Long before films like 1917 and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, war films seldom showed us the harsh realities of conflict. No, they focused on big, bombastic escapism with handsome Hollywood stars and fun set-pieces. Few films offer a better example of this approach than The Guns of Navarone – a charming, albeit overlong, wartime romp starring Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn.
Based on Alistair MacLean’s novel of the same name, the film – marketed at the time as ‘the greatest high adventure ever filmed’ – follows the efforts of an Allied commando unit as they embark on a mission to destroy a seemingly impregnable German fortress and the guns within during WWII.
What follows is almost three hours of melodrama, explosive – and surprisingly fresh – action sequences, topped off with often cringe-inducing displays of heroism. Each star probably had a clause in their contract that they get a big ‘save the day’ moment. But the film ultimately just feels like a warm hug. You know those old movies you find on BBC One on Christmas Day while you drift in and out of a dinner-induced food coma? This is one of those. And we all need that from time to time. The New Yorker called it one of those films “that are no less thrilling because they are so preposterous … Let me also confess that I was held more or less spellbound all the way through this many-colored rubbish”. That pretty much sums it up. It’s ridiculous and frankly a little trashy, but there’s something weirdly charming about it that is difficult to resist.
Now released on 4K UHD by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, The Guns of Navarone looks and sounds absolutely magnificent. This is truly a reference-quality disc that brings the beautifully colourful and filmic visuals to life.
Overlong and dated, The Guns of Navarone shouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is.