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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Force 10 from Navarone (Blu-ray)
Force 10 from Navarone (Blu-ray)
Kl Studio Classics // PG // March 17, 2020 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted March 31, 2020 | E-mail the Author
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Force 10 from Navarone (1978), the long-delayed sequel to the wildly popular The Guns of Navarone (1961), is one of those movies whose reception depends strongly on the current mood of the person watching the movie. The first time I saw it I was bored to tears, then enjoyed it a lot the second time, and now on Blu-ray I find parts of it boring and other aspects mildly entertaining. Watching it again, I found myself appreciating it as one of the very last old-fashioned World War II movies, and it's also one of the last to combine leftover (and anachronistic) military hardware combined with elaborate miniature special effects.

Because it was made so late in the (war) game, its cast is unusual, a mix of talent with ties to recent blockbusters: Robert Shaw from Jaws; Harrison Ford, fresh from Star Wars; Carl Weathers from Rocky; Barbara Bach and Richard Kiel from The Spy Who Loved Me, etc. They acclimate themselves to the genre, and in some cases to roles originally played by other actors in Guns of Navarone, with varying degrees of success.

The $6 million production of Guns of Navarone had been a huge hit, grossing nearly $29 million and turning an $18.5 million profit. Second only to West Side Story that year, a sequel seemed like a natural, and for much of the 1960s screenwriter-producer Carl Foreman and novelist Alistair MacLean hoped to reunite that film's three stars: Gregory Peck, David Niven, and Anthony Quinn. Variously called After Navarone and The High Dam, MacLean eventually adapted his screen treatment into the novel Force 10 from Navarone. By the 1970s the leads had aged out of their parts, and the movie eventually made was financed by a half-dozen entities, including former drive-in market distributor AIP.

Maj. Keith Mallory (the Gregory Peck part, now essayed by Robert Shaw) and demolitions expert Sgt. Dusty Miller (Edward Fox, in David Niven's old role) are sent on a mission to assassinate old nemesis Nicolai (Franco Nero), a character who'd betrayed them to the Germans in the last movie (then played by Tutte Lemlow), and now masquerading as a partisan in Yugoslavia.

To get there, they hitch a clandestine flight with an American sabotage unit, "Force 10," led by Col. Mike Barnsby (Harrison Ford). Circumstances has an African-American Sergeant, Weaver (Carl Weathers), escaping detainment by the military police, joining them at the last-minute.

Their plane shot down by the Luftwaffe, most of the Force 10 group dies early on, leaving only Mallory, Miller, Barnsby, Weaver, and Lt. Doug Reynolds (Angus MacInnes) left to carry out both missions. They meet a group of partisans led by giant Capt. Drazak (Richard Kiel) and tough-as-nails Maritza (Barbara Bach), but the big guy and his followers turn out to be Chetnik Nazi collaborators overseen by German Maj. Schroeder (Michael Byrne). After a long series of escapes and recaptures, the Allied band reaches the real partisans, led by Maj. Petrovich (Alan Badel), with Nicolai (Nero) his lieutenant, he insisting the traitor Nicolai had been killed months before. Most readily accept his claims of mistaken identity.

Barnsby's team was to blow up a strategically important bridge, but Miller instead suggests blowing up an upriver dam instead, killing two birds with one stone, as it were. Can they do it?

MacLean's novel was more a direct sequel than the movie, which for one thing renders its title meaningless. Navarone was an island in the Aegean administered by Greece and plays no part in the story, nor is "Force 10" from there. The movie version, written by Robin Chapman with uncredited additions by George MacDonald Fraser, mostly rehashes the "impossible mission" plotting of Guns, with endless set-backs, loss of materials, captures and escapes, with the same big-scale destruction of that film. The addition of Weathers's character adds a Dirty Dozen vibe to the proceedings, while the partisans and Chetnik collaborators fill in for the earlier film's Greeks.

The lack of originality is dispiriting, but the movie is generally well-made, and director Guy Hamilton's sure hand with the action material keeps it moving at a decent clip. What I liked least about Force 10 was Edward Fox, a poor substitute for David Niven. Niven's light, effortless charm is nowhere to be found in Fox's portrayal, he almost always typecast as charmless, pompous moneyed Englishmen. Fox's younger brother James would have been a better fit, but James Fox had retired from acting at this point. It's difficult watching brother Edward's scenes and not visualize how Niven or others might have played it.

It wasn't until the one-two punch of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Blade Runner that Harrison Ford truly established himself as a big name. His role here takes a back seat to the characters played by Shaw, Fox, and even Weathers. That Barnsby is also humorless, while Weathers spends most of the movie pissed off, Nero the obvious villain, and Shaw plays his part with typical grim determination (albeit peppered with a pinch of gallows humor), a lot of the potential fun is stymied.

What's left is a fairly mechanical war-adventure, though at least it delivers where that counts, with many colorful action vignettes and an impressive (for the time) climax, with decent elaborate miniature effects.

Video & Audio

Previously released to Blu-ray by MGM in 2009, Kino's release of Force 10 from Navarone boasts a new 2K transfer, and the 2.35:1 Panavision image mostly impresses, though the picture as shot is still a bit on the grainy side with okay but unimpressive color. The DTS-HD Master Audio (in both 2.0 and 5.1 mixes) is more impressive, this being one of the last 4-track mag stereo releases in the early Dolby Stereo age. Optional English subtitles are provided on this Region "A" encoded disc.

Extra Features

Beyond the usual trailer, there's an audio commentary by filmmaker Steve Mitchell and historian Stephen Jay Rubin, a good choice considering the film's many connections to the James Bond series, and Rubin's work in that area.

Parting Thoughts

Not great but colorful, passable entertainment, bolstered somewhat by its unusual cast, Force 10 from Navarone is Recommended.

Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian currently restoring a 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.

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