Sony Pictures release the ninth edition of their special Anniversary range of Blu-rays
, turning their attention to the epic wartime adventure The Guns of Navarone
. Available from this week, follow the jump for our review... Academy Award winners Gregory Peck
, David Niven
and Anthony Quinn
star as a team of Allied military specialists recruited for a dangerous but imperative mission: to infiltrate a Nazi-occupied fortress and disable two long-range field guns so that 2000 trapped British soldiers may be rescued. Faced with an unforgiving sea voyage, hazardous terrain, and the possibility of a traitor among them, the team must overcome the impossible without losing their own lives... The Guns of Navarone won the Best Special Effects Academy Award back in 1961 and it's easy to see why. Even today - 50 years later - the film remains both impressive and filled with breathtaking glorious action! Whether the group are blowing up Nazi patrol boats, braving treacherous seas or ducking Nazi dive bombings, the action is never anything less than gritty and realistic. The high definition upgrade doesn't betray the age of the film through its special effects either, looking as fantastic today as they must have done in 1961.
As well as the Special Effects Oscar, the film was nominated for 6 more accolades including Best Picture. It's hard to understand why it didn't take more home, as The Guns of Navarone is an extremely accomplished war epic that combines all the right elements to make it a highly relevant film for contemporary audiences as well as present day viewers. As much a human drama as it is an espionage action film, one of the narratives strongest aspects is the interchange of dialogue between the chief characters. Each has had their own unique experiences of war, helping to shape and forge their personalities and attitudes towards their mission. Whilst the typical 'gung ho' attitude that permeated throughout Hollywood's 50s and 60s depictions of war is still present, there's a much deeper look at the notion of war and it's effect upon those who have fought it than the mainstream fare attempted to tackle. There's a strong sense of character development here that helps make the film more than a simple action flick. Instead, the action sequences are well spaced between the more dialogue laden sequences that help develop the group of characters. The narrative is full of suspense and taut moments, as the group work hard to evade the Germans at various points and progress with their mission. For some modern viewers the languishing development of the plot and the group of primary characters may make the film feel rather laborious, but for those who enjoy cinematic grandeur and exciting action sequences The Guns of Navarone is perfect entertainment.
The performances are tremendously adept, with the trio of primary actors giving wonderfully touching turns as three very different men (its actually amazing to think that none were nominated for Academy Awards, particularly seeing the film picked up so many elsewhere). Peck brings his usual calming and rational screen persona to his character of Capt. Keith Mallory. The logical, level headed thinking of his character makes his more dramatic and intense scenes that little bit more memorable and Pecks portrayal moves seamlessly between these two personas. The confrontational scenes between Peck and Nivens character, Cpl. Miller, are some of the most powerful moments within the film and each actor gives a powerhouse performance within their different role: Peck is superb as the man who wishes to complete the mission at all cost, ready to make sacrifices for the greater good, whilst Niven brings a real sense of humanity to his exasperated character who has seen too much of a bloody and seemingly senseless war. Niven has some wonderful monologues that tackle the conflict of war, something that is equally deep rooted within anything from individuals to entire nations. Disguising his resentment and bitterness with fighting within witty banter and a light-hearted disposition, the scenes where he crumbles under the pressure of his conflicting inner emotions are refreshingly raw and emotional. Theres a tenderness and entrenched sense of decency within Nivens character and his performance, so much so that he is immediately the most likeable of the bunch. Further tension comes via Anthony Quinns character of Col. Andrea Stavros, who has unsettled business with Mallory. Quinn brings a certain amount of menace to the role, but ultimately it is clear that redemption and reconciliation between him and Peck will occur before the end credits roll. The actor gives an intense performance that makes the character extremely interesting and Quinn matches the power of Peck and Niven. Quinns most successful sequence comes when he must feign betraying the group to ensure they slide their way out of a tight spot with the Germans. Here he is sensational in his performance within a performance, even convincing the audience that he is not in league with the rest of the group. Terrifically solid support comes from a host of top-notch talent, including stalwarts such as James Justice Robinson, Stanley Baker, James Quayle, Richard Harris, James Darren, Gia Scala
and Irene Papas
. Each brings a unique style and exciting intensity to their roles, helping to heighten the action and suspense withy the narrative.
