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The Guns of Navarone

"The Guns of Navarone" on DVD

Special Edition Oscar-Winning Adventure

One of the classic war adventure movies has received a loving restoration onto DVD, courtesy of Columbia Tristar Home Video.

The Guns of Navarone, based on the novel by Alistair Maclean, is a big budget, all-star tale in the grand Hollywood tradition. It stars Gregory Peck, David Niven, and Anthony Quinn as the central figures in a small group of commandos sent to infiltrate a Nazi fortress on an occupied Greek Island to destroy a pair of huge guns that are wreaking havoc on shipping and keeping His Majesty's navy from rescuing a couple of thousand soldiers hunkered down on a nearby island.

Anthony Quayle is the group's leader, but on their initial assault of the island, a harrowing climb up a tall and steep cliff, he's badly injured and spends the rest of the movie being dragged around on a stretcher, putting the rest of his colleagues into constant danger. Forced to take command, Peck does his best, though it never seems enough - especially when it becomes obvious that someone close to them has been feeding the Nazi troops information about them.

The cast is terrific. Peck is appropriately stoic and paternal as the reluctant leader. David Niven, as an explosive expert who marches to his own drum, and Anthony Quinn, as the hot blooded Greek who's death on two legs, are equal to their tasks. The supporting cast, including Quayle, James Darren, Stanley Baker, Irene Paps, and Gia Scala, also turn in believable performances.

Guns of Navarone won an Oscar for its special effects, and the climactic scene of the guns' destruction is indeed "effective." This scene received most of the effects publicity, but the film's full of scenes that require various types of effects - from the climb up the cliff to other scenes best left undescribed lest they spoil your enjoyment.

The restoration not only gave the picture a new lease on life (compare the footage to what's in the trailer to see how much they've improved it), but also remixed the original stereo audio into Dolby Digital 5.1 (you can also partake of the original stereo mix if you want). There isn't a lot of surround in the remix, but what's there is extremely effective, especially during the airplane attack.

The digitally mastered widescreen picture looks great. If the actors weren't all so much older now - or dead - you'd think Guns of Navarone was much newer than 1961. Well, you can tell its vintage by the fact that the violence is more implied than graphic, and that when there was an opportunity to have a woman strip to the waist they chose only to reveal her back. The film also has that old fashioned color look - but that's not a bad thing.

Ah, the good old days!

The digitally remastered audio, considering the film's age, is very good, and if you're watching the "5.1 channel" version, you'll be happy to have a subwoofer.

Extras include a running audio commentary from director J. Lee Thompson, a retrospective documentary featuring Thompson and surviving cast members. There are also four featurettes, and a "message from Carl Foreman" that was recorded in England for the film's Australian premier. Standard extras like a decent liner essay, talent files, production notes, trailers, chapters, and the usual subtitle/languages choices round out a complete and welcome package.

The Guns of Navarone, Special Edition, from Columbia Tristar Home Video
157 minutes, Widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital
Starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle, James Darren, Stanley Baker, Irene Papas, Gia Scala.
Written and Produced by Carl Foreman
Directed by J. Lee Thompson


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