequence's length and the film's pacing as a whole in his own commentary, I actually found the slower, methodical rhythm to be a refreshing contrast to the more quick cutting style of today. With that said, the movie definitely is on the slow side, and at two and a half hours in length, it might test some viewers' patience.
In between all of the blazing guns and explosions, J. Lee Thompson and writer/producer Carl Foreman layer the film with several interesting ethical quandaries that all work together to form a pretty strong anti-war message. Questions about manipulating and risking the lives of fellow soldiers for the greater good, and the potential penalties for betrayal, are all brought up and examined with intelligence, and even after the credits roll, there are no easy answers presented. While some of the philosophical musings might get lost in all the heroics and excitement, to the filmmakers' credit, the script really does pack in some thought provoking material that actually makes the film's quieter moments among its most powerful.
'The Guns of Navarone' is a true classic of "men-on-a-mission" film that offers much more than simple thrills and action. Beneath the exciting and tense battles are some heavy questions about brotherhood, loyalty, and justice in the midst of war. Though the pacing is certainly on the slow side, some characters are a bit marginalised, and there are clichéd elements to the storytelling, the stellar cast, strong script, and confident direction overcome any small flaws. This is an entertaining and intelligent war epic, that's influence can be seen in countless similar efforts since.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The film is provided with an awesome 1080p encoded image transfer in the equally thrilling CinemaScope 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Though mistreated quite badly over the years, restoration attempts have resulted in a strong but still occasionally inconsistent video presentation. The restored print is in good shape and while some scenes look rougher than others, there are no major signs of damage. A light to moderate layer of grain is present throughout that often gives the picture some nice texture. Detail is quite strong, especially in brightly lit scenes which exhibit some pleasing dimension and pop (the scene where the gang first arrives at their doomed vessel is among the most impressive). Colours can be vivid with rich vibrancy, again, especially in brightly lit outdoor scenes which show off the beautiful shooting locations in Greece. Unfortunately, dimly lit and night-time scenes are fairly underwhelming, and like many movies which utilise a day-for-night shooting method, these sequences exhibit a washed out and unnatural quality. With the exception of these instances, black levels and contrast are consistent and offer a solid experience without blooming. Numerous effects shots featuring rear projection, matte paintings, and various optical techniques do stick out, but that is to be expected and is certainly forgivable. The most irksome feature of the transfer involves some pretty thick halos that are periodically visible around characters and objects, but thankfully this doesn't detract too much from the presentation.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The audio is presented in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix and utilising the film's original four channel design, the track is solid but not as immersive as one might expect. Dialogue is clear with no major signs of crackle or hissing. Directionality and separation across the front sound stage is good, especially during various battle and action sequences. Surround use is disappointingly rare, however, and while there are many opportunities for rear speakers to add immersion to the experience, there are only three real instances where they are active (the end of the shipwreck, an aerial attack, and the film's climax). Bass activity is decent with some instances of nice punch, but some of the gun fights lack the kind of thump that most war films have. Dynamic range is good, with no signs of distortion, and balance between the various elements is handled well. Though surround use is infrequent, the track respects the film's original sound design, and it's hard to fault a mix for remaining authentic. Even if the audio lacks a bit of immersion, I actually have to commend Sony for staying faithful to the movie's roots and resisting the urge to produce a new spruced up and overdone remix. It may not come close to matching contemporary war films, but the audio does a solid job of bolstering the action.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Director J. Lee Thompson: Director J. Lee Thompson provides a decent but not particularly stimulating track. The director speaks slowly and there are some large gaps in the conversation throughout. Still, some interesting bits of trivia are discussed, including insights into the casting process, locations, effects work, Thompson's desire for lots of rehearsal time, and one actor's serious brush with death that almost resulted in the film's cancellation. While the director spends too much time simply describing where certain shots were filmed, there are sporadic pieces of worthy information, and it's always nice to hear the actual filmmaker discuss his work first hand.
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Film Historian Stephen J. Rubin: Film Historian Stephen J. Rubin comes across as very knowledgeable and provides an extremely informative track that covers the film's entire production as well as details on the cast and crew. Among the multitude of trivia shared, the historian discusses writer/producer Carl Foreman's blacklisting, the movie's anti-war message, and plans for a sequel with the original cast and one was made, but with different actors. Though some information is repeated from the director's track, this is the more consistent and engaging of the two commentaries and is definitely worth a listen.
