My first war movie.
Of course it was about World War II. That’s the only war Hollywood knew how to glamorize.
This was not a film from the 80s, but I watched it when I was 8 or 9 (1985 or 1986), I can’t remember. It had a cast of people I had not heard of, but my parents talked about them like I talked about Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Matthew Broderick.
“The Guns of Navarone” prologues with actual World War II footage of the German “guns” blasting ally U-Boats into the bottom of the sea, making a large landing of ally troops impossible in Greece. The footage is narrated by James Robertson Justice with his very sincere and articulate English accent.
After credits, we get the band back together.
This was not the first film to get a rag-tag team of operatives together for a near impossible mission, but it is the first that I saw and I loved it. They were to be led by Franklin with Mallory (Gregory Peck) as his second. An expert mountaineer, he is added to the team to help Franklin and his team take a disguised fishing boat to the cliffs of Greece and climb up over them. We learn little bits and pieces about Franklin’s team through conversation and pictures of the men/women as they describe their specialties. David Niven is the sassy explosives specialist, and Anthony Quinn is Jules’ Wallet from “Pulp Ficton.”
The team also has a young cold-blooded nazi-killing-machine, his sister, a mute female escaped prisoner, and a man that specializes in murdering with knives.
They run into underground resistance fighters that aid them on their quest (I know you’re supposed to call them missions since it is a war movie, but I’m a fantasy nerd. It’s going to be called a damn quest!). There is everything that you’ll find in your average war picture: a lot of gun fights, espionage, betrayal, capture, escape, and explosions.
This was a good shuffle for me in the types of films I was consuming as a child and the story, the suspense, the acting, and the twists were what kept me focused.
It is quite a lengthy picture at a running time of 158 minutes and the pacing will seam very slow by modern standards.
My advice–if you are interested–is to plan the time to watch it, alone with no distractions, and really listen to the dialogue (especially Niven’s lines–he has some great ones). It is very well written and every bit of dialogue is important to the tension of the story. If you need to stop it and take a break, do it and come back to it later.
At the age that I watched it, it was a great spectacle film for me. I also enjoyed the chemistry the actors shared, along with the subtle relationships that all of the characters had. How this team interacted within itself is part of the allure that drives the action vehicle and creates incredible drama.
Plus, it’s cool to watch them blow up some shit.
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