Force 10 From Navarone, 1978.
Directed by Guy Hamilton.
Starring Robert Shaw, Harrison Ford, Barbara Bach, Edward Fox, Franco Nero, Carl Weathers, Richard Kiel, and Alan Badel.
During World War II, several oddly assorted military experts are teamed in a mission to raid and destroy a bridge vital to enemy strategy.
Let’s take a trip into the past with Force 10 From Navarone, starring Harrison Ford, Robert Shaw, and Carl Weathers. It didn’t fare well at the box office, but it’s a minor nostalgic classic for Gen Xers, so Kino Lorber has released it in a new Blu-ray that features a 2K scan of the film and a new commentary track that takes an historical look at it.
I suppose World War II films will never go out of vogue, but considering worldwide developments in recent years, that’s a good thing. We need to keep learning those lessons if we’re going to keep psychotic people at bay.
Force 10 From Navarone isn’t a film that, like Jo Jo Rabbit, shines a bright light on how people fall under the thrall of Nazism, but it’s worth watching to remember that there were untold numbers of stories from that war. Yes, the story is fictional, just like its predecessor, The Guns of Navarone, but there were plenty of missions in the same vein as the one depicted here.
Starring Harrison Ford riding the Star Wars wave and Robert Shaw still basking in his success in Jaws, Force 10 From Navarone is set in 1943. Ford’s character, Lt. Colonel Mike Barnsby, is tasked with leading a small team into Yugoslavia and taking out a bridge that’s key to the Nazis’ efforts in the country. He must also take along with him two British commandos – Shaw’s Major Keith Mallory and Sgt. Dusty Miller (Edward Fox) – who have a mission of their own: They must kill a traitor to the Allied war effort who has embedded himself with partisans in the country.
The film opens with a short recap of Guns of Navarone, which involved destroying a German fortress on a fictional island in the Aegean Sea, before introducing the main characters and sending them off on a British bomber. Carl Weathers (Sgt. Weaver) joins them after escaping his arrest by military police and is one of the few to survive the bomber’s crash during an aerial battle with the Luftwaffe. He was also a box office draw, thanks to 1976’s Rocky.
They encounter a group led by Captain Drazek (Richard Keil, best known as the character Jaws in a pair of James Bond films) who turn out to not be who they seem. However, a member of the group, Maritza (Barbara Bach) is also not who she seems – this is a film that spends some time highlighting the duplicities that were a big part of World War II. Whether or not you lived often depended on whether you could trust some of the people you encountered, especially if you were deep in enemy territory.
As you can guess from my asides so far, Force 10 From Navarone was a highly anticipated movie at the time, given its cast and the guiding hand of James Bond film director Guy Hamilton. It was even screened for President Jimmy Carter before a disastrous box office release that brought in less than its budget. Shaw, Ford, and other members of the cast also didn’t have much good to say about their experience making the film.
However, I tend to look at a movie like this one through nostalgia-tinted lenses, and I still find Force 10 From Navarone to be a fun visit to the days of my youth, even if it’s light on compelling character moments. The action sequences are fun, and there are a couple nice plot twists along the way. This version of the film has eight more minutes than the theatrical version, which has been the case for its home video releases for a while now, not just this one.
If you’re like me, you may want to scoop up this new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber, which features a new 2K scan of the film that improves the image quality from previous releases. Given its minor status in film history, it’s probably not a surprise that the bonus features are light on this one.
The film’s trailer is found here, along with trailers for other movies that are connected to various cast members. There’s also a commentary track by filmmaker and historian Steve Mitchell, who’s joined by Steve Jay Rubin, author of Combat Films: American Realism. This is one of those discussions that you might find in film school, with the two of them discussing the movie in depth and putting it in the context of late 70s cinema.
They also talk about the Alistair MacLean novel that was the basis for the movie, and the differences between it and the screenplay. MacLean also wrote the book that was adapted for Guns of Navarone, which fared much better at the box office during its 1961 release. However, since many of the cast members of that film were too old for action movies by the late 70s, the producers had to start over in that regard.
I wasn’t sure if the commentary was new, but it mentions Carl Weather’s role in The Mandalorian on Disney+, so it must be.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★ / Movie: ★★★