Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. United Kingdom/USA, 1961. Columbia Pictures Corporation, Highroad Productions. Screenplay by Carl Foreman, based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. Cinematography by Oswald Morris. Produced by Carl Foreman. Music by Dimitri Tiomkin. Production Design by Geoffrey Drake. Film Editing by Alan Osbiston. Academy Awards 1961. Golden Globe Awards 1961.
The British fighting the Nazis during World War II need to get across the Mediterranean and secure loyalty from Turkey, which has yet to pick a side. To get there they need to pass the (fictional) Greek island of Navarone, currently occupied by the Germans who have giant weapons pointed out at sea to any and all who would approach them. Gregory Peck is terrific as the mountain climber who is pulled away from his relative comfort in Crete to lead up a band of grizzled merry men and take them to the island, whose one end is a giant, steep cliff that is the only unguarded side of the place. Peck, morally complicated Greek soldier Anthony Quinn, Greek-American James Darren, British bomb expert David Niven and expert marksman Stanley Baker are assembled and put on a fishing boat (the sequence on the water is wonderfully exciting), then when on the island are joined by a Greek freedom fighter (a superb Irene Papas) who ends up being a lot tougher than the rest of them. A lengthy running time somehow not a problem, neither are the locations that look like sets or the false tones in recreating Greek culture (like a wedding singalong that shows a bouzouki but you don’t actually hear one). The expert writing by Carl Foreman, himself recently freed from the blacklist, manages to make an intelligent anti-war film that is thrilling and charismatic, while the tightscrew direction by J. Lee Thompson makes sure that the scenes of dialogue are just as intense as the magnificent action sequences. Classy and explosive, this is a solid film.