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The Guns Of Navarone - The most epic and thrilling of epic thrillers
on 27 August 2009
The Guns of Navarone is one of the best of the 'Boys own' style war movies I've ever seen. The plot is simple. Two giant cannon on the isle of Navarone are sinking all the allied shipping passing through an important bit of the Aegean. Six ships on the way to evacuate another island before the 2000 troops on that island are wiped out in a devastating German attack will pass through soon, before they arrive a team of commandos have to penetrate the German fortress on Navarone and spike the guns. A nice simple premise, around which is hung a magnificent tale.
THe script is quite intelligent for this type of war movie. I've always liked it as it seemed a bit more 'grown up' than most. The heroes are presented as real people, with their own fears and moral doubts about what they are doing. They even have qualms about killing enemy soldiers at times. Though one of the German officers is presented as the typical comic book villainous Gestapo officer, most of the other enemy characters are shown in an almost sympathetic light, especially Oberst Meusel, played by Walter Gotell.
This is an all star production, with 6 or 7 really big names on screen. The director manages to give them all plenty of screen time, and there is a very balanced feel between the performances. Outstanding is David Niven as Miller, in what I consider to be one of the best performances of his career (right up there with 'A Matter Of Life And Death'). For once he doesn't play his standard character, the laid back urbane English socialite, but presents us with a very real character, with a fear of 'being responsible', a dry wit and shrewd intelligence. The scenes where he clashes with Gregory Peck's implacable team leader, Mallory, over his treatment of Miller's close friend, are the best in the film.
Peck is superb in the lead role. A man who will do whatever is necessary to 'get the job done', whether he likes it or not. Not just the stern unbending hero though, this is obviously a compassionate man, and the things he has to do, to both friend and foe, obviously take a toll as the film progresses.
The film is quite long at 2.5 hours, but there is plenty of action, plot and character development to keep the interest. It never drags. And the build up to the climactic last few scenes are nail biting.
The special effects won an academy award in the early 60's, and still stand up reasonably well today. they are certainly head and shoulders above any other film I can think of from the time.
This DVD contains a nice print in 2.35:1 widescreen. Some restoration work ahs been done and the picture is of a good quality for its age. The 5.1 surround sound is excellent. There are a range of extras on this disc, the best of which has to be short documentary shot (I think) in the mid 90's with interviews with Peck, Quinn, and Lee Thompson, the director.
For the price being asked this is an excellent package.