1961-1970ActionJ. Lee ThompsonUSAWar

J. Lee Thompson – The Guns of Navarone (1961)

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.

Guns of Navarone.1961.576p.BDRip-AVC.ZONE.mkv

Container:  	Matroska
Runtime: 	2 h 36 min
Size: 	3.66 GiB
Codec: 	x264
Resolution: 	1024x426 
Aspect ratio:  	2.40:1
Frame rate: 	23.976 fps
Bit rate: 	3 000 kb/s
BPP: 	0.287
#1:  	English 2.0ch AC-3 @ 224 kb/s
#2:  	English 2.0ch AAC LC SBR @ 60.8 kb/s (Audio Commentary with Director J. Lee Thompson)
#3:  	English 2.0ch AAC LC SBR @ 60.7 kb/s (Audio Commentary with Film Historian Stephen J. Rubin)


Subtitles:English, Russian

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