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The Guns of Navarone(1961)
One of the great war movies of all time, with an all start cast, and a gripping plotóbased on the Alistair MacLean novel. A commando team is sent to a Greek Island to destroy the giant guns of World War II Germany which are controlling a strategic channel in the Aegean Sea.
For more about The Guns of Navarone and the The Guns of Navarone Blu-ray release, see the The Guns of Navarone Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 12, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, James Darren
Narrator: James Robertson Justice
Director: J. Lee Thompson
» See full cast & crew
The Guns of Navarone Blu-ray Review
One of the finer World War II-as-spectacle films arrives on Blu-ray in a high quality package from Sony.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 12, 2011
The only way to win a war is to be just as nasty as the enemy.
There's arguably been no historical event that's captured the imagination of Hollywood and film goers alike quite like the second World War. It simply dominates the War genre; it seems there's a dozen or more such films for every one about Vietnam, never mind those that have received far less attention than even that controversial conflict. Maybe it's that a war-weary public demanded feel-good adventures, perhaps it was a culmination of technologies and increases in budgets that allowed for such wide-in-scope pictures with great attention to detail, but whatever the reason, there was plenty of room in theaters for both historically accurate and incredibly grand, sweeping War adventures alike. Movies like The Guns of Navarone fall into the latter category; inspired by the novel from acclaimed writer Alistair MacLean, Director J. Lee Thompson's picture is a fun, sweeping epic that's more about creating a sense of adventure and suspense than it is accurately recreating a scene from the war. Never mind whether the film suffers through any number of inaccuracies or plays more as a rollicking Action picture, sprinkled with moments of great drama and anticipation rather than as a more straightforward and enveloping true-life experience. The Guns of Navarone just works as a highly entertaining romp in the tradition of big, over-the-top cinema. It's meant to be a wild ride and not a history lessen, an objective it accomplishes without a hitch.
At the height of World War II, the German army has placed two devastatingly powerful guns in a practically bomb-proof cave on the island of Navarone, overlooking a seaway leading to the vital island of Keros in the Aegean Sea. The guns are preventing passage to Keros where thousands of British troops have been stranded and who find themselves in the middle of a dangerous game meant to bring Turkey into the War on the side of the Axis powers. With no other options, command decides the only way to take out the guns, rescue the men, and prevent Turkey from entering on the wrong side is to conduct a daring small-team commando raid on the gun emplacement. The only problem is that the only way in is to traverse an impossibly steep cliffside. There's only one man for the job: Captain Keith Mallory (Gregory Peck), an expert climber. The rest of his team comes preassembled. There's the team leader, Major Roy Franklin (Anthony Quayle); the explosives expert, Corporal Miller (David Niven); an engineer named "Butcher" Brown (Stanley Baker); the Greek informant Spyros Pappadimos (James Darren); and the Greek officer Andrea Stavros (Anthony Quinn). With the odds against them and time running out, the men must use their collective talents to pull off the most daring and outcome-critical mission of World War II.
The Guns of Navarone is built to entertain. It's big, it's grand, it's a whole lot of fun. Still, it's a fairly standard "Commando"-style picture -- a sub-genre that it pretty much defines along with its younger sibling, 1967's The Dirty Dozen -- and does little more than go through the motions, but it nevertheless gets almost everything right. There's an excellent balance between large-scale action, high adventure, drama, and character development, but the movie rightly focuses on the former two while integrating the film with the latter two as enhancements rather than elements that absolutely define the film. It's almost just as smart as it is exciting in both the way it's made and in its insistence that audiences at least partially engage the brain at various points throughout. The end result is a movie that's been painstakingly tailored to its audience and style, a trait that's all too often missing in movies both likeminded and otherwise. But that alone doesn't make it one of the more memorable World War II pictures. It's also a classy film, featuring a fine cast and delivering a steady pace even in spite of a few scenes that drag on a little longer than necessary. Fortunately, however, that doesn't erase or even in the least hinder the movie's goal of serving as pure audience escapism. The Guns of Navarone has everything audiences could want in what amounts to a World War II Fantasy picture, and it delivers it all in a tidy, easily digestible, and outright fun package.
