Force 10 From Navarone is, obviously, the sequel to The Guns of Navarone. Made around 15 years later, none of the cast returns – which is really never a good sign. Both films were loosely based on books by Alistair MacLean, a well-known writer of popular thrillers in the 50s and 60s. Where Eagles Dare (for which he wrote the screenplay and the novelisation) and Ice Station Zebra are two other films based on his work. The book behind the film came out in 1968, and like many of MacLean’s others, it was a success. A sequel was announced that would again star Anthony Quinn, Gregory Peck and David Niven, with J. Lee Thompson returning as the director, but for some reason that never happened. Jump forward to 1978, and a film called Force 10 from Navarone arrives, with little resemblance to MacLean’s novel.
It’s an adventure thriller where these guys are on a mission to destroy a bridge behind enemy lines, making it sort of a Bridge on the River Kwai-knockoff plot. Some of the characters return from the original, but played by different people. Carl Weathers appears, and Richard Kiel (the Bond villain ‘Jaws’—one of the few villains to be in more than one) is one of the baddies. It’s directed by Guy Hamilton, who is probably best known for Goldfinger, one of the high water marks of the Bond franchise. He did one of the Agatha Christie films, Evil Under the Sun, The Colditz Story, Battle of Britain—a solid British director. Hamilton was obviously a bit down on his luck at this point, having just been fired from Superman, so he needed a job.
The original was pretty good because of its solid cast, but here the roles go to Robert Shaw as Mallory (Peck’s character), Edward Fox as Miller (Niven’s character) and Harrison Ford. They’re all good actors, but it’s all a bit ‘whatever.’ Franco Nero also appears, who fans of psychotronic cinema will know as the original Django (he was in absolutely loads of films).
Probably the most interesting bit is that it’s an early film for Ford, who made it right after Star Wars. People might forget that he had become somewhat known because of American Graffiti, but it wasn’t until Star Wars that he became a star—he was still an actor/carpenter/occasional pot dealer up to that point. They were probably lucky to have gotten him, as his new status no doubt helped them to market the film.
It’s an AIP film, after the era where Roger Corman worked with them as an independent contractor. His relationship with AIP started to crack in the early 70s, after which he formed New World Pictures. Then James H. Nicholson left AIP, and that was when it all started falling apart. They went under just two years after this film was made. AIP had made a deal with Colombia, which owned the rights to MacLean’s book. They made very few films during this period, almost only blaxploitation and horror films. Force 10 from Navarone was not very successful, making less than it cost—ironically, it had almost the same budget as Star Wars. Most of it was shot at Shepperton.
The plot is all over the place, so despite a good director, it doesn’t live up to the original, which also had the superior cast and a lot more scope. None of the cast speak especially fondly of it. Ford has said that he was already worried about getting typecast as Han Solo or a science-fiction actor, and it was a job he took for the money—perhaps a film he should not have done. His character ought to have been one of the more interesting roles, but, he says: “I was lost because I didn’t know what the story was about. I didn’t have anything to act. There was no reason for my character being there. I had no part of the story that was important to tell. I had a hard time taking the stage with the bull that I was supposed to be doing.” Shaw died right after filming ended, meaning that they even had to overdub a few lines with another actor. MacLean also did not like the film.
In sum, it’s a perfectly fine filler for a Sunday afternoon movie channel, fine but not particularly engaging. Don’t expect it to be anything as good as The Guns of Navarone.
The Blu-Ray is a high-def remaster, with the extended cut and original theatrical cut. There’s a new commentary with film historians Steven Jay Rubin and Steve Mitchell, a new interview with actor Angus McInnis, a new making-of featurette with various crew members, a 26-minute look at the various versions of the film, and a new tribute to cinematographer Christopher Challis. There are also an archival production featurette, the Super-8 version, original trailer, TV and radio spots, and an image gallery, plus an 80-page booklet with archival production reports, an essay by Sheldon Hall, interviews with cast and crew, and much more.