Based upon Alistair Maclean’s novel and around actual events, The Guns of Navarone starts quickly enough as a squad of embittered soldiers outline the issues faced with trying to take down two heavily fortified guns. A crack team is assembled via the magic of portfolios and everything important about their personality traits is described out loud. Here we have demolitions expert, stone cold killer, excellent with a knife, a man called Lucky…
With the scenario explained it is time for the off and director J. Lee Thompson wastes no more time to get into the action; a tense standoff with a possible spy and then the unheralded appearance of a boatload of vile Nazi’s.
The early nautical scenes are some of the best, even rivalling the explosive finale. When on board the ignominious vessel the sea herself becomes an extra character; the waves soak the actors to the bone, the howling of the wind and creak of the hull penetrate the senses. However when the crew finally leave their transport behind the exit is somewhat disappointing by today’s standards.
Maintaining the quality set early on the sound effects continue to be one of the movies strong suites throughout, though conversely its weakest. The ricochet of bullets or the screams of fallen enemies really grab the attention and transport the mind but the films score is overpowering and often at odds with the backdrop it is placed against.
Outwith the audio the strongest draw are the talented actors. Anthony Quinn threatens to steal the show with his laconic Andrea, particularly when a break from his stoic nature raises the possibility of double crossing. It is however the partnership of Gregory Peck and David Niven that commands the majority of the plaudits. From the very beginning the twosome are at odds, with their very styles clashing. Here we have the classic British gent and his American officer not quite understanding his underling’s reticence nature. This simmers enticingly beneath the surface until it comes to a head in an unexpected Poirot-esque confrontation.
That is not to say The Guns of Navarone is without its shortcomings; the dodgy soundtrack and the lack of character building are forgivable. However the decidedly laborious middle section, when the band of intrepid heroes met the Greek resistance is off putting but not without its payoff. The same cannot be said for a love story that is shoehorned in for no reason and is at best pointless.