The Guns of Navarone (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
October 9, 2011 by Dennis Amith
“The Guns of Navarone” is wonderful classic war film, but this Blu-ray release to celebrate the film’s 50th Anniversary is magnificent. Given a proper restoration and bundled with plenty of special features, fans of this film will definitely want to buy this definitive release. Highly recommended!
© 1961, renewed 1989 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: The Guns of Navarone
FILM RELEASE: 1961
DURATION: 156 minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Arabic, Chinese (traditional), Chinese (simplified), Dutch, Korean
COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: NOT RATED
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Based on the novel by Alistair Maclean
Written by Carl Foreman
Produced by Carl Foreman
Associate Producer: Leon Becker, Cecil F. Ford
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography by Oswald Morris
Edited by Alan Osbiston
Production Design by Geoffrey Drake
Gregory Peck as Capt. Keith Mallory
David Niven as Cpl. Miller
Anthony Quinn as Col. Andrea Stavros
Stanley Baker as Pvt. “Butcher” Brown
Anthony Quayle as Maj. Roy Franklin
James Darren as Pvt. Spyros Pappadimos
Irene Papas as Mria Pappadimos
Gia Scala as Anna
James Robertson Justice as Commodore Jensen/Prologue Narrator
Richard harris as Squadron Leader Howard Barnsby RAAF
Bryan Forbes as Cohn
Allan Cuthbertson as Maj. Baker
Michael Trubshawe as Weaver
Percy Herbert as Sgt. Grogan
Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn and David Niven are Allied saboteurs assigned an impossible mission: infiltrate an impregnable Nazi-held island and destroy the two enormous long-range field guns that prevent the rescue of 2,000 trapped British soldiers. Blacklisted screenwriter Carl Foreman (High Noon,The Bridge on the River Kwai) was determined to re-establish both his name and credibility after spending most of the 50’s working in anonymity. To accomplish this, he decided to bring Alistair MacLean’s best-selling novel, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, to the screen. Supported by an all-star cast and produced on a grand scale, the film was an enormous success, receiving seven 1961 Academy Award(r) nominations (including Best Picture) and winning for Best Special Effects. Although Foreman achieved his goal, it was MacLean who would wind up the true beneficiary; his novels became the source for many high adventure screen epics, including Ice Station Zebra and Where Eagles Dare. However, it is THE GUNS OF NAVARONE that remains not only the best of the MacLean adaptations, but one of the greatest action/adventure spectacles ever produced.
When it comes to stories about World War II, the Dodecanese Campaign is known for the attempt by the Allied Forces (primarily the British) trying to capture the Italian-held Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean Sea in order to secure an air base for the Allied Forces ended in failure.
But in 1957, Scottish writer Alistair MacLean wrote a fictional story using the Dodecanese Campaign to feature a story about the British forces trying to capture the German-held Greek Islands. The novel was a success and would lead to a loose film adaptation by screenwriter Carl Foreman (“High Noon”, “The Men”, “Cyrano de Bergerac”) and directed by J. Lee Thompson (known for his ’70s “Planet of the Apes” films, “Cape Fear”), cinematography by Oswald Morris (“Lolita”, “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Man with the Golden Gun”) and music composed by Dimitri Tiomkin (“High Noon”, “It’s a wonderful Life”, Rio Bravo”, “Dial M for Murder”).
The film was an amazing success earning the Golden Globe Award for “Best Motion Picture” and “Best Original Score – Motion Picture” and earning nine Academy Award nominations, winning an Academy Award for “Best Effects, Special Effects” and was also the top grossing film of 1961.
The film takes place during World War II and in 1943, the Axis powers are known for their air strength thanks to their control of the Greek Islands and are trying to bully the neutral Turkey into joining their side. To make things worse, 2,000 British soldiers are marooned on the island of Keros and will all be slaughtered within a few days if they do not get any help.
There is no way the Royal Navy can rescue them because the island of Navarone has a huge artillery weapons that can easily blow up any battleship in its way.
So, Commodore Jensen of Allied intelligence has no choice but to active a group of soldiers who will be sent to the Navarone with the goal of destroying the artillery weapons. These men are literally engaging in a suicide mission with chances of success to be fairly small.
The team will be led by Major Roy Franklin (played by Anthony Quayle) consists of Captain Keith Mallory (played by Gregory Peck), a man known to speak several languages including German and is a great tactician; Andrea Stavrou (played by Anthony Quinn), an excellent marksman and former Colonel in the defeated Greek army; Corporal Miller (played by David Niven), an explosives expert; Greek-American Spyros Pappadimos (played by James Darren) and “Butcher” Brown (played by Stanley Baker), an engineer and expert knife fighter.
Disguised as Greek fisherman, the group must sail across the Aegean Sea and must deal with being stopped by a German boat, a violent storm out in sea (losing the majority of their equipment) and climbing the “unclimbable” cliff on Navarone.
But with Major Roy Franklin falling from the cliff and breaking his leg, the group with their injured comrade must find a way to make it into the German headquarters to destroy the artillery weapon. Will they succeed in this suicide mission?
