The Guns Of Navarone

Collector's Edition

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Details At A Glance

Category Action/Adventure Theatrical Trailer
Featurette - Memories of Navarone
Featurette - Two Girls On The Town
Featurette - Great Guns
Featurette - No Visitors
Featurette - Honeymoon On Rhodes
Featurette - A Message From Carl Foreman
Biographies - Cast and Crew
Audio Commentary - J. Lee Thompson (Director)
Dolby Digital Trailer - City
Year Released 1961
Running Time 150:16 minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (89:36)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director J. Lee Thompson
Columbia Pictures
Columbia TriStar
Starring Gregory Peck
David Niven 
Anthony Quinn
Stanley Baker
Anthony Quayle
Irene Papas
Gia Scala
James Darren
Case Soft Brackley
RPI $36.95 Music Dimitri Tiomkin

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
French Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, during credits

Plot Synopsis

    After reviewing The Bridge On The River Kwai, it is rather interesting that the very next Columbia TriStar DVD through my player for review was the roughly contemporary The Guns Of Navarone. Interesting in that here are two films that have been through the restoration process, yet the results are quite noticeably different. Interesting too in that both of them are classic war films. And so it was with more than a little anticipation that I sat down to review The Guns Of Navarone, a film that was quite a staple in my youth when the Saturday afternoon matinee movie was an essential part of the weekend. However, it is fair to say that whilst The Bridge On The River Kwai exceeded my expectations, this particular effort has not. And I really think that part of the reason for that is the fact that the restoration here has been far less successful and the resultant transfer demonstrates quite a few niggling little problems. Indeed, were it not for the credits at the end of the film for The Restoration Unit, I would almost have suggested that this had been given little more than a scrub over and not a restoration.

   You really want a plot synopsis for The Guns Of Navarone? I would have thought that just about everyone would have seen this film more than once. I have certainly lost count of the number of times that I have seen it - although in some ways this is the first time I have really seen the film, as I have never seen it in its widescreen glory before. The story is of Navarone, an island in the Aegean Sea near the coast of Turkey that controls a shipping passage through the many islands in the area. As a result, the Germans have installed two rather large guns on the island, which they can use to sink Allied shipping. Unfortunately on the nearby island of Kirios is a garrison of 2,000 British soldiers who are about to face the wrath of the German High Command, in the form of an all-out invasion assault of the island. The purpose is to draw the Turks into the war on the Axis side. Naturally the British are not too happy about this, so launch a last ditch effort to place a small saboteur group on Navarone with the express intent of destroying the guns prior to the Axis invasion of Kirios. They hope the destruction of the guns will permit a squadron of British destroyers the opportunity to rescue the garrison. And so we get to meet that little group of personnel, lead by Captain Keith Mallory (Gregory Peck) and Roy "Lucky" Franklin (Anthony Quayle), and including such happy souls as Butcher Brown (Stanley Baker), Spyros Pappadimos (James Darren), Miller (David Niven) and Colonel Andrea Stavros (Anthony Quinn). This little group travel to Navarone, with no great ease it might be added, where they meet up with the local underground, lead by Maria Pappadimos (Irene Papas) and her offsider Anna (Gia Scala). The group now has to avoid capture by the Germans and attempt the impossible - enter the gun emplacement at Navarone and destroy the guns before the British destroyers get there. Oh, and add in two little added dimensions: one of the group is a traitor and the six days that they did have for the job gets chopped to five days - after they have already used three days when they find out.

    Based on the Alistair MacLean novel, you can be assured that there is no lack of quality in the story itself. Nicely crafted, this does not in any way overextend its stay - a tad unusual for a film running two and a half hours. This is pretty much an all star cast here, and the performances on screen demonstrate it. Whilst I will not join those in proclaiming this the greatest film of all time (and there are plenty out there who will), this is certainly a good film and the performances are the essence here. Whilst I find none to be truly superlative displays of the acting craft, there are none that could be considered weak. Gregory Peck may have been slightly miscast here, but he turns in a good performance nonetheless. The wonderful Anthony Quinn is his usual reliable self in a role that suits him well. Amongst the three leads, only David Niven really does not seem comfortable - this again seems to be a slightly miscast role and overall he does not convince me of being an explosives expert with a chip big enough to refuse promotion to the officer ranks. The surprise I suppose is the relative effectiveness of James Darren in the role of the Greek émigré returning to his homeland to help fight the Hun - okay, it sounds a tad corny, but he carries it off reasonably well. Stanley Baker provides a typically reliable Stanley Baker performance, whilst Anthony Quayle is also steady as the obviously unlucky one of the group. Both Irene Papas and Gia Scala fill out the token female roles pretty well. Brought in at short notice to take over the film, director J. Lee Thompson does a decent enough job. Overall, I have to say that time has not been kind to this film, and the forty years that have passed since its making have seen its power diminished somewhat. Under the glare of digital investigation, this is found just a little wanting. In particular, some of the effects work comes across very poorly indeed. It is amazing how much things have changed in this area over the last twenty odd years and how it leaves some pre-1977 films decidedly wanting. This is one of those films. Some of the (presumably) blue screen work is particularly poor looking.

