The Guns of Navarone - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Limited Edition SteelBookOverview -
J. Lee Thompson’s tense and exciting adaptation of Alistair MacLean’s classic WWII adventure The Guns of Navarone returns for another assault on the hills of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a new Dolby Vision-enhanced Steelbook release. Featuring an all-star cast including Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, and David Niven - the classic adventure film packs all of the tension and excitement you could ask for now with a slightly improved Dolby Vision presentation and SteelBook packaging! Recommended
Academy Award®-winners Gregory Peck (1962, Best Actor, To Kill A Mockingbird), David Niven (1958, Best Actor, Separate Tables), and Anthony Quinn (1952, Best Supporting Actor, Viva Zapata!; 1956, Lust For Life) star as a team of Allied military specialists recruited for a dangerous but imperative mission: to infiltrate a Nazi-occupied fortress and disable two long-range field guns so that 2,000 trapped British soldiers may be rescued. Faced with an unforgiving sea voyage, hazardous terrain, and the possibility of a traitor among them, the team must overcome the impossible without losing their own lives. Adapted by screenwriter Carl Foreman from Alistair MacLean’s best-selling novel, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE was nominated for seven Oscars®, including Best Picture, and won for Best Special Effects (1961).
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
As we just reviewed this film on 4K barely two years ago, I'll defer to my previous review simply because my thoughts of this excellent film haven't changed in such a short period of time.
After already spending over a year behind enemy lines, Captain Mallory (Gregory Peck) was due a break. But a special mission in the Aegean Sea requires his unique abilities. The Nazis have a hidden radar-controlled gun battery that can’t be hit by sea or by air. The Allies need Mallory to lead a team of men on a suicide mission to destroy the guns on Navarone. With help from the Greek Colonel Stavros (Anthony Quinn), the bomb expert Corporal Miller (David Niven), a skilled assassin (Stanley Baker), the Greek soldier Spyros (James Darren), and his resistance leader sister (Irene Papas) - they just might have a chance to complete the mission, save 2,000 stranded soldiers, and maybe survive to fight another day.
I was a little kid when my dad went on a kick showing me all kinds of WWII adventure movies. Where Eagles Dare, Night Train To Munich, The Dirty Dozen, Kelly’s Heroes - there’s an entire sub-genre of war films dedicated to the impossible mission and the rag-tag team of men assembled to save the day or die trying. Really when you boil them down, they’re pretty well all the same. The team comes together - albeit reluctantly because a couple of them just don’t get along. Then they’re dropped into hostile territory barely surviving often without all of their essential supplies. Then there’s a spy that’ll test their resolve. Then they’ll have to change the plan and still find a way to accomplish the mission.
Even knowing the mechanics of these films going in, they’re still exciting. I think the reason why I’m drawn to them, again and again, is that they’re simply not made anymore. Or if someone tries it's usually pretty damn terrible. The Guns of Navarone was the first Alistar MacLean novel to make it to the big screen in 1961 and it’s arguably the best, even though I do have a heavy soft spot for Where Eagles Dare. You have an incredible cast in peak form with Gregory Peck headlining while Anthony Quinn does what he does best and steals every damn scene. From the treacherous crossing of the Aegean to scaling the cliff face in a storm to the thrilling finale - you’re on the edge of your seat with your heart up in your throat. All credit to Force 10 From Navarone for trying to recapture the magic, but this film is a tough act to follow. 60 years after it hit theaters it’s still an intensely entertaining show right to the final frame.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
The Guns of Navarone fire for a new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release from Sony. A 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital set, the discs are now housed in a SteelBook that features an interesting choice of artwork. I don’t think it’s ugly or anything, it kind of reminds me of van Gogh's Starry Starry Night, but it also doesn’t exactly scream “THE GUNS OF NAVARONE!” either. I’d have loved it if they just did a SteelBook version of the previous disc’s limited slipcover. So it goes. What we get is another BD-100 disc holding point for the 4k and the same BD-50 from before. Missing from this set is the double-sided slip featuring the “Restoration of the Guns of Navarone” by Grover Crisp with all the details about the tough restoration process.
