The Guns of Navarone (film)

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Coordinates: 37°52′53″N 25°39′7″E / 37.88139°N 25.65194°E / 37.88139; 25.65194

The Guns of Navarone
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Produced by Carl Foreman
Screenplay by Carl Foreman
Based on The Guns of Navarone 
by Alistair MacLean
Starring Gregory Peck
David Niven
Anthony Quinn
Stanley Baker
Anthony Quayle
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography Oswald Morris, BSC
Edited by Alan Osbiston
Highroad Productions
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
27 April 1961 (Royal World Premiere, London)
  • 22 June 1961 (1961-06-22)
Running time
158 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $6 million
Box office $28,900,000

The Guns of Navarone is a 1961 British-American action/adventure war film directed by J. Lee Thompson. The screenplay by producer Carl Foreman was based on Alistair MacLean's 1957 novel The Guns of Navarone, which was inspired by the Battle of Leros during the Dodecanese Campaign of World War II. The film stars Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn, along with Stanley Baker and Anthony Quayle. The book and the film share the same basic plot: the efforts of an Allied commando team to destroy a seemingly impregnable German fortress that threatens Allied naval ships in the Aegean Sea, and prevents 2,000 isolated British troops from being rescued.


In 1943 the Axis powers decide that a show of strength might bully neutral Turkey into joining them. Their target is a command of 2,000 British soldiers marooned on the island of Keros in the Aegean Sea. Rescue by the Royal Navy is impossible because of massive radar-directed superguns on the nearby island of Navarone. Time is short, because the Germans are expected to launch an assault on the British forces.

Efforts to destroy the guns by aerial bombing have proved fruitless. So that six destroyers can pick up the stranded men, Commodore Jensen (James Robertson Justice) of Allied Intelligence gathers a team of commandos to sail to Navarone and destroy the guns. Led by Major Roy Franklin (Anthony Quayle), they are Captain Keith Mallory (Gregory Peck), a renowned mountaineer; Colonel Andrea Stavrou (Anthony Quinn), from the defeated Greek army; Franklin's best friend Corporal Miller (David Niven), a former university chemistry teacher and explosives expert; Greco-American Spyros Pappadimos (James Darren), a native of Navarone; and "Butcher" Brown (Stanley Baker), an engineer and expert knife fighter.

Disguised as Greek fishermen on a decrepit boat, they sail across the Aegean Sea. They are intercepted by a German E-boat and boarded. They attack and kill all the Germans and sink the E-boat. During the remainder of the voyage, Mallory confides to Franklin that Stavrou has sworn to kill him after the war, because Mallory was inadvertently responsible for the deaths of Stavrou's wife and children.

In a violent storm near the island's coast, the ship is wrecked and the group loses part of their equipment, but still manages to land on the island. Led by Mallory, who was recruited for his climbing skills, they scale the "unclimbable" cliff. But Franklin is badly injured; the injury later becomes infected with gangrene. They find that the cliff is, in fact, guarded after all. Miller suggests that they leave Franklin to be "well cared for" by the enemy. Mallory, who assumes command of the mission, feels that Franklin would be forced to reveal their plans, so he orders two men to carry the injured man on a stretcher.

Franklin tries to commit suicide, but Mallory lies to him, saying that their mission has been scrubbed and that a major naval attack will be mounted on the side of the island opposite the gun emplacement. They rendezvous with local resistance fighters, Spyros's sister Maria (Irene Papas) and her friend Anna (Gia Scala), who was captured and tortured, but escaped. Anna was so traumatized that she cannot speak and will not allow even Maria to see her scars.

The mission is continually dogged by German soldiers, and the group is captured by Oberleutnant Meusel (Walter Gotell) in the town of Mandrakos, when they try to find a doctor for Franklin. Meusel and Hauptsturmführer Sessler (George Mikell) of the SS fail to persuade the saboteurs to tell them where Miller's explosives are. Stavrou pretends to grovel and beg for mercy, which distracts the Germans, allowing the group to overpower their captors. They escape in German uniform but leave Franklin behind to receive medical attention.

In due course, Franklin is injected with scopolamine and gives up his disinformation, as Mallory had hoped. German units are deployed in the direction of the supposed invasion point, away from the guns. But upon infiltrating the city of Navarone, where the guns are located, Miller discovers that most of his explosives have been rendered useless and deduces that Anna is the saboteur. It transpires that she is not mute after all and was only threatened with torture, but agreed to become an informer in exchange for her release. She pleads that she was coerced, but Miller, bitter about the way that Mallory abandoned Franklin and aware she will reveal their plans once found by the Germans, insists she must be silenced. Mallory eventually, reluctantly agrees to the task, but Maria shoots Anna dead first.

The team splits up: Mallory and Miller go for the guns, while Stavrou and Spyros create a distraction in the town, and Maria and Brown steal a boat for their escape. Mallory and Miller make their way to the heavily fortified gun emplacements. Locking the main entrance behind them—which sets off an alarm—Miller sets obvious explosives on the guns and hides more below an ammunition elevator leading to the guns. The Germans cut through the thick emplacement doors, as Mallory and Miller make their escape by diving into the sea, reaching the stolen boat. Spyros and Brown are dead, and Stavrou is wounded. Mallory saves him by pulling him into the boat, and thus voiding the blood feud between them.

