Release Date(s)1978 (March 17, 2020)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures/American International Pictures/MGM (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: C+
In 1943, Lt. Colonel Mike Barnsby (Harrison Ford) is sent on a mission to lead his Force 10 commando unit deep into Yugoslavia to stop the German Army advance by taking out a bridge. Much to Barnsby’s chagrin, he’s assigned a secondary mission too; he’s to deliver a pair of British commandos—Major Keith Mallory (Robert Shaw) and Sergeant Dusty Miller (Edward Fox), fresh from their successful effort to blow up the Guns of Navarone—to the Yugoslav Partisans to kill a spy amongst them named Lescovar (Franco Nero), the man who betrayed them on Navarone. As they’re stealing a British Lancaster bomber to launch their mission (to avoid their departure being telegraphed by German spies), Force 10 is stopped by the airfield’s MPs—and helped to escape by a US Army sergeant named Weaver (Carl Weathers), who then tags along on the plane. But after losing most of their unit in various mishaps along the way, it’s down to just Barnsby, Mallory, Miller, and Weaver to complete both missions or die trying.
Loosely inspired by the 1968 Alistair MacLean novel of the same name, Guy Hamilton’s Force 10 from Navarone is meant to be a sequel to J Lee Thompson’s terrific 1961 war classic The Guns of Navarone, if some 18 years after that first film’s box office success. Thompson was originally meant to return as director, and actors Gregory Peck and David Niven were to reprise their roles as well. But by the time the production finally moved forward, Peck and Niven were too old for the roles and Thompson declined to be involved (as he was unhappy with the script). Robert Shaw (Jaws) took over for Peck as Mallory, but died before the film was released, while Edward Fox (The Day of the Jackal) replaced Niven. Harrison Ford—fresh off the set of Star Wars—stars as the American team leader, Barnsby (no relation to the Richard Harris character from the previous film). The supporting cast includes Franco Nero (Django), Barbara Bach (The Spy Who Loved Me), Carl Weathers (Rocky), Richard Kiel (Moonraker), Angus MacInnes (Star Wars), and Michael Byrne (The Sum or All Fears). Music is by Ron Goodwin, who also scored Where Eagles Dare and Battle of Britain, while DP Christopher Challis previously photographed Arabesque and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, along with a number of Powell and Pressburger films.
Shot on 35mm film with anamorphic lenses and finished at the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ Blu-ray release of Force 10 from Navarone features a new 2K film scan. The resulting image is largely pleasing, with good overall detail and texturing that’s certainly a step up from previous DVD releases. Image defects are minimal apart from fairly regular specs and dust on the emulsion, and the occasional shot that’s optically soft. Grain levels are moderate throughout (and heavier in a few instances). Contrast is excellent, with nice blacks, while colors are natural and surprisingly well saturated. This is a solid HD presentation and a nice image upgrade.
Sound is available in a decent English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that has good clarity. The soundstage is mostly front and center, as you’d expect given the vintage. Surround channels are employed for light atmosphere and music, though you do get some nice panning here and there—you can hear it during the German fighter attack early in the film, for example. Explosions have a bit more heft too, especially the big ones late in the film. The mix is mostly no frills, but it gets the job done. There’s a 2.0 DTS-HD MA mix as well. Optional English subtitles are available too.
Surprising, the disc includes a few extras as follows:
- Audio Commentary by filmmaker Steve Mitchell and author/historian Steven Jay Rubin
- Force 10 From Navarone trailer (HD – 1:45)
- Tobruck trailer (SD – 2:49)
- The Devil’s Brigade trailer (SD – 3:47)
- Hornet’s Next trailer (HD – 2:40)
- The Secret Invasion trailer (HD – 3:12)
- Ambush Bay trailer (HD – 2:45)
- The Taking of Pelham One Two Three trailer (HD – 2:33)
Mitchell, the director of the documentary King Cohen, and Rubin, author of a number of fine cinema books including Combat Films, deliver a lively commentary that’s jam-packed with information, trivia, and history on this production, its cast, the differences between the film and the novel, and other related matters. The collection of trailers—some in SD and some in HD—is welcome, particularly the trailer for this film. The package also includes reversible cover artwork.
Force 10 from Navarone is nowhere near as good as the original The Guns of Navarone, but it’s not a bad film either—a bit more of a slow-boil, boys-at-war adventure film than a thrill-a-minute combat epic. If you’ve never seen the film before, think of it as a slightly above average war film, elevated by some good performances and capable direction. But if you have seen it, and you’re a fan, this new new Blu-ray is certainly worth $20 on Amazon.
- Bill Hunt