Special Feature: Forging the Guns of Navarone  [14:00] Led by Carl Foreman's widow Eve Williams-Jones and director Peter Yates, who was AD on the film. This is a short documentary about the film and features some insights into the production, along with stories about working with the cast and crew and dealing with the sometimes tough and dangerous shooting conditions. Directed by Michael Arick. Producer/Screenplay by Michael Arick. Cinematography by Rick Walker.
Special Feature: An Ironic Epic of Heroism  [25:00] Here Sir Christopher Frayling leads an in depth look at the film. He provides details on the production, and places an emphasis on the film's themes and moral dilemmas. Directed and Produced by Michael Arick.
Special Feature: Memories of Navarone  [30:00] In this documentary we are treated to first-hand accounts of the making of the film from cast and crew, including James Darren, J. Lee Thompson, Gregory Peck and Anthony Quinn. Details are shared on frequent chess games between the cast, and the strategic decision made by Anthony Quinn to give his character a red undershirt. It's great to hear from the actual performers and filmmakers, and this is a very worthy documentary that fans of the film should check out.
Special Feature: Epic Restoration [10:00] Here the focus is on the film's elaborate restoration. Seeing what was done to make the movie presentable again, really makes the video transfer seem that much more impressive.
Special Feature: A Heroic Score  [9:00] This documentary deals with the film's composer, Dimitri Tiomkin, and offers some details on his style and all of the film's major themes with Jon Burlingame. Directed and Screenplay by Michael Arick.
Special Feature: Great Guns [1080p] [5:00] This short, black and white vintage documentary that follows the stars as they arrive to shoot in Greece. Some behind-the-scenes footage is also included. Though pure, promotional fluff, there is something about these old, vintage pieces that I find appealing.
Special Feature: No Visitors [5:00] Similar to the previous documentary, here we get some more footage of the production in Greece, with an emphasis on interactions with the natives of Rhodes and a look at a party held for the Greek Royal Family.
Special Feature: Honeymoon on Rhodes [5:00] Another vintage documentary, this is a brief look at actor James Darren and his wife enjoying time off in Rhodes. The shoot also served as their honeymoon and seems to serve as a kind of promo piece for the beautiful Greek Island of Rhodes.
Special Feature: Two Girls on the Town [5:00] Here Irene Papas and Gia Scala enjoy a break from shooting to shop around the island. Again, like the previous documentary this doesn’t really have anything to do with the film, but still carries a certain retro charm.
Special Feature: Narration-Free Prologue [6:00] This prologue and main title sequence for the film is included without [sans] narration, presenting Dimitri Tiomkin's powerful score unhindered.
Special Feature: Message from Carl Foreman  [2:00] Carl Foreman, producer of ‘The Guns of Navarone’ , sends his greetings and regrets to those attending its Australian National Premiere at the new Barclay Theatre in Sydney. He is unable to attend because he is filming his new picture ‘The Victors’  at Shepperton Studios in England, where most of ‘The Guns of Navarone’ was also made.
Special Feature: The Resistance Dossier of Navarone [1080p] This is an interactive feature that offers six text and video featurettes titled "Military Fact of Fiction," "Greek Resistance," "The Navarone Effect," "The Old School Wizardry of the Guns of Navarone," "The Real World Guns of Navarone," and "WWII in the Greek Islands" [4:00 each]. The text and video all offer insights into the film's historical accuracy (or lack thereof), effects work, release, and influence.
Finally, 'The Guns of Navarone' is a brilliant fun and thematically rich war film that manages to raise important ethical questions while still providing classic popcorn entertainment. Though the film has been poorly treated over the years, the print has gone through some painstaking restoration, resulting in an uneven but mostly strong presentation. Audio is pretty front heavy but authentically represents the original sound design. Supplements are plentiful and informative, rounding out a strong disc for a strong film. Ever since I originally saw this epic film in the cinema, I have loved its total brilliance at keeping you guessing right to the final scene on whether they will succeed in thwarting the German advance in blowing up the massive guns and makes you feel so good when the final end Titles appear on the screen and now I am so proud to add this brilliant classic war film to my Blu-ray Collection, as the makers of this film have made a truly magic presentation that will last forever and is also a good historic film for future viewing. Very Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso