You know, when I first saw this movie many years ago, I was so disappointed - it was such a lame exercise in low quality film making after the superb Guns of Navarone.
However, watching it now, and trying to divorce it from any connection with the original, it really is a much better film than I gave it credit for.
The most obvious difference is that this restored version really does change the whole quality of the transfer, making the scenery stand out the way it should. The widescreen presentation really makes a huge difference over the pan and scan TV version.
But the whole `boys own' adventure nature of the movie is more fun than I remember it too.. and that is the crux of it really - the movie is intended not to be any deep character study, but to capture some of the fun of Maclean's novel. Sure, there is no Gregory Peck and he is keenly missed, but Robert Shaw is great casting as the laconic hero of the novel, and who can forget him delivering that last line as the camera pans back at the end of the movie, when you think all has been accomplished?
Edward Fox is a little grating as a Niven replacement, but really the casting reaches absurdity with Carl Weathers - he might have been popular back in the 80's, but now he looks incredibly out of place in this sort of movie. Harrison Ford looking spookily young, plays his part straight and true, if uninspired, and as if that was not enough we have the always excellent Franco Nero as the ? bad guy, and Barbara Bach as a Partisan member - although it's something of a stretch to believe that they had such beautiful Partisan members getting down and dirty with the fighting while keeping that long hair immaculate, but its all part of the necessary suspension of belief required to get into the spirit of the movie.
No, it's not a classic, but its darn good boys own fun. Well worth a budget purchase for a Saturday afternoon.