The Allied destroyers appear on schedule. The Germans find the explosives planted on the guns and begin to fire on the passing Allied flotilla. However, the hoist in the gun cave eventually descends low enough to trigger the hidden explosives. The guns and fortifications are destroyed in a spectacular explosion that Franklin hears from his hospital bed. As the ruined guns fall into the sea, the destroyers sound off their horns in celebration. Mallory's team safely reaches the British convoy, but Stavrou, who has fallen in love with Maria, decides to return to Navarone with her. Mallory and Miller observe the aftermath of the destruction from a destroyer.



The film was part of a cycle of big-budget World War II adventures that included The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), The Longest Day (1962) and The Great Escape (1963). The screenplay, adapted by producer Carl Foreman, made significant changes from the novel The Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean.

The film was directed by J. Lee Thompson after original director Alexander Mackendrick was fired by Carl Foreman due to "creative differences" a week before shooting started.[1] The Greek island of Rhodes provided locations and Quinn was so taken with the area that he bought land there in an area still called Anthony Quinn Bay. Some further scenes were shot on the islands of Gozo, near Malta, and Tino, in the Ligurian Sea. One of the warships in the film, the USS Slater, then a training ship in the Hellenic Navy known as Aetos (D-01), is preserved as a museum ship in Albany, New York.[2]

As described by director Thompson in the DVD commentary track, David Niven became severely ill after shooting in the pool of water underneath the cave elevator and nearly died, remaining in hospital for some weeks as other portions of the cave sequence were completed by the crew. However, since key scenes with Niven remained incomplete at that time, and it was in doubt whether Niven would be able to return at all to finish the film, the entire production was in jeopardy, and reshooting key scenes throughout the film with some other actor—and even abandoning the whole project to collect the insurance—was contemplated. Fortunately Niven was able to complete his scenes some weeks later.

A complication arose when it was discovered that Gregory Peck, whose character was supposed to be fluent in German, could not speak the language convincingly. Robert Rietty was called to the set to dub all of his German dialogue in the film. [3]

The film's maps were created by Halas and Batchelor, a British team best known for their animated films.

Several members of the Greek Royal Family visited the set the day the cafe scene was filmed and appeared in the background as extras.[4]


The Guns of Navarone had its Royal World Premiere in aid of the Edwina Mountbatten Trust and in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh on April 27th 1961 at the Odeon Leicester Square in London's West End. The film grossed $28,900,000 at the box office[5] and was the 2nd top-grossing film of 1961, earning a net profit of $18,500,000.[6]




In 1968, author MacLean reunited Mallory, Miller, and Stavrou in the best-selling novel Force 10 From Navarone, the only sequel of his long writing career. That was in turn filmed as the significantly different Force 10 from Navarone in 1978 by British director Guy Hamilton, a veteran of several James Bond films. The cast included Robert Shaw, Harrison Ford, and Edward Fox. The sequel was a modest success, but did not match the original critically or commercially.

In popular culture[edit]

On The Dick Van Dyke Show, in the episode "You're Under Arrest", Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) claims to have fallen asleep while watching the film at a drive-in theater.[8][9]

"The Guns of Navarone", the film's theme song, was a hit for the Jamaican first-wave ska group The Skatalites and later covered by the British second-wave ska group The Specials.

The title was parodied on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show as The Guns of Abalone and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as The Girls of Nazarone.

Mad magazine parodied The Guns of Navarone as The Guns of Minestrone.

American power metal band Jag Panzer wrote a song about the film called "The Mission (1943)". It was released on the 2004 album Casting the Stones.

The character of Vince Latello, played by Fisher Stevens, compares himself to "Gregory Peck in the 'Guns of Navarone'" during a scene in the film My Science Project.

In Pulp Fiction, Samuel L. Jackson's character Jules Winnfield compares his anger at having to clean brains from the backseat of his car to, among other things, "The Guns of The Navarone".


  1. ^ "The Guns of Navarone"
  2. ^ "Aboard the U.S.S. Slater in Albany, NY". New York 
  3. ^ "A Forehead Pressed Against a Window" by Robert Rietty, p. 318-319
  4. ^ Perry, Vern (June 8, 2000). "'Guns of Navarone' high-caliber". The Orange County Register. p. 31. 
  5. ^ Box Office Information for The Guns of Navarone. The Numbers. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  6. ^ Steinberg, Cobbett (1980). Film Facts. New York: Facts on File, Inc. p. 24. ISBN 0-87196-313-2. 
  7. ^ "The 34th Academy Awards (1962) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 22 August 2011. 
  8. ^ "The Dick Van Dyke Show, episode You're Under Arrest (Season 5, Episode 13)". IMDb. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  9. ^ "The Dick Van Dyke Show Season 5 Episode 13 You're Under Arrest". Retrieved 20 June 2013. 

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