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A crucial island gun position is hampering the allied war effort in the Greek Islands, and endanegring the lives of 2,000 soliders. A select group of saboteurs, comprising Capt Keith Mallory (Gregory Peck) Corporal Miller (David Niven), Colonel Andrea Stavros (Anthony Quinn), Private Brown (Stanley Baker), Major Roy Franklin (Anthony Quayle) and Private Spyros Pappadimos (James Darren) is sent off to try and scale the 100 metre sheer cliff face and disable the enormous, radar assisted guns. They have just a few days to achieve the task, before six British destroyers have to steam past the gun position en route to rescue the 2,000 soldiers trapped on adjacent island. The task force is efficient, but internal rivalry causes added friction to an already impossible task.

"Shot over some months from late 1959 to 1960, and officially released as a 1961 film, The Guns of Navarone ranks alongside The Bridge On the River Kwai as one of the great films set in WWII made in collaboration between British and American talents (and American money). Although it didnít win as many Oscars as Kwai, it was nominated for just about as many Ė and on any criteria, it is an equally outstanding cinematic achievement.

Of course, the basic story is filled out with character and context, filling the film with drama and nuance in equal measure. Restored with care, this sensational DVD version introduces new generations of film lovers to a war movie in which character is just as important as the action. In fact, as Gregory Peck points out in the recently made doco, Memories of Navarone, the film is a splendid adventure drama as much as it is a war movie. (Pity about the imperfect synch-ing in this doco, especially in the clips from the film.) Director Thompson, in his commentary, makes some judicious cuts with 100% hindsight, but the fact is, the film sustains its running time with a fine balance of tension.

The short featurettes made at the time, like James Darrenís honeymoon footage and the girsl on the town, are light, humourous vignettes from the era, and add a personality to the DVD.

Carl Foremanís message to the audience at the Australian premiere is an unusual featurette and interesting from a historic point of view. Foreman, who also wrote the screenplay of The Bridge on the River Kwai, taped the message on the set of The Visitors (1963), which he also directed.

One element thatís worth noting is the high calibre (Oscar winning) special effects used to create the storm-swept landing at the cliff base on Navarone. Worth noting in the context of the period, well before CGI and digital technology, but also in the context of contemporary storm effects on films like The Perfect Storm."
Andrew L. Urban

Published 18/1/2001

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CAST: Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle, James Darren, Stanley Baker, Irene Papas, Gia Scala

DIRECTOR: J. Lee Thompson

RUNNING TIME: 150 minutes

†DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: December 6, 2000

Widescreen presentation

Audio commentary by J. Lee Thompson

Digitally remastered 5.1 surround sound

New documentary, Memories of Navarone

Featurettes: Girls on the Town, Great Guns, No Visitors, Honeymoon on Rhodes

Message from writer/producer Carl Foreman for Australian premiere

Languages: English, French, German

Subtitles: English, Greek, German, French, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Hindi, Turkish, Danish, Arabic, Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic, Dutch, Norwegian, Hebrew, Bulgarian

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