    A great film that is perhaps starting to show its age a little too much now, The Guns Of Navarone is still one of those quintessential war films that demands inclusion in any collection. I would perhaps have welcomed this with a little more open arms if the restoration had been somewhat better than here, for the transfer certainly highlights every flaw in the print.

Transfer Quality


    One word springs to mind here - inconsistency. At times very good, at times quite ordinary, I suppose we can at least be certain that the film has not looked as good for many a year. Just don't compare it to the very best restoration jobs though, for this is wanting.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    Perhaps in this instance it is best to start with what is wrong with the transfer. In a word - grain. Whilst it is not a consistent problem, there are passages in the film that are absolutely rife with it. It seems to mainly afflict material that is perhaps not film material but stock footage inserted into the film, as well as any scene involving any form of effects work or blue screen work. The transfer is also a little dark at times - far more than I would have expected even given that this has significant night-time shots. The effect is to compound the grain problem and further diminish the "watchability" of the transfer. In contrast - which by the way is not especially good either - the transfer generally demonstrates a higher degree of sharpness than I was expecting, even though this has the effect of highlighting the poor effects work. The detail is better than adequate but shadow detail obviously has some problems at times, owing to the dark nature of the transfer. Low level noise does not appear to be too much of an issue in the transfer, whilst the clarity at times is very average. There are numerous sections where this appears to have been filmed through dirty lenses.

    In general the colours are distinctly undersaturated and this is possibly an indication of a deliberate attempt to tone the film to give it a dusty Mediterranean look. The result is acceptable enough, although I would have preferred a little more tone to the colours. The daytime scenes in particular could have been a lot more vibrant in the look, but that is a personal preference. Certainly from the time I spent in Cyprus and The Aegean, this is a good representation of the colour tones. There is no problem at all with oversaturation here and colour bleed is only an issue in some exceedingly minor way in the opening credits.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, although the odd hint of some blockiness in the background was apparent. This may of course be more related to the grain than to specific MPEG compression problems. There is a consistent problem throughout the transfer with minor shimmer in middle ground and background shots. It never really became anything too drastic, but it was certainly difficult to ignore. There is a decent smattering of film artefacts here that were perhaps more prevalent than I was anticipating in a restored film.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc, and the layer change comes at 98:36. It is quite well placed, not especially noticeable nor especially disruptive to the flow of the film at all.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The restoration of the film has extended to a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack in English, with a matching equivalent in both French and German. There is also an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack on the DVD. I listened to the default Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack whilst also sampling the rather boring English Audio Commentary.

    The dialogue comes up reasonably well in the transfer and there is nothing much in the way of audio sync problems here.

    The original music for the film comes from Dimitri Tiomkin, whose other film work at the moment totally escapes me even though I recognize the name (that is a rare event). I would hardly classify this as a great score, but it does a fairly reasonable job even though most of the time it seems to be overshadowed by the sound effects.

    The remastered soundtrack is in general a disappointment. I found the sound to be a little too murky at times, lacking any sort of air in the sound. The result is a little too congested for my tastes, and the surround channels hardly get called into action at all. The overall sound seems to be quite front and centre too. The rear surround channels are especially devoid of any great use. The bass channel gets the occasional kick in when some support is required for an explosion but even then the whole thing sounds muddy and a little false. I really would not pick this as an example of a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack at all, and overall I would suspect that they would have been better staying with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. There seem to be a number of minor drop-outs in the sound here and there - nothing really objectionable, but enough to be able to hear the silence against what is at times a soundtrack blessed with just a little bit of background noise. Not a particularly great example of the art of remastering in my view.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    It is somewhat amazing what Columbia TriStar are able to drag out for some of these oldish films in the way of extras! This one certainly got a lot more than I was expecting and some of it is quite priceless.


    Themed well enough but that is about as much as you can say for them. These could really have done with some audio enhancement to go with the 16x9 enhancement.

Theatrical Trailer (3:43)

    A fairly typical example of the genre of the day, with everything being described as the biggest and best. Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with some ropey Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Allowing for the fact that it is forty years old, it is not too bad at all, but certainly showing its age pretty well. You should note that the trailer and all the featurettes have the option of subtitles in German, French or Dutch.

