Force 10 from Navarone


‘…a better watch than its tarnished reputation suggests; you can’t go too far wrong with this cast and a dog-eared, but reliable plot….’

‘War…it’s fantastic” says Miguel Ferrer’s character in Hot Shots Part Deux; in Hollywood films, it’s a transformative power that makes men of boys, so what’s not to like? As the world moved further and further from the harsh realities of World War II, war films became progressively sillier. This reboot of 1961’s The Guns of Navarone with a different cast came as part of a rash of lightweight war dramas; The Sea Wolves, Escape to Victory, Escape to Athena, all offering a nostalgic package featuring an all-star cast, pretty girls, explosions and more, but sci-fi action had taken over at the box-office by then.

Guy Hamilton’s loose adaptation of Alistair MacLean’s novel starts in cheeky style, by reprising the events of the first film but without showing any of the main characters; it’s only before the credits roll that we see Mallory (Robert Shaw switched in for Gregory Peck) and Dusty (Edward Fox substituting David Niven) as they emerge from the sea victorious. A new mission is mooted; to assassinate a double agent who betrayed the Navarone mission. With Yugoslavia as a destination, the team cross paths with sabotage master Mike Bardsley (Harrison Ford in his first post-Star Wars role) who is planning to blow up a strategic bridge. With Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) hitching a ride, Force 10 parachute out over Yugoslavia where they encounter a motley collection of locals, including Bond girl Barbara Bach, Bond villain Richard Kiel, and Franco Nero as the dubious Nikolai.

That’s a ludicrous cast for any film; even the support (Phillip Latham, Alan Badel, Michael Sheard) is familiar. But tonally, Force 10 From Navarone has real problems; it can’t decide if war is heaven or hell. Jagged moments stand out; Bardsley is broken up to discover that two Partisans he killed were innocent men, and Ford manages to convey some kind of genuine remorse. But soon we’re back up and swapping cheery quips like we’re all just blokes on holiday; a brief glimpse of explosives expert Fox swinging his suitcase and we can be sure that most of the lush scenery is about to explode in a satisfactory way.

There’s also a few crunching moments of poor-film-making here; a mobile decapitation is obviously a mannequin, and although the dam-explosion only covers the last twenty minutes of the film, the effects shots of slow-motion waves are hugely unimpressive. And while Weathers has personality to burn, the inclusion of his character doesn’t lead to useful discussions about race; quite the opposite. And yet, seen for the first time in a full widescreen cut and in an extended cut, Force 10 From Navarone is a better watch than its tarnished reputation suggests; you can’t go too far wrong with this cast and a dog-eared, but reliable plot.



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  1. Looks like 50p well spent, what a fabulous cast and Bronson from Grange Hill to boot. Another one for my to watch list, thanks!!! In the words of that annoying kid, Emile in The Wild Geese, yahooooooooooooooo. (I DID vent a lot about this awful child in that review):

  2. Had MacLean listened to Carl Foreman, the result might have been different. Foreman had a sequel in mind around 1968 but was jumping the gun a bit. The rights to Force 10 bounced round a bit and by the time it came out war was viewed form a more serious perspective a la A Bridge Too Far. Definitely in the Boys Own category but minus stars of the calibre of Peck and Quinn. Still, an enjoyable birthday treat.

    • It’s getting better every time I’ve seen it! A Bridge Too Far is a favourite of mine, and I think you’re right. It raised the stakes with seriousness, and these sillier films got caught using yesterday’s model.

  3. I enjoyed The Guns of Navarone, both the book and the movie. I don’t remember much about the book this was based on and from the little you say here, I doubt I’ll be checking this out.

    We’ve talked about MacLean’s books being turned into movies and I have to wonder why they aren’t being more aggressively turned out. He had some real crackerjack plots that would make for tense and thrilling movies.

    • I can’t think of many who know more about this than your good self, but I do feel there’s a case to be made for this film, which doesn’t quite work. But there’s a collision between the needs of a late-70’s action film and the veracity we might expect from one made while many WWII veterans are alive. I can see why MacLean and Foreman felt the Yugoslav enviroment could work; there’s 100 minutes of crosses and double-crosses before the dam-busting scene. And the stakes are not forgotten, they are high, but don’t fit easily with the breezy, japish touches. The MacLean model, which I really like, falls apart in a film like this. It really needed a great touch to balance these elements, and it doesn’t happen here. But totally agree, there’s a goldmine of good plots to be revived.

      • Do you think it would be a good thing or a bad thing to view both Navarone movies back to back? I’m pretty sure my library has them on dvd.

        I realized after I wrote my initial comment that there are a TON of other spy/thriller books out there. Bourne springs to mind, but man, those were completely butchered. I’m ok with that because I liked the movies WAY more than the books. But with such a wealth of good plots out there, why do movie makers turn around and ruin them, like they did with American Assassin.
        I went to look for your review of that movie and I couldn’t find it. Did you not review it? I was so sure you had.

        • I gave up halfway through American Assassin. One day, I’ll try again.

          I deliberately didn’t watch Navarone 1 before rewatching this; I like to try and judge a sequel away from the original. While this is nowhere near as good as Guns, it’s really not bad at all. They’re both worth a library rental for sure.

          MacLean went to Glasgow Uni, like I did, and I’d be keen to make some kind of doc about his work. Interview the John Wick guys about why they name-check him as an influence. In the case of MacLean, the films took his writing in a lazy direction, but he knew what he was talking about at the start of his career…

          • Ok, I must have seen you talking about American Assassin then in some comments and blended that into my head as a review. If you found it that bad, is it really worth trying again?

            Ford would be the big draw for me in this film. I’d recognize Weathers but it would be more of a “Oh, that guy from Predator”.

            I was wondering MacLean was still alive and was quite surprised to see he’d died in ’87. That explains a lot, to me, about why his stuff hasn’t been made into movies since the ’00’s.

            • Yup, and his last books and films are pretty awful. Whatever it’s flaws, this is one of the last gasps of that cycle. But authors like Deighton and Ludlum were seen as old hat at the time, but have return to fashionability. MacLean had some mean, lean plots that would work out great today; unfortunately he boozed his talent away…

                • One of the first authors to establish his name as a transferable brand, but once that transition was made, the creative urge seemed to wane. 70’s drinking seemed to do that to people…

                  • You talked about doing some research on MacLean. I wonder how big a subject “substance abuse” would be in regards to the movie industry.
                    I think Alex talked about one of the actors in the jaws movie was pretty much high on cocaine the whole filming process just to get through it. I just wonder, is that typical?

                    • You are totally right. It’s amusing that film-makers make so many films about the dangers of drink and drugs, and yet film-sets are awash with it. It’s hypocritical to be sure. But it’s also a human tragedy, real lives wasted pursuing something worthless…

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