The Guns of Navarone, 1961.
Directed by J. Lee Thompson.
Starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, Irene Papas, Gia Scala, and James Darren.
The Guns of Navarone, which was restored a decade ago for its 50th anniversary, arrives on 4K Ultra HD looking about as good as it did when it hit the silver screen in 1961. The picture quality is superb, and Sony ported over all the previous bonus features from the 2011 Blu-ray. They also tossed in a code for a digital copy and a new extra that compares the original drawings done for the main title sequence with the final versions.
The late 1950s and early 60s were a high water mark for World War II adventure films, with 1961’s The Guns of Navarone landing in the middle of renewed interest in the war. Starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, and Anthony Quinn, the 158-minute movie tells the story of a commando unit sent to destroy two huge guns on the fictional Greek island of Navarone. If the mission fails, the guns will be able to set their sights on ships sent to rescue 2,000 British soldiers marooned on the island of Kheros.
Sony has commemorated the film’s 60th anniversary with a new 4K Ultra HD disc that presents the film at a level of quality that probably hasn’t been seen since its initial theatrical release. The Guns of Navarone was restored in 4K a decade ago for its 50th anniversary on Blu-ray, and my understanding is that’s what’s used here.
The picture quality is superb, with plenty of fine details to be seen on the characters’ uniforms and on the sets, which were a mix of soundstage and on location. Some of the shots with optical effects are a bit soft, which 4K only enhances, but that’s to be expected for a 60-year-old movie that won its sole Oscar for special effects the old-fashioned way. There’s also a fair amount of grain in the image, which is okay in my book because that’s how the film was meant to be seen. Not every film on 4K is going to look like it was shot yesterday with digital cameras, and that’s okay.
You can choose to watch the movie with or without the intermission card. The only bonus features on the 4K platter are the theatrical trailer and a new extra that compares the sketches created for the main titles with the final images.
The rest of the special features are found on the accompanying Blu-ray disc, which houses a 2K copy of the movie along with the following extras, all ported over from the 2011 edition:
- Two commentary tracks, one with director J. Lee Thompson and one with film historian Stephen J. Rubin. The former is a bit dry and slow going, with the director oftentimes commenting on what’s onscreen or doling out information at a, shall we say, measured pace. There are some interesting bits to mine from his chat, however.
The latter is a more entertaining listen, with Rubin clearly prepared to discuss the film through a scholarly lens. That means you’ll get not only plenty of trivia about the movie but also a view of it within the context of what was happening in Hollywood at the time. You’ll even hear why he regards The Guns of Navarone as an anti-war film, which isn’t hard to do when one considers some of its second-act dialogue.
- The Resistance Dossier of Navarone: This is an interactive feature that lets you explore various aspects of the film through text and video materials.
- Forging The Guns of Navarone: Notes from the Set (14 minutes): This is a look at the making of the movie led by the widow of producer Carl Foreman and Assistant Director Peter Yates. It’s a basic featurette that hits the highlights during its limited running time.
- An Ironic Epic of Heroism (24.5 minutes): This featurette, hosted by Sir Christopher Frayling, digs a bit deeper than the preceding one and gets into some of the subjects that Rubin’s commentary does, such as the symbolism pulled from Greek mythology.
- Memories of Navarone (29.5 minutes): The cast and crew look back on the making of the movie, with plenty of amusing anecdotes shared. You can’t go wrong listening to guys like Gregory Peck and Anthony Quinn waxing nostalgic.
- Epic Restoration (9.5 minutes): If you have any issues with the image quality presented on the 4K disc, this featurette should help ease your mind a bit. The Guns of Navarone was, quite simply, in appalling shape, and it took an enormous effort to restore it to the level seen today.
- A Heroic Score (9 minutes): Dimitri Tiomkin composed the film’s music, which is very much of its time, and this featurette takes a look at that.
- Narration-Free Prologue (6 minutes): Tiomkin’s main theme for the film was overlaid with narration that sets up the story, so this bonus feature lets you watch the opening without any narration and simply enjoy the music.
- Great Guns (4.5 minutes): This is an archival featurette that focuses on the cast as they shot the film on the Greek island of Rhodes. It’s very fluffy, but it’s always nice to see some behind-the-scenes footage.
- No Visitors (4.5 minutes): In the same vein as the previous item, this one emphasizes the Greek natives who were curious about the filming, along with a glimpse of a party held for the Greek royal family.
- Honeymoon on Rhodes (4.5 minutes): Also in the same vein as the previous two items, this is a very, very fluffy promotional piece in which actor James Darren pitches the island of Rhodes as a honeymoon destination.
- Two Girls on the Town (4.5 minutes): Another piece shot during the making of the movie, this one focuses on Irene Papas and Gia Scala, the only two women who play major roles in the film, as they enjoy Greece.
- Message From Carl Foreman (2 minutes): The film’s writer and producer talks about the movie. Given the brief nature of this item, it’s really more of a promotional piece.
A code for a digital copy and a paper insert discussing the restoration round out this release.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★