Featurette - Memories of Navarone (29:35)

    By far and away the best of the extras on the DVD, this is a very recent effort consisting of a lot of interview material from surviving cast members Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn and James Darren, along with J. Lee Thompson, the director. Quite an interesting effort that could have been a lot longer, it nicely complements the interviews with behind the scenes photos and extracts from the film. Well worth taking the trouble to check this one out.

Featurette - Two Girls On The Town (4:32)

    This and the subsequent three featurettes are obviously a set that Columbia Pictures made as part of the promotional blitz for the film. All last around the four and a half minutes mark, are presented Full Frame, not 16x9 enhanced and with decent enough Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. This one follows the exploits of Irene Papas and Gia Scala as they go shopping in Rhodes during a day off from shooting. It is not hard to see why Gia Scala drew a crowd. All four of these featurettes are priceless, not so much because of the contents, but because of the historical perspective of film promotion they provide. They do however tend to repeat some of the same footage. The technical quality of this effort is pretty good.

Featurette - Great Guns (4:30)

    In the same presentation style as the abovementioned effort, this one is not quite so memorable, as I completely forgot what it was about whilst writing this review. However, a further view reminded me that this provides something of a background look at the making of the film. Unfortunately this effort is a little blessed with some shimmer as well as problems with cross colouration.

Featurette - No Visitors (4:35)

    In the same presentation style as the above mentioned effort, this one deals primarily with the interaction of the film personnel with the locals - as well as the visit to the set by the King and Queen of Greece and the princesses. Despite not being union members, their wish to be included in the film was met and they apparently are included as extras in the wedding party scene. This effort is the poorest of the four as far as film artefacts go, being quite badly affected by them.

Featurette - Honeymoon On Rhodes (4:33)

    As the name suggests, a look at the honeymooning James Darren and his wife Evy on the island of Rhodes (location for the film). Sort of falls into the classification of "look kids, here's our honeymoon snaps". Cute in a slightly nauseating way, although he has good taste in women (sorry, I am not qualified to pass comment the other way).

Featurette - A Message From Carl Foreman (2:01)

    How about this for a gem! The opening of the featurette, with the view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge may puzzle, but this is an introduction that was recorded for the Sydney premiere of the film at the Barclay Cinema. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, although not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Good looking stuff indeed, and the few film artefacts are easily ignored.

Biographies - Cast and Crew

    Very, very brief efforts for the three main leads and the director. Given the stature of the film and the actors, this is a severe disappointment and should have been far more extensive.

Audio Commentary - J. Lee Thompson (Director)

    Now you know I hate these things in general, and I really hate having to listen to them for reviews. Well, I will confess that if you want to know why, this is a very good example. Boring does not begin to describe this effort. If Robert Redford has found the cure for insomnia in making films (read The Horse Whisperer), then J. Lee Thompson has found it in audio commentaries. This goes to prove that just because you can get someone to do an audio commentary, it does not necessarily follow that what they have to say is going to make worthwhile listening. Before I gave up and went to bed, rather than falling asleep on the couch, I found this tedious in the extreme - he has a really dull way of talking, there are lots of extended pauses and some of the insights are so puerile... Quite possibly the worst audio commentary it has yet been my misfortune not to avoid. You fell asleep during The Guns Of Navarone? Remember that old joke from wherever it first appeared? Really easy to fall asleep listening to this.

Dolby Digital Trailer - City

    Memo: Head Bean counter, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. If I buy you the Dolby DVD containing all their trailers, would you perchance use the other six? Please, please give us a break. It is getting so boring putting up with this trailer. Exactly how many times has this appeared on a Columbia TriStar DVD anyway? I shall start deducting one star from the overall score of their DVDs if we don't get a change soon.

R4 vs R1

    According to my wanderings through the Region 1 sites, the Region 1 release appears to be broadly similar in every respect to the Region 4 release. Reviews indicate similar problems with the video and audio transfers too. There seems to be no compelling reason to choose one version over the other, apart from PAL formatting and a better price. The Region 1 release does have a separate English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack if that is of import though.


    The Guns Of Navarone is a great war film that is really starting to show its age badly, and the transfer is not helping that at all. Quite a mediocre transfer in comparison to other restorations we have seen in Region 4. The extras package is worthy enough in quantity but I would seriously argue about the quality here. Probably as good as it is going to look ever though, unless a more extensive restoration comes along. Despite the qualms about the transfer, a worthy enough release considering the age of the film. Just don't get me started on that shocking case though.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
5th December 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL