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Although it is set during W.W.II, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE ($25) isnít a war movie in the traditional sense. Most war movies tend to emphasize battle scenes, however there is very little actual military combat in this film. Instead, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE is action/adventure tale that follows a small band of allied soldiers on espionage mission against German stronghold on the island of Navarone. THE GUNS OF NAVARONE stars Gregory Peck as Captain Keith Mallory, who is assigned an impossible mission. In order to rescue 2000 British soldiers trapped on a small Greek island; Mallory must infiltrate a secured German installation that is cut into the side of a sheer cliff and destroy the two powerful guns that would otherwise blow the British Navy out of the water.

Making matters worse, Mallory has only a handful of men to accomplish this impossible task, slipping past the occupying German forces at very turn. Mallory does have the aid of the Greek resistance, but eluding German soldiers becomes increasingly difficult the closer they come to their objective. If you have never seen THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, I hate to give away any of the filmís surprises. However, those who have seen this classic film know whatís in store, so no further description is necessary. THE GUNS OF NAVARONE features memorable performances from Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, James Darren, Irene Papas and Gia Scala. Carl Foreman fashioned a virtually perfect screenplay for THE GUNS OF NAVARONE containing intelligence, sharply drawn characters, plenty of action and a certain level of unpredictability. Director J. Lee Thompson handles the action sequences with aplomb, plus he maintains a quick pace throughout, making the filmís two hour thirty seven minute running time seem only half as long.

Columbia TriStar Home Video has done a very good job with their Special Edition DVD of THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, although the presentation is less than perfect. THE GUNS OF NAVARONE was given a restoration several years ago, however the restored film elements still display their share of problems. Visible film grain crops up from time to time, colors are somewhat faded in places, plus all of the opticals, including fades and other transitions are somewhat rough looking. This isnít to say that THE GUNS OF NAVARONE looks bad, just that the restoration of this 1961 release wasnít as successful as those of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA or MY FAIR LADY. I would imagine that further (computer assisted) restoration work might be required to correct the remaining deficiencies in the film elements. Despite the flaws in the film elements, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE displays a crisp, well-defined image. As I mentioned above, colors appear faded much of the time, plus color intensity does have a tendency to shift from shot to shot (a truly excellent example of vintage Eastmancolor). Blacks are inconsistent, sometimes appearing accurate, sometimes leaning towards dark gray. Shadow detail isnít anywhere near the level of a new movie, in addition the inconsistencies in the black level also affect the depth of the image. Dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts from becoming noticeable on this lengthy movie.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has been created from the filmís original four channel stereo track. THE GUNS OF NAVARONE pretty much maintains what I would imagine to be the 1961 theatrical sound mix, since there doesnít seem to be any evidence of a sound engineer trying to make this sound like a newer action movie. Directional effects are somewhat limited, with the surround channels seeing very little action. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and maintains intelligibility its throughout. Whatever benefits there were to re-mastering the soundtrack in 5.1 seem to be reaped by Dimitri Tiomkinís stirring musical score. The recordings have held up rather well, although one will notice some frequency limitations to the music. While a bass channel has been encoded into the mix, there is actually very little low frequency information present on the soundtrack. English Dolby Surround, French mono, and Spanish mono soundtracks have also encoded onto the DVD, as have English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai subtitles.

The interactive menus are straightforward, supplying access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice array of supplements. Director J. Lee Thompson provides an audio commentary that is a bit sparse on occasion, but definitely provides a good deal of insight into the filmís production. The DVD also features Memories Of Navarone, an excellent 30-minute documentary, which was produced for the disc by the folks at Sharpline Arts. Fans will be delighted by the documentary, since it includes new interviews with J. Lee Thompson, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, and James Darren, who are all more than happy to share the experiences they had in making the movie forty years ago. Also included on the DVD are four original featurettes, which run under five minutes each, plus A Message From Carl Foreman that was filmed for the Australian premiere. A theatrical trailer and talent files fill out the DVDs supplements.

THE GUNS OF NAVARONE is a classic W.W.II adventure movie that fans have loved for nearly four decades. Columbia TriStar Home Videoís DVD presentation is quite nice, and barring another full-blown restoration of the film, this is as good as THE GUNS OF NAVARONE is ever likely to look. When you combine the presentation with the excellent supplements, this turns out to be a DVD that every fan will want to own. Recommended to everyone who loves this motion picture classic.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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