Plot: What’s it about?
When over two thousand British soldiers are trapped on an island which is under German control, the prospect of a rescue seems impossible. A large scale mission by air or sea would be useless, since the Germans have two massive guns on the nearby island of Navarone. So in order to make a rescue possible, the Allied forces must send in a small team to infiltrate the fortress on Navarone and destroy the giant guns that prevent a larger scale rescue. Once the guns have been dismantled, the trapped soldiers can be freed with no serious problems. But the mission to disable the guns is not an easy one, in fact it seems downright impossible, but it’s also the only option. So a team is dispatched to storm the island and invade the fortress, but as is to be expected, things always seem to be going wrong for them. Even in the good runs, it appears like the Germans are always right behind them, ready to thwart the mission. But the team keeps hammering away, no matter how much the odds stack against them. The danger grows around every corner and the Germans seem to have their number at every turn, but can this renegade team pull off the hardest mission they’re likely to ever face?
When you talk about action movies, no conversation on the subject would be complete without mentioning this film, the classic The Guns Of Navarone. This is what action movies are all about, all the elements you need for a blockbuster are found here. You’ll find stunts, explosions, hand to hand combat, dangerous risks, and gunplay as well, in other words, all the bases are covered, right? Well, for most modern (circa 2K) action films, those are all the needed elements for a good action movie. But that is where this film raises the bar and separates itself from the competition. In addition to all those goodies I mentioned, you’ll find elements most modern action flicks lack, such as a plausible storyline, fantastic acting, and much more. This just seems like an upper echelon version of an action film, the BMW of action flicks, if you will. While the special effects and stunts are not as advanced as modern action movies, you won’t miss them, I assure you of that. You’ll be too engrossed in the whole film experience, unlike modern action films where you’re just waiting until the next CGI effect. I recommend this title to all who read these words, the disc is packed and jacked, and a purchase is in order here.
This film was directed by J. Lee Thompson, who also directed such as films as Cape Fear (1962), Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes, The Passage, and Murphy’s Law. Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean, the screenplay for this film was penned by Carl Foreman, who was blacklisted in the 1950s for alleged Communist involvement. Determined to return to his former state of credibility, Foreman worked on this screenplay and created a masterful take on the novel. Foreman also wrote the story for the follow up to this film, Force 10 From Navarone, as well as the screenplays for films such as Champion, The Bridge On The River Kwai, and High Noon. On a side note, Forman was cleared of the Communist charges in 1997, but he was already dead by then. The cast for this film is excellent, each giving a terrific performance, with several performers working to carry the film.
Video: How does it look?
This film underwent a pretty extensive restoration for its 50th Anniversary release (2011). But with the advent of 4K and Sony’s commitment to excellence in that department, we’re now treated to a new 4K version that, simply put, blows the other one out of the water. A new scan was done using the same elements that were used for the 2011 Blu-ray and the usual caveats have been employed here. HDR gives a lot of the scenes more depth and black levels are even across the board. Contrast is spot on and detail has been improved as well. Granted, this film was made in 1961 so there will be some obvious limitations and it will always have a “dated” look and feel to it. But I can say this, it’s by far the best the movie has ever looked.
Audio: How does it sound?
Never let it be said that we don’t have a choice in the way we watch/listen to this film. Sporting no less than three audio tracks the user can select between a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, a DTS HD Master 4.0 mix (yes, 4.0) and the icing on the cake is the new Dolby Atmos track. Out of the box I selected the Atmos because, well, I paid enough for the damn speakers – might as well put ’em through their paces, eh? Like the video, these tracks don’t hold a candle to modern day releases, but I will say that the Atmos managed to pack quite a punch, giving some added “oomph” to certain key scenes. The fire of a cannon, the bullets whizzing by – truly The Guns of Navarone have never had so much impact.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The 2011 Blu-ray (included in this set) had a wealth of supplements and most are located on that disc. Some of these are carried over from the DVD released a long time ago.
Disc One (4K)
- Main Title Progression Reel – Basically that, the main titles as they go through their different stages.
Disc Two (Blu-ray)
- Audio Commentary – The first of two tracks, this one featuring director J. Lee Thompson. While not always interesting, this track does contain some goodies here and there, and it’s nice to hear Thompson reminisce about the film.
- Audio Commentary – The second, featuring historian Stephen J. Rubin. Rubin seems a bit “by the book” with some of his comments, but then again he’s not there for entertainment value. It’s a pretty bland track, but a fact-filled one to say the least.
- Forging The Guns of Navarone – A pretty encompassing “making of” segment that covers all the bases about facts, the shoot and Greece among other things.
- Ironic Epic of Heroism – We get a look at the making of the film as well as the way the film integrated with the people of Greece and so forth. Interesting.
- Memories of Navarone – This vintage piece (since all the actors are deceased) has the main players looking back at their experience on this film.
- Epic Restoration – We get a look at the extensive restoration done for the 2011 Blu-ray. It’d have been nice to see how/what they did for the 4K, but alas…
- A Heroic Score – A look at the score by Dimitri Tiomkin.
- Great Guns – We see the cast and crew as they arrive in Greece for the shoot.
- No Visitors – Ever wonder how many people it takes to make a movie like this? Now you know.
- Honeymoon on Rhodes – A ploy to get you to stay in Rhodes for a honeymoon. I’ve been to Rhodes. It was my favorite Greek isle. I’d go. I’d probably never leave.
- Two Girls on the Town – Irene Papas discusses she and Gia Scala as the only two women in the film.
- Narration-Free Prologue – Pretty much that, the prologue minus the narration. Duh.
- Message from Carl Foreman – Taped for the film’s premiere in Australia, the message contains Foreman’s discussion of the success the film had enjoyed to that point.
The Bottom Line
The phrase “they don’t make ’em like they used to” comes into play here. The Guns of Navarone is a classic in every sense of the word. Sony’s efforts have breathed new life into what was actually not a bad-looking film in the first place. We get a trio of HD audio tracks and a new supplement. Fans of the film should add this to their collection without a second thought.