The Guns of Navarone (SE)/B+,B+
Columbia/1961/157/ANA 2.35

     The pleasure of re-visiting The Guns of Navarone on DVD is  like getting a visit from an old friend and reminiscing about good times past. The great news is that this sure-fire adventure flick looks great in this anamorphic widescreen presentation in a special edition from Columbia.
     The heroic World War II thriller takes a diverse group of Allied specialists up a Greek mountainside in a desperate attempt to blow up a pair of enormous German guns that control the waters through which an  British evacuation convoy must pass. The dramatics are mostly high level comic book in style, and situations are often addressed beyond the bounds of belief, but nevertheless, The Guns of Navarone rises above the crest of its mountain to provide rousing entertainment.

Face to face with the enemy. ©Columbia

     Gregory Peck plays Captain Mallory, the stalwart leader of the commando group. Peck's presence always lends authority and stability to a film and so it does here.  David Niven,  brings a nice sense of humor to his World War II assignment an explosive specialist. He does get the tough task of making some bombastic speeches and many of the references to his character are indicative of a younger man.  When Peck blows steam off at Niven and calls him son, it's difficult to ignore the fact that Niven is Peck's senior by six years and look more like his father than his son. But Niven does get the job done. Anthony Quinn provides excellent balance to the unit with his no nonsense approach to character as Colonel Stavros and he and Irene Papas, playing a resistance fighter,  provide the only semblance of romance to the pure adventure nature of the film. Peck's tender moments with Gia Scala, on the other hand, seem forced.  Rounding out the group are Stanley Baker as Butcher Brown, a soldier who shows surprising reluctance with a knife, considering he was chosen for the mission because of his prowess. James Darren gets to sing a few bars in the wedding scene as the young Greek man returning to his homeland. Anthony Quayle sweats a lot and keeps a stiff upper lip as the initial mission leader Major Franklin.
     The pacing of the film is for the most part excellent and the few slow moments of the long film are worth slogging through to get to the tension filled climax.  J. Lee Thompson does good workmanlike directing duty on The Guns of Navarone. He manages to keep the action flowing crisply through the more than two and a half hour running time. Dimitri Tiomkin's score gives able accompaniment to the images of cinematographer Oswald Morris. Carl Foreman wrote the script and produced the film.
     The special edition includes a tepid remembrance documentary that features comments from Peck, Quinn, Darren and director Thompson. There are also four promo short running less than five minutes each that offer a varied amount of charm while watching Pappas and Scala shopping in Rhodes, or Darren honeymooning with his new bride on location. Director J. Lee Thompson provides an audio commentary that is often repetitious. Details of the guns are interesting, but he often simply focuses on specifying locales and how the scenes were composed. He does express his dislike of story-boarding and relates the tale of David Niven's almost disastrous illness several times in the course of a few minutes. Still, Thompson is willing to stoke the fires of memory to try and come up with some additional light on the making of The Guns of Navarone and we must appreciate having a record of his memories on this enjoyable special edition.

     The DVD presents the film in the best video clothes I have ever seen it. The color is consistently lively, especially considering the cold palette used by the filmmakers,  and the images are almost all sharp. There are a few shots slightly soft and a few that are a tad overenhanced, but it seems like whichever way the colorist chooses to transfer the film he is in for some criticism. Overall the choices are good and make The Guns of Navarone DVD look as good as it can. The Dolby Digital 5:1 surround is clean and the music has nice space around it. There isn't a great deal of bass to the explosions, but the visual fireworks provide the best show. The surrounds get a smattering of debris sounds and the storm waters crash reasonably effectively on the boat decks.




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