A real heap of coin ($6 million), labor, sweat, patience, tears, faith and enthusiasm went into the making of The Guns of Navarone. It faced the problem of a director-switch in mid-stream. But with a bunch of weighty stars, terrific special effects and several socko situations, producer Carl Foreman and director J. Lee Thompson sired a winner.
Story, adapted from Alistair MacLean’s novel, is set in 1943. The Axis has virtually over-run Greece and its islands, except for Crete and the tiny island of Kheros. The only chance for the worn-out garrison of 2,000 men is evacuation by sea, through a channel which is impregnably guarded by a couple of huge, radar controlled guns on Navarone. A small bunch of saboteurs is detailed to spike these guns.
The saboteur gang consists of Anthony Quayle, Gregory Peck, David Niven, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quinn and James Darren. They all turn in worthwhile jobs. Of this sextet, Baker, playing a dour, war-sick expert with a knife, and Darren, as a baby-faced killer, get rather less opportunity than the others. Two women have been written into the story, Greek partisans played very well by Irene Papas and Gia Scala.
The cliff-scaling sequence, a scene when the saboteurs are rounded up by the enemy, a wonderfully directed and lensed storm segment and the final boffo climax are just a few of the nail-biting highlights.
1961: Best Special Effects.
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Score of a Dramatic Picture, Sound