The Guns of Navarone (1961)

The Guns of Navarone  
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Written by Carl Foreman from a novel by Alastair MacLean
1961/USA
Columbia Pictures Corp/Highroad Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Prologue – Narrator:  In 1943, so the story goes, 2000 British soldiers lay marooned on the tiny island of Kheros, exhausted and helpless. They had exactly one week to live for in Berlin the Axis high command had determined on a show of strength in the Aegean Sea to bully neutral Turkey into coming into the war on their side. The scene of that demonstration was to be Kheros, itself of no military value, but only a few miles off the coast of Turkey. The cream of the German war machine, rested and ready, was to spearhead the attack, and the men on Kheros were doomed unless they could be evacuated before the blitz. But the only passage to and from Kheros was guarded and blocked by two great, newly designed, radar-controlled guns on the nearby island of Navarone. Guns too powerful and accurate for any allied ship then in the Aegean to challenge. Allied intelligence learned of the projected blitz only one week before the appointed date. What took place in the next six days became the legend of Navarone.

This is a solid war movie with a fantastic cast and lots of explosions.

Mallory (Gregory Peck) is a multi-lingual can-do army officer who is also a genius mountain climber.  High Command summons him and orders him to join a team to take out the guns on Navarone.  He will be assisted by the wise-cracking explosives expert Miller (David Niven), Greek resistance fighter Andrea (Anthony Quinn), Black (Stanley Baker), and fresh-faced young Greek Pappadimos (James Darren).  The mission will be commanded by Franklin (Anthony Quayle).  Unknown to any of the others, Mallory already knows Andrea well.  The Greek blames Mallory for the killing of his entire family by Germans and has vowed to kill him after the war.

The action starts right away and never really lets up.  The men suffer a storm at sea that sinks their fishing boat.  They swim to the island but almost immediately on arrival Franklin falls of a cliff and breaks his leg.  The team end up dragging him on a stretcher for the remainder of the film.  There are many encounters with Germans to dodge.  Finally, the team meets up with the resistance fighters who will help them.  They turn out to be women – Maria (Irene Pappas) and the mute Anna.

All that’s left to be determined is if, and how, the guns can be neutralized.

This is a rip-roaring sort of film with an equally stirring score.  The whole cast is pretty great but I would give the nod to Quinn if I had to choose.  My favorite scene is when he starts “acting” in an attempt to distract some Germans.  I don’t think I’ve seen so much blood and violence in an American war film to date on my journey.  An entertaining film for fans of this kind of thing.

The Guns of Navarone won the Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Effects.  It was nominated in the categories of Best Picture; Best Director; Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium; Best Sound; Best Film Editing and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

Trailer – colors are vivid on the DVD

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