James Bond director Guy Hamilton brings his penchant for action and adventure to Alistair MacLean's Force 10 From Navarone. Sporting an all-star cast including Robert Shaw, Harrison Ford, Barbara Bach, Carl Weathers, and Franco Nero - this sequel may not have originality going for it - but this is a lot of classic-style action movie fun. Kino Lorber Studio Classics delivers a worthwhile Blu-ray with a respectable transfer sourced from a new 2K master, a 5.1 and 2.0 audio mix, and a great audio commentary. Recommended.
Agent Mallory (now played by Robert Shaw) is back on duty for another impossible mission. Hitched to a companion mission by the American commando Barnsby to blow up a bridge held by the Nazis, Mallory and his demolition expert Miller (Edward Fox) have a secret side mission - to find and assassinate a spy within the Greek commanding forces known as Lescovar. But the Lescovar (Franc Nero) Mallory finds may not be the man he's after. But there's still that pesky bridge that needs blowing up. The only problem there is it's heavily fortified and built to withstand any number of explosions. How do you take down a bridge that's impossible to demolish?
This feels like the perfect setup for a joke; Han Solo, Quint, Django, Jaws, and Apollo Creed walk into a bar… The cast of Force 10 From Navarone is what makes it work. By the time this film hit theaters in 1978, the action movie business was in the middle of a seismic shift after the massive successes of Jaws and Star Wars. Science Fiction was en vogue and action films needed to have a massive scale. Even the Bond franchise was about to make the leap to the rediculous big-budget spectacle feature with Moonraker.
Former Bond director Guy Hamilton brings his classic action-adventure sensibilities to Force 10 From Navarone. Rather than going for spectacle - at least until the end - the film plays tight as it can to novelist Alistar MacLean's daring mission formula where the obstacles keep coming. This one can feel a tad long in the tooth with some needless miss-direction about the identity of the traitor, but overall it works. Watching Carl Weathers fight Richard Kiel felt like a silly pre-show to the intergalactic matchup he'd later face in Predator. You can see Harrison Ford coming into his own as a lead - complete with commanding finger point. Robert Shaw has a delightful nonchalant "I'm here for fun" way to his Mallory. And you can never really go wrong casting Franco Nero in your movie. This film is also littered with familiar faces from the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises so keep your eyes open! If you need something to occupy the time, Force 10 From Navarone is a worthwhile jaunt.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Kino Lorber Studio Classics gives Force 10 From Navarone a second life on Blu-ray in a single disc set. Pressed on a Region A BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard Blu-ray case and offers reversible insert artwork. The disc loads to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
Sourced from a new 2K master, Force 10 From Navarone gets a mulligan on Blu-ray after a pretty bad first outing in 2009. I rented that disc when I worked Hollywood Video and I don't recall even finishing it I was so let down. Those early MGM discs were pretty damn bad, but this new release from KLSC makes up for it. Details have been greatly improved with a natural film grain structure. Colors are bold with terrific primaries. Black levels are overall very good but there are a few moments where crush kinda seeps into the image making anyone wearing a black uniform nearly invisible, but nowhere near as bad as it once was. The opening recap from Guns of Navarone is still a little iffy but it's always looked that way as they're trying to basically retrofit the ending of another movie and change out the lead cast while set things up for a new adventure. Elements are in fine shape with some speckling here and there, but nothing severe. I was glad to see Kino take this one on, it's a fun movie that deserved a better life in HD on disc than it had up until now.
On top of a new transfer, it sounds as though the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix has been reworked a bit - at least from what I remember of the 2009 disc. The action sequences - the opening airplane battle or any gunfights and the big dam explosion at the end sound full with a welcome sense of space and dimension. Dialog is clear throughout. This 5.1 mix is pretty good - maybe not the greatest surround experience of all time - the rears really don't get a lot of activity - but against what was offered on the 2009 disc, a welcome improvement over what I remember release.
Better than that is a much more natural-to-the-film sounding DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. While maybe not as "open" feeling as the full 5.1 mix, this stereo track has a better sense of balance to the elements with the great score by Ron Goodwin punctuating the action nicely. Dialog is also much more "present" here. Not that it was difficult to hear in the 5.1 track, but how voices resonate is more appreciable. Imaging is a bit narrower but there's still decent channel movement through the front/center channels. When it comes to classics I tend to go for the more organic audio track so this stereo mix is a welcome inclusion.
DTS-HD MA 5.1 - 3.5/5
DTS-HD MA 2.0 - 4/5
Not a whole lot on the supplementals here, but I will say the audio commentary between Film Historian Steve Mitchell and Combat Films: American Realism author Steven Jay Rubin is a good listen. They have an appreciation of the film and provide a lot of interesting detail about the execution of the movie's action sequences and the production. After that, it's KLSC's usual parade of trailers
It's practically an impossible mission to follow up a classic like The Guns of Navarone with a worthy sequel - but director Guy Hamilton and his new cast largely pull it off. Featuring a sly Robert Shaw with Harrison Ford going full action-hero leading man, the film is a fun action/adventure picture with a great cast including Carl Weathers, Richard Kiel, and Franco Nero. It's no Where Eagles Dare but it's a good show nonetheless.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics delivers a worthwhile Blu-ray upgrade over the previous disastrous 2009 release. Thew new transfer offers up much more detail and film-like viewing experience with a pair of new audio mixes allowing you to go full surround or stick with a classic stereo mix. Bonus features are light, but the audio commentary is an engaging listen. Recommended