I said this in my last review for The Guns of Navarone: “Knowing how poorly this film used to look, this 4K is certainly a welcome improvement. Without some major new leap in restoration technology, this one probably won’t look any better than this. Even with the source limitations, this disc does offer up a modest improvement over the 2011 disc…” and it’s still true with this new Dolby Vision release. Effectively this is the same restoration master again and it still looks fantastic - but not enough to warrant the double dip. If you’re satisfied with the HDR10 disc there just isn’t enough of a difference maker in my opinion to purchase this all over again. The Dolby Vision grade eases some of the small issues with the day-for-night scenes and helps give some of the darker shadowy sequences a little extra room to breathe, but in terms of overall color saturation or other areas, the HDR10 disc still holds its own for a near neck and neck comparison.
While the average bitrate is a little higher and does help some sequences look a little cleaner with the noisier film grain looking a little less so, A to B it’s a slim difference. Flipping between discs it was damned difficult to get a bead on any real visual improvements for several long stretches. Optical effects and transitions are still rough around the edges. It’s a Cinemascope film so clarity and overall detail beauty can shift shot-to-shot. Even with some of those baked-in limitations from how the film was shot to how it was poorly archived, this is still a great-looking disc so if you didn’t buy it already, it’s a satisfying upgrade from the old Blu-ray but if you already have it on 4K, Dolby Vision alone isn't enough of a draw.
The same three audio options return for this disc as well. Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD MA 5.1, and DTS-HD MA 4.0 stereo - and my thoughts are still pretty much the same, the only slight difference now is I'm going to raise the score for the 4.0 track a tad. I still think that Atmos mix is really exciting with an aggressive soundscape for the big action scenes, but I do love how good that 4.0 track comes in. I still don't feel much one way or the other about the 5.1, it's good, but not as exciting as the other two.
Here's what I said about the audio from our previous release:
Not standing by with just a visual upgrade, Sony is giving The Guns of Navarone three excellent audio tracks to choose from. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is the same solid track from the 2011 disc. There’s a new and very good DTS-HD MA 4.0 stereo mix that’s a little more in keeping with the film’s original release. The difference from the 4.0 mix and the 5.1, the soundscape is a bit more in your face through the front/center channels. Imaging isn’t quite as spacious but the mix has a bit more overall impact.
Now the real winner of this disc is the new Atmos audio mix. I wasn’t expecting it to be this impressive but it’s a lot of fun. From those first cannon shots, this track packs a lot of oomph with splendid imaging and some nice LFE where it counts. Height channels get a bit of playtime as well - Mallory’s airplane landing, the Nazi scout plane flying overhead in the Aegean, when they’re being bombarded in the mountains - the pinpoint placement of the sound effects are a lot of fun. That’s to say nothing of Dimitri Tiomkin’s excellent score! The opening credits practically beg you to turn the volume up as loud as you can. Throughout the mix, the dialog is clean and clear without issue. Some of the canned sound effects and dubbed in lines can feel a bit hollow and stand out more in Atmos than the other two mixes, but it’s not overly distracting. All in all, you have three very good choices - but I’m going to lean into the Atmos mix for this one.
DTS-HD MA 4.0 - 4.5/5
DTS-HD MA 5.1 - 4/5
Dolby Atmos - 4.5/5
Bonus features also haven't changed as the same 4K disc extras return with all of the audio commentaries and documentary materials on the included 2011 Blu-ray.
- Main Title Progression Reel (HD 2:43)
- Trailer (HD 3:42)
2011 Blu-ray Disc
- Audio Commentary featuring director J. Lee Thompson
- Audio Commentary featuring historian Stephen J Rubin
- Forging the Guns of Navarone
- Ironic Epic of Heroism
- Memories of Navarone
- Epic Restoration
- A Heroic Score
- Great Guns
- No Visitors
- Honeymoon on Rhodes
- Two Girls on the Town
- Narration-Free Prologue
- Message from Carl Foreman
The Guns of Navarone is one of the finest examples of high-adventure filmmaking. With richly drawn characters it’s contemplative while providing some terrific thrills. Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, and David Niven are in excellent form for this rousing WWII adventure. After decades of mistreatment, it was lovingly restored for a great Blu-ray in 2011. In 2021 the film received an excellent 60th Anniversary 4K UHD disc release and now for what I guess you can call the 62nd Anniversary, we get another very, very good 4K UHD disc. But is it enough to warrant the Double Dip? Short answer is no. The Dolby Vision grade and the slightly different encoding offer up some small advantages, but nothing substantial enough to blow the slightly older HDR10 disc out of the water. If you’re a newcomer to the format this is the better way to go (albeit slightly) so purchase with confidence in that arena. Great video transfer, and great audio options. Recommended
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