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review added: 6/1/00



Force 10 From Navarone
1978 (2000) - MGM

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Force 10 from Navarone Film Rating: D

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C-/C/C

Specs and Features

118 mins (full frame version), 126 mins (widescreen version), PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, 8 page booklet, film-themed menu screens, scene access (32 chapters), languages: English (DD mono), subtitles: French and Spanish subtitles, Closed Captioned

After wowing audiences world wide, The Guns of Navarone was followed some 17 years later by this uninspired sequel, Force 10 from Navarone. The original plan was to have J. Lee Thompson, the director of the first film, step back into the driver's seat, but he declined due to a poor script. Judging from the finished project, it would seem that no rewriting was attempted after he passed on the project.

Force 10 from Navarone picks up pretty much right after the events of the first film. Mallory and Miller (originally Gregory Peck and David Niven, here played by Robert Shaw and Edward Fox) are fished out of the Aegean Sea and brought back to England. There, Mallory limps and Miller cracks wise, until both are called on again for their death-loving ways. This time they are sent to piggyback on a mission headed by Colonel Barnsby (Harrison Ford), an American commando who is planning on destroying a bridge in Yugoslavia controlled by the Nazis. Mallory and Miller are being sent to kill a mole hiding within the Partisan army. Barnsby doesn't trust his older passengers though and does the cliché thing of saying, "stay out of my way old man, and I'll stay out of yours..." which always seems to cement relationships in movies like this. Of course, that only sets us up for the rest of Ford's squad dying some horrible death, so that he will be left standing alone with his two misfit passengers putting his life in their ingenious hands.

Once in Yugoslavia, Force 10 follows the tried and true "everything that can possibly go wrong will" film path. Most of the situations the fellows get themselves into are so unbelievable, that after a while you just start thinking about other movie clichés and seeing if they will pop up at some point. The sad thing is, most do. There are some satisfying plot twists here and there, and the close calls Ford and Shaw find themselves in are pretty ludicrous - but it's a movie, right? Why should I get all hot and bothered about a flick made 22 years ago?

Most of the problems I have with the film are on the technical side of things. Things like obvious stock footage usage, day-for-night shots that don't match and characters acting against their pre-determined ways abound. Edward Fox's portrayal of Miller is fine and overall funny, but he seems so flaky as compared to the suave David Niven. Robert Shaw is always great, but he's no Gregory Peck and their Mallorys just don't match up. The worst thing in this film has to be Carl Weathers as Weaver, the mysterious medical corpsman who stows away on the mission. My God... either he can't act or his character was so poorly written than it should have been chucked out. His anger right from the beginning is embarrassing and quickly separates him from the audience. Further outbursts, although at times warranted, seem shrill. Ford is fine as Barnsby, but this is hardly a legendary performance.

All in all, this film is pretty much a waste. Even the James Bond connections here couldn't help this film, and they're many: Barbara Bach as the requisite "is she or isn't she the enemy" femme, Richard Kiel as a larger than life super villain, usually competent direction from Bond staple Guy Hamilton and set design with a very retro-Bond feel. They all fall flat. The main and biggest problem, is that Force 10 in no way reaches the caliber of the original and really shouldn't have been made in the first place. Surprisingly, there are fans out there, and that's probably based on multiple TV viewings by fans as children and early teens. If you look at it as just another flick and not an important sequel, then maybe it's passable for a Saturday afternoon movie. I still don't like it even at that standard, but since there are fans of this film out there, we'll review it here.

MGM should be embarrassed by this disc. I'm not making a definite claim here, but I'll bet you a penny that this transfer was mastered off a theatrical release print, and was probably a recycled laserdisc transfer acquired when they sucked up the Orion catalog. Why a studio would release a DVD using a release print I can't fathom. It certainly doesn't bode very well for that studio. There are scratches, dust specks and what look like "cigarette burn" reel change dots prevalent all throughout this print. To be honest, part of the reason I didn't like this movie all that much is based on my hate for this transfer. To continue my laundry list, the colors seem too dark, the blacks show artifacting and there's just too much edge enhancement going on. I'll say one thing good about the disc, the sound is a strong mono with only a hint of echo and tininess. It'll work for the video it supports.

The extras are minor. You get an 8-page booklet instead of a documentary, a badly-preserved trailer and, hidden as an Easter egg, a drawing by Al Hirshfeld of the cast. That last one is pretty frickin' cool actually. The biggest bonus item, if you can call it that, are the two different versions of the film included here. The full frame version is the cut most of us are used to. It has a totally different opening credit sequence from the widescreen version, with an American narrator holding an exploitative tone rather than the British narrator in the widescreen. Dig how words like "knife" and "bowels," said in definite American accent, can be used to make the film seem so different right from the start. You get the idea that Samuel Z. Arkoff (the producer of the American release) really wanted to capitalize on the fact that this is THE mo-fo sequel to Guns of Navarone, man! It's preserved at the TV friendly format of 1.33:1, but has many of the same problems the other transfer has, as well as a slightly less powerful soundtrack (with some noticeable dubs here and there). The widescreen version is 8 minutes longer, with an extended scene or two. These scenes don't really change the film, but the tone is definitely more "theatrical," never trying to be the sequel to Navarone. Seriously, if you do pick this up, you pretty much have to watch both versions. That's about the only reason to own this DVD.

If you're hungering for the further adventures of Mallory and Miller, look no further than the wonderful Guns of Navarone disc. I'd definitely say stay away from this one. It's not very good, and if you haven't seen it, you're certainly not missing anything. But if you have fond memories of watching this film on TV as kid and want it forever and ever... it's out on DVD and looks horrid.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com




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