Of course, it just wouldn't be a high-flying, death-defying, all-out adventure-driven World War II picture without a top-notch cast. There are certainly other genre and era pictures with a more enticing cast list, but The Guns of Navarone squeezes in several name actors who squeeze out some pretty solid performances. The list is topped by the indelible Gregory Peck, whose stalwart countenance is matched by his effective delivery of dialogue and ability to muster a range of dramatic intensity that reflects the film's numerous ebbs and flows in both action and characterization superbly. Few actors can so capably emote through such a broad range of emotions as Peck. It's easier to picture the actor in his more dramatically-oriented roles in films like To Kill a Mockingbird, but his efforts in more diverse films like The Guns of Navarone and Cape Fear are the sorts that truly define his greatness as an actor. Peck is matched in intensity and reliability by Anthony Quinn; his Stavros is perhaps the film's most interesting character. Never dynamically challenged and walking a fine line between resourceful and machismo, the dynamics of Quinn's character are matched by the quality of the performance and highlighted by an incredible display of "acting inside acting" when Stavros must feign cowardice and disavow culpability to get the team out of a tight pickle. The remainder of the cast is solid, coming together seamlessly and providing a bit of a well-rounded flair to an over-the-top entertainment spectacle.
The Guns of Navarone Blu-ray, Video Quality
In short, The Guns of Navarone looks marvelous, particularly considering the film's disastrous state prior to its restoration (as covered in the excellent Epic Restoration supplement; see below). Sony's 1080p, 2.35:1-framed image is very strongly detailed in most every scene, from the breathtakingly rough and realistic textures as seen on Greek ruins at film's start all the way through to the slightest nuances on dirty clothes and faces. Intermittent softness and extreme edge halos are present on scattered effects shots, but such eyesores simply can't -- and shouldn't -- distract from the high quality presentation and restoration that is the bulk of the picture. Colors do fall a little flat and lack in terms of subtle shading and range -- notably in the darker scenes -- but brighter outdoor shots yield a spectacular and brilliant palette. Blacks can be a little murky, and day-for-night scenes are easy to spot, though neither prove all that bothersome in context. The sharpness, clarity, and color of the Greek-inspired lettering on the title card is a marvel to behold, and general clarity remains an asset throughout. A good-looking grain structure is retained, enhancing finer details and providing a handsome cinematic texture, rounding out another wonderful vintage release from Sony.
The Guns of Navarone Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Guns of Navarone blasts onto Blu-ray with a steady DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Anyone expecting Saving Private Ryan should consider the source. This isn't the world's most dynamic audio track, but it's a quality affair that's brought to life with more vivid clarity and range than any home video presentation of the film before it. The opening music is triumphantly spacious and richly clear; musical surround support here and elsewhere is minimal, but effective. The back channels do pick up a few of the film's more potent and prominent directional and fully-engaged elements as planes and massive shells whiz around the listening area. General ambience, however, remains the duty of the front channels, across which gusty winds, incoming flares, outgoing rounds, and machine gun fire live. Many major effects -- a crashing plane following the title cards, for instance -- lack a dynamic low end or absolute clarity. Nevertheless, dialogue is superbly clear and ever-accurate, flowing always from the center channel. This isn't the finest wartime movie soundtrack, but kudos to Sony for releasing The Guns of Navarone in its best presentation yet.
The Guns of Navarone Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Guns of Navarone's Blu-ray debut is packed with extras. Commentaries, documentaries, and featurettes all build a substantial assortment of extras. The film is also available with its original "Roadshow" intermission card, but commentaries are unavailable during playback of this version.
The Guns of Navarone Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Guns of Navarone is perhaps the epitome of World War II-as-spectacle motion pictures and is therefore not anything close to resembling the many concrete, grounded-in-reality pictures from either then or now. Instead, it's absolute escapist entertainment at its best, a movie that's perhaps a little overly long but nevertheless gripping and a whole lot of fun from beginning to end. A great cast puts the finishing touches on a movie that embodies everything that's good about classic big-budget, big-star entertainment. Sony's Blu-ray release is befitting the picture. The Guns of Navarone features strong 10800 video, quality lossless audio, and a wide variety of extra content. Highly recommended.
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The Guns of Navarone Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Guns of Navarone Blu-ray - August 8, 2011
Sony Pictures is planning a Blu-ray release of The Guns of Navarone. Based on Alistair MacLean's novel, the film stars Gregory Peck (The Omen), Anthony Quinn (Last Action Hero), and David Niven (Casino Royale) as a team of Allied soldiers on a top-secret mission ...
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