J. LEE THOMPSON’S THE GUNS OF NAVARONE — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Starring a rugged and masculine cast including Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, and Anthony Quayle, the 1943-set The Guns of Naravore centers on a crack commando unit who are tasked with destroying massive German artillery off of the Greek island of Navarone, all in effort to rescue Allied troops who are trapped behind enemy lines. One of many large-scale studio funded WWII action adventures of the era, future Charles Bronson collaborator J. Lee Thompson directed this square-jawed actioner in 1961, which was adapted by producer Carl Foreman from the original novel by Alistair MacLean. Cinematographer Oswald Morris (Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Hill, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold) made maximum use of the widescreen space, filling the frame with action and detail, while the triumphant musical score by Dimitri Tiomkin (Duel in the Sun, Red River) punctuated nearly every scene.

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Quinn fell in love with the Greek island of Rhodes during filming, and apparently purchased land there, which is still referred to as Anthony Quinn Bay, while Niven got near-fatally sick after shooting some underwater scenes, requiring hospitalization for a period of weeks before he could rejoin the cast. All of Peck’s German dialogue was dubbed by voice actor Robert Rietty as he wasn’t fluent in the language. Thompson, with directorial credits as diverse as they are inconsistent, was a replacement choice in helmer after Foreman fired original director Alexander Mackendrick. The film was a massive financial success and critical favorite, winning an Oscar for Best Special Effects, while racking up six other nominations. Other notable WWII films from the era also include The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Longest Day, The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape, and Von Ryan’s Express.

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