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Guns of Navarone, The (1961) 
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Godzilla

Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2015 7:53 am
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Location: Woodstock, IL
Throughout history, Hollywood has often turned major bestsellers into major motion pictures. Usually whenever the movie stays true to the book, the end result is a good movie. This is because what works in the book also works in the movie. However, Hollywood has often messed around on their versions of the author's work. Oftentimes, these alterations are in the form of taking the dough of the book's plot and using cookie cutters on them in prearranged formulas. More often than not, movies that trash the original novel do not fare well at the box office. When that happens, Hollywood blames the book's writer and not the producers for screwing things up and as a result, the original author sees his/her stock in Hollywood going down.

The Guns of Navarone is a good example of how messing around with the original novel in the screenplay works to the detriment of the movie. The Guns of Navarone was based on the classic novel of the same name by action adventure novelist Alistair MacLean. MacLean was one of the best writers of his generation and every book he wrote is still in print. He is one of the classic writers of the last half of the 20th Century.

When the producers of The Guns of Navarone purchased the rights to the novel, it was their intent to faithfully replicate the novel onto the silver screen, creating a masterpiece in the process. They assembled a cast that included such luminaries as Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn and James Robertson Justice. They hired one of the best screenwriters in the business, Carl Foreman, whose script closely adhered to the novel. It looked as if a classic movie was in the offing.

The plot of The Guns of Navarone is that of a daring commando mission to the fictional island of Navarone. There, the Germans have huge radar controlled guns. Earlier, the British landed 2,000 troops on the island of Kheros. Now, they must be withdrawn. However since the previously unknown German installation on Navarone has since gone operational, it is impossible to safely evacuate those British troops. Either the commandos succeed in sabotaging the German guns at Navarone, or the British garrison on Kheros will be forced to surrender.

The Allies assemble a crack commando unit called Force 10 to go on a do or die mission to Navarone. In the first part of The Guns of Navarone, the movie stays true to the book and is an excellent example of an action adventure suspense flick.

The main problem is that in the original novel, it was discovered that the Greek partisan Panaysis was the traitor who had sabotaged Force 10's explosives and had been leaving clues for the Germans to follow and harry Force 10 ever since the commandos first landed on Navarone. However, the producers chose to make the traitor in the movie a female or to be more precise a pair of females. This fundamentally altered MacLean's narrative . In the novel, Panaysis had played such a key role than when he was eliminated, it created tension since it now seemed to the reader that the odds against Force 10's succeeding had been raised to incredible heights. However, in the movie, the role of the traitoress was so minor that her elimination did nothing to heighten the suspense. The impact of the revealing of the traitor was reduced to that of a wet noodle.

From this point on, the movie lacked much of the suspense of the novel. The odds against success was much lower in the movie and as a result, the eventual success of Force 10 was that much less heroic. Another problem came in the casting. The British actor David Niven plays Dusty Miller, who in the novel is a drawling Texan. The American actor Gregory Peck plays the New Zealander Keith Mallory.

The Guns of Navarone is still a better than average movie owing to the good performances of the cast coupled with the great cinematography. However, it could have been a classic in its own right. Just why the producers decided to eliminate the key character of Panaysis in favor of adding female characters who were nonexistant in the original novel is not clear, although there was speculation in Hollywood at the time that one of the actresses was a girlfriend of one of the producers.


Wed Jan 25, 2017 1:57 pm
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Burning Godzilla
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Joined: Mon Sep 30, 2002 5:35 am
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Decades ago I went on a MacLean binge, reading all his novels (mostly through inter-library loan.) His WWII novels were better than his espionage novels. I liked both the novel and the movie of The Guns of Navarone well enough. Maybe the best MacLean adaptation, most of which have been so-so.

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Wed Jan 25, 2017 8:27 pm
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Burning Godzilla
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Location: São Paulo, Brazil
I saw the movie and then read the book a few years back. I enjoyed both, but as I said in an old book review, the movie is "Mission: Walk in the Park" compared to what the team goes through in the book.

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Fri Feb 03, 2017 11:27 pm
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