“The Guns of Navarone” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1) and it’s important to note about a few things of this film. For one, the original film was in very bad shape. The colors were nearly faded and picture was fading to a pinkish visuals and because it was one of the most successful films from Columbia Pictures, it was the second film they asked the UCLA Film and Television Archive for restoration.
For the restoration, they chose not to modernize it but to keep things looking as it should have, 35 mm Cinemavision, Eastman filmstock. So, one should not expect the film to look anything modern by today’s standards but to restore the film to how it would look on the big screen and for the most part, the film looks fantastic!
There is no doubt that this is the definitive release of “The Guns of Navarone”. Black levels are deep, good amount of grain and the skin tones look natural for a film created back in 1961. There are some scenes involving the German soldiers where I did notice a bit of haloing but aside from that, considering the shape the film was in, this is the best looking version of the film to date.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Guns of Navarone” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital. As mentioned in the video section, the UCLA Film and Television Archive chose not to modernize the film and with the sound, to keep it original to what people saw in theaters.
So, there are about three scenes that do utilize surround (as featured in the restoration special feature) but the majority of the film is center and front channel-driven. Audio dialogue is crystal clear and there is also LFE during a few of the action-based scenes that involve explosions. Scenes with the surround channels are good but fairly short. I know that for a lot of us who wouldn’t mind a modernized soundtrack, would have loved to hear the audio being more immersive but I do understand the decision to keep things as they were back in 1961 and giving us that same presentation. So, I can’t complain.
Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Arabic, Chinese (traditional), Chinese (simplified), Dutch and Korean.
“The Guns of Navarone” comes with the following special features:
- Military Fact or Fiction – (4:16) A discussion by war historians of what was fact and what was fiction in the film “The Guns of Navarone”.
- The Greek Resistance – (4:08) War historians discuss the Greek resistance during World War 2.
- The Navarone Effect – (4:10) War historians discuss the huge success of “The Guns of Navarone” film and why the film was popular.
- The Old School Wizardry of the Guns of Navarone – (4:18) The special effects of “The Guns of Navarone” and how things were made to look realistic.
- The Real World Guns of Navarone – (4:13) Discussion of how artillery has changed compared to what was shown on “The Guns of Navarone” and what is fictional.
- World War II in the Greek Islands – (3:56) Why the allied forces and axis forces needed the Greek Islands during the war.
- Commentary 1 – Featuring audio commentary with film historian Stephen J. Rubin.
- Commentary 2 – Featuring audio commentary with Director J. Lee Thompson.
- Forging the Guns of Navarone: Notes from the Set– (13:59) Eve William-Jones (former Mrs. Foreman), Assistant Director Peter Yates and others discuss the making of “The Guns of Navarone”.
- An Ironic Epic of Heroes – (24:30) From the narrative, hiring of J. Lee Thompson, the collaboration with Foreman to the involvement of the Greek government.
- Memories of Navarone – (29:34) An older interview featuring the cast members discussing their memories of “The Guns of Navarone”.
- Epic Restoration – (9:37) Robert Git of the UCLA Film &Television Archive discuss how bad the deterioration of the original negative and what went into the restoration.
- A Heroic Score – (9:19) John Burligame, film music historian discusses the musical score and composer Dimitri Tiomkin.
- Great Guns – (4:34) An older 1960’s featurette on the arrival of the stars to the Greek Islands to film “The Guns of Navarone”.
- No Visitors – (4:38) An older 1960’s featurette featuring a look at the making of “The Guns of Navarone”.
- Honeymoon on Rhodes (4:36) – An older 1960’s featurette starring James Darren talks about him and his wife celebrating their honeymoon in the Greek Isles before filming “The Guns of Navarone”.
- Two Girls on the Town – (4:35) An older 1960’s featurette starring Irene Papas and Gia Scala shopping in the Greece.
- Narration Free Prologue – Many have wanted to hear the prologue without narration in order to listen to Dimitri Tiomkin’s score, now they can.
- Message from Carl Foreman – An older message recorded by producer and writer Carl Foreman in regards to “The Guns of Navarone”.
“The Guns of Navarone” is definitely an exciting, adrenaline pumping war film from the ’60s.
To have a film featuring such talent as Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn in one film is quite exciting and “The Guns of Navarone” was a war film that showcased the use of soldiers and their own personal abilities to defeat the enemy. It’s easily an underdog film because these men literally have no chance of surviving but yet, as viewers, you can’t help but pull for the underdogs.
There are also twists and turns, especially when one of their own ends up being a spy for the Germans and also featuring one of the longest but most effective visual action scenes as we watched the crew trying to survive a storm and them climbing an “unclimbable” mountain. There are no dialogue spoken for this segment of the film, it’s all visual and special effects driven which was pretty significant back in 1961.
So, while “The Guns of Navarone” was a significant war film, for its’ 50th Anniversary”, I can easily say that this is a significant Blu-ray release that is fantastic!
Not only do you get two audio commentaries, you are given plenty of special features, including newer special features from war historians that are only Blu-ray exclusive! So, I can easily say that fans of this classic war film are getting their money’s worth because there are not many classic films that are bundled with this many special features let alone are given a proper restoration.
“The Guns of Navarone” is wonderful classic war film, but this Blu-ray release to celebrate the film’s 50th Anniversary is magnificent. Highly recommended!
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