bill bodkin looks back a WWII classic…
Release Date: 6/22/1961
First Saw It: HBO
Plot: A group of commandos must sneak onto a Greek island where the Nazi’s have mounted huge cannons and destroy them. If they fail the mission thousands of marooned British soldiers will be destroyed by an upcoming Nazi attack.
What Drew Me to See It: My Dad had read the book and then seen the movie in theaters when it was first released in ’61 and it was one of his all-time favorite movies. Anytime the movie came on TV he had to watch it. As a kid of 4 or 5, he figured I’d enjoy the movie and he was correct.
Starring: Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, David Niven, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, James Darren, Irene Papas, Gia Scala
Before They Were Stars Appearances/Wait What Was That?: I’m not 100% he wasn’t a star in the UK, but there’s a brief appearance from a young Richard Harris in the film. Yes, the original Dumbledore, is a ‘foul mouthed’ pilot who’s exasperated with the multiple attempts the British have made on destroying the guns the Nazis have mounted on the mountainous Greek island of Navarone.
Director: J. Lee Thompson (Cape Fear, Death Wish 4)
Why Is Lost?: While this was a major, major film in ’61, especially considering it starred three of Hollywood’s biggest players and a teen idol (Darren); the film is often forgotten in the massive canon of WWII films. People will think of: The Longest Day, The Dirty Dozen, From Here to Eternity, The Great Escape and most recently Saving Private Ryan, The Inglorious Basterds, The Thin Red Line and so many others.
The Best Performance: Gregory Peck as Mallory. Peck displays his vaunted steely reserve, his firey temper and a little seen humorous side. He’s the hero of the film and is perfectly cast as a man, jaded by war, forced into a leadership role,
The Supporting Scene Stealer: David Niven as the fastidious explosives expert Miller. He provides almost non-stop comic relief throughout the film but at the pivotal moment becomes the catalyst for the film’s most dramatic and suspenseful moment.
The Moment to Remember: There are a lot of broad, sweeping action sequences ranging from the crew being tossed about in a small boat during a hurricane to the final assault on the island. However, it’s a moment filled with high tension and high drama that takes the cake. Throughout the film the team has suspected a traitor amongst them. Moments before the team executes their assault on the island, David Niven’s Miller comes in and announces someone has tampered with his explosives. He then brow beats the entire team, outs the traitor and then forces the reluctant Mallory to take charge of things and execute the traitor.
The Memorable Quote: As the group gets on their ‘disguise’ boat to approach Navarone, David Nivens’ Miller has something to say…
Corporal Miller: Sir, I’ve inspected this boat, and I think you ought to know that I can’t swim.
The Groan Moment: There’s a scene where, before the teams levels for their mission, they discover someone listening to their plans at the door. They bust the spy and have him locked up. It’s a not a groan moment…it’s just unnecessary.
Why I Can’t Stop Watching It: It’s epic, it’s full of adventure, it’s got great acting, tons of red blooded action — it’s perfect. Also, the film has a lot of personal connection to the film, it’s something I watched with my Dad probably 100 times. It was our go-to movie and it’ll have a special place in my heart.