Visually, The Guns of Navarone looks very impressive for it's age. There is a certain level of lightly noticeable grain that persistently sticks around through the entire run time. However, this isn't noticeable enough to become irritating or too distracting. There are the odd shots that haven't been possible to upgrade perfectly, but these are few and far between. Generally speaking, the film is distinctly void of blemishing and other image distortion. The definition is extremely proficient, with small details clearly visible throughout. A sense of rich texture is evident in Sony Pictures' upgrade print, particularly in the scenes set on the rocky Greek cliffs or crumbling ancient ruins. Here, viewers will literally feel like they can reach out and touch the rugged landscapes. The colour palette is a little subdued even on the Bluray release, with some scenes looking a little washed out or over-exposed. However, moments of bright colour poke through and certain shots of the Aegean coastline in particular look lush and almost luminous. However, the film isn't the best example of how sumptuous and rich colours can look in high definition. The audio is superb on this release, with a deep, rich sound that helps submerge viewers into the action and drama. Scenes such as the sequence when the group find themselves being bombed by the Germans literally anchor viewers in the centre of the turmoil through the expressive sound. The planes feel as if they could be flying over viewers' heads and the special effects audio is boomingly deep. Dialogue is always crisp and clear, remaining intelligible in even the most action-laden portions. Essentially, the audio track makes full use of the variety of speakers housed in high definition televisions and works well to create a rich and fulfilling experience for audiences' ears!
A comprehensive collection of documentaries, featurettes and other supplementary materials complement the film on Sony Pictures' Blu-ray release. Viewers can expect to find the following extensive collection of bonus features on the disc: The Resistance Dossier of Navarone (Blu-ray exclusive) - This interactive collection of mini featurettes and text information is extremely in depth and highly engaging, focusing on a variety of subjects from special effects to military accuracy, making it one of the best extras available on the disc. Two Audio Commentaries - With one from Director J. Lee Thompson and another from Film Historian Stephen J. Rubin, virtually every aspect is touched upon in these entertaining and engaging commentaries. Forging The Guns of Navarone: Notes From the Set This brief documentary clocks in at just under 15 minutes and doesnt begin to feel in depth enough. However, its an enjoyable and intriguing look back at the productions inception right through to its premiere a vast undertaking for such a brief affair! An Ironic Epic of Heroism In this second documentary, a deeper look at the production is attempted. Within the 30 minute run time a range of topics are covered, including: life on set, the Greek communitys assistance during location filming, symbolism and underlying subtexts within the narrative, visual styling, and an array of other matters. Memories of Navarone In this half hour documentary, members of the cast and crew including the likes of stars Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, James Darren and director J. Lee Thompson take a trip down memory lane to look back on the origin, on screen style and legacy of the film. Epic Restoration Prior to an extensive visual and audio restoration at UCLA, The Guns of Navarone had been badly neglected by restorers. This entertaining and in depth look at the processes behind the top-notch restoration will certainly prove interesting film buffs. A Heroic Score Dimitri Tiomkins vast and epic score is analysed in this brief but enlightening featurette. Great Guns In a brief but informative vintage featurette, viewers get an insight into the production teams arrival and stay in Greece for their location shooting. No Visitors This entertaining vintage promotional spot reveals just how many visitors descended upon the movie set during production. Honeymoon on Rhodes This vintage piece of promotional fluff sees actor James Darren narrate a series of reasons why the Greek Island of Rhodes is the perfect place to honeymoon! Two Girls on the Town Actress Irene Papas recalls what it was like on set for her and co-star Gia Scala, the only two women in the cast. Narration-Free Prologue Message From Carl Foreman - This vintage spot from Foreman is a nostalgic piece that offers an intriguing insight into what original cinemagoers would have seen before their screening! Film: 4 out of 5
Exploring a variety of themes, The Guns of Navarone is an intelligent and thought provoking war epic that doesn't fail to impress with it's excellent action sequences, strong character development and genuine moments of taut suspense. Visuals: 4 out of 5
Whilst a small amount of visible grain is noticeable throughout the film, the images are distinctly blemish free and crisp for the most part. Colours are rather muted at times, but splashes of sharp brights permeate at certain times. Audio: 4.5 out of 5
Dialogue is extremely clear and thoroughly audible at all times, even in the more action packed sequences. Special effects sounds and ambient noises are rich and full, taking full advantage of the expansive range of speakers. Extras: 5 out of 5
The comprehensive collection of bonus material covers an extensive range of subjects in relation to the production, meaning that there is something that will appeal to every viewer. The sheer volume of featurettes and documentaries housed on the disc demonstrates just what can be achieved on a Bluray release! Presentation: 3.5 out of 5
The front cover follows Sony Pictures' standard Anniversary range layout, with a rather simple image of Peck, Niven and Quinn taking prominence. It's a rather dull cover, but the design suggests prestige with the gold title text and elegant layout. The menus are expansive but relatively easy to manoeuvre around and attractive enough. Overall: 4.5 out of 5
Sony Pictures' comprehensive 50th Anniversary release does the grandeur and epic scale of The Guns of Navarone a real justice. An array of interesting special features complement a highly engaging and exciting film, making this an excellent release!
The Guns of Navarone is available now on Blu-ray