Sony finally brings The Guns of Navarone to 4K UHD Blu-ray, a must-have upgrade from the excellent 2011 Blu-ray release.
The Production: 4.5/5
Richard Gallagher reviewed the 2011 Blu-ray release of The Guns of Navarone, and his take of the film follows:
The action takes place in 1943. Two thousand British troops are trapped on the Greek island of Kheros. The British high command has learned that Germany is planning a full-scale assault on Kheros in one week, an assault which is certain to lead to the slaughter of the soldiers on Kheros. The British Navy is prepared to evacuate Kheros, but getting the fleet to Kheros may prove to be an insurmountable task. The only sea passage to Kheros requires ships to pass by the island of Navarone, upon which the Germans have erected two huge, radar-controlled guns which have the range and accuracy to sink any passing ship. Attempts to put the guns out of action through air assaults have proven to be futile.
Faced with this desperate situation, the decision is made to send in a small team of commandos to try to blow up the guns from the inside. Major Roy Franklin (Anthony Quayle) is given the job of assembling and leading the team. He calls in Captain Keith Mallory (Gregory Peck), who has been engaged in underground activities on Crete. Mallory is essential to the plan because of his mountain climbing skills, as the sole unprotected side of Navarone is accessible only by climbing a 400-foot wall of rock. The other members of the team include Colonel Andrea Stavros (Anthony Quinn), a Greek who has worked closely with Mallory on Crete. The explosives expert is Corporal Miller (David Niven), a soldier with an attitude which occasionally borders on insubordination. The final two members of the squad are two soldiers who have demonstrated proficiency in killing the enemy, Private “Butcher” Brown (Stanley Baker) and Private Spyros Pappadimos (James Darren). However, the primary reason for having Private Pappadimos along is that his father is a member of the Greek resistance and is to be their contact when and if the team makes it to Navarone. To reach their destination they have to navigate their way through stormy, German-occupied waters in a fishing boat, scale the cliff, and avoid capture while trying to rendezvous with the resistance – and that is the easy part of the mission.
The Guns of Navarone is expertly directed by J. Lee Thompson, who keeps the film moving at a brisk pace which belies its running time. Based upon a novel by Alistair MacLean, the screenplay was written by Carl Foreman, who also was the film’s producer. Foreman also wrote the screenplay for The Bridge on the River Kwai, for which he received no screen credit because he was blacklisted at the time. The film also boasts a stirring score by composer Dimitri Tiomkin. The sterling cast is led by Gregory Peck as the unflappable Mallory, whose nationality is never made clear. Is he an American? Canadian? British? Anthony Quinn, who convincingly played multiple ethnic types throughout his long career, is a strong presence as Stavros. David Niven delivers a lively performance as Miller, a soldier who has turned down the opportunity to become an officer because he does not want the responsibility involved. Stanley Baker provides a workmanlike performance as a veteran of the Spanish Civil War who has grown war-weary. Giving the role of Pappadimos to James Darren was considered to be something of a risk by director J. Lee Thompson. Darren was a trained actor whose teen idol status at the time had him alternating between dramatic roles and fluff such as the Gidget films. Thompson was pleased when Darren did a credible job. Other notable cast members include Irene Papas and Gia Scala as members of the Greek resistance.
The Guns of Navarone was the biggest box office hit of 1961 and went on to garner seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture (it won for Best Special Effects). Fifty years later it remains an iconic, unforgettable war adventure.
3D Rating: NA
Per the restoration notes insert authored by Grover Crisp, for this release, Sony has gone back to the 4K restoration completed in 2011 for the addition of high dynamic range and further digital cleanup of the image. The results are a noticeable if not dramatic improvement over the 2011 Blu-ray release. The fidelity and stability of color has been improved, allowing for much warmer flesh tones and more vibrant color overall. Contrast is improved, with deeper blacks and stronger shadow detail. Natural film grain can fluctuate, appearing organic for the most part, but becoming very troublesome in some of the more complicated optical shots (one optical early on prior to the opening title sequence almost resembles a Monet painting). Considering how poorly this film was treated prior to the analog restoration in the early 1990s and 4K digital restoration in 2011, it is amazing just how good The Guns of Navarone looks today.
The default Dolby Atmos mix is the track to choose from, created specifically for this release. This is a rather immersive mix, with stronger LFE and surround support, giving you the sense of planes flying overhead and floor-shaking explosions. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout. Sadly, this Atmos track has not found its way yet to the 4K digital release from any retailer at the time of this review. The disc also includes the same 5.1 mix found on the 2011 Blu-ray, plus a 4.0 mix (both are in DTS-HD MA) that replicates the film’s original 4-track magnetic track from its theatrical roadshow engagements.
Special Features: 3/5
Main Title Progression Reel (1080p; 2:43): A comparison of early concept drawings to the resulting opening title sequence, presented in a split-screen.
Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 3:42)
This disc is identical to the 2011 Blu-ray release.
The Resistance Dossier of Navarone: A picture-in-picture track.
Audio Commentary with Film Historian Stephen J. Rubin
Audio Commentary with Director J. Lee Thompson
Forging the Guns of Navarone: Notes from the Set (480i; 13:59)
An Ironic Epic of Heroism (480i; 24:38)
Memories of Navarone (480i; 29:34)
Epic Restoration (480i; 9:37)
A Heroic Score (480i; 9:19)
Great Guns (1080p; 4:34)
No Visitors (1080p; 4:36)
Honeymoon on Rhodes (480i; 4:36)
Two Girls on the Town (480i; 4:35)
Narration-Free Prologue (480i; 5:45)
Message from Carl Foreman (1080p; 2:00)
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy in UHD on Movies Anywhere. Unfortunately, as of this review, the digital copy that is provided on every retailer is 4K with no HDR and only 5.1 audio.
Restoration of “The Guns of Naravone: A second insert contains restoration notes from Grover Crisp.
This is about as good at The Guns of Navarone is going to look and sound. New extras are minimal, and the included digital copy at this point is a disappointment.
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