Before Harrison Ford was punching Nazis as Indiana Jones, he was busy decimating entire battalions of them in Force 10 from Navarone, the near two decade late sequel to the 1961 classic, The Guns of Navarone.
Major Mallory and Sergeant Miller return (this time played by Robert Shaw and Edward Fox, replacing the great Gregory Peck and David Niven) to assassinate the spy that betrayed them on the original Navarone mission (Franco Nero). Uneasily partnering with Colonel Barnsby (Ford), who has his own mission to destroy a reportedly indestructible bridge vital to a Nazi onslaught, they venture into the unwelcome fields of Yugoslavia as they face off with racist Chetnik collaborators, treacherous train cabins, and a bathing Barbara Bach.
Force 10 from Navarone features a story brimming with potential but its execution is faulty with most of its surprises and twists telegraphed. Uninspired and dry, it’s a by-the-numbers period action-adventure that lacks the spark and subtext that elevated The Guns of Navarone to the renown classic that it is – and that’s its biggest hangup. By playing as a late sequel to the well-regarded Guns, it invites comparisons that it just couldn’t live up to, especially with none of its original cast members who had aged out of their parts by 1978. Worse still, its returning characters, primarily Peck’s Mallory and Niven’s Miller, are written so dissimilarly that they might as well have had different names. Here, they come off as doddering old fools past their prime with only Fox’s Miller showing any signs of Niven’s trademark wit.
Heck, it wasn’t until a late back-to-back viewing that I even realized that Ford’s Barnsby was also meant to be a returning character – that of Richard Harris‘ short guest appearance as a foul-mouthed Australian in the original. As entertaining as it would have been to see Ford attempt an Australian accent, they are, like Mallory and Miller, only identical in name only.
Gone are any hints of cynicism or the painful costs of war; without that subtext and ensuing conflict, which pulsated throughout the original Guns like a provoking charge ready to ignite at a moment’s notice, Force 10 is left without a soul or vision to captivate. By this late juncture, it is the very Navarone marquee selling point that invites more criticism and ire than what would otherwise have been a typical run-of-the mill diversion.
On a side note, Force 10 from Navarone serves as an unintended James Bond reunion for many of its cast and crew including director Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, and The Man with the Golden Gun), Robert Shaw (From Russia with Love), Barbara Bach (XXX in The Spy Who Loved Me), Richard Kiel (Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker), and Edward Fox (M from the unofficial Never Say Never Again). Add in Ford, whose Indiana Jones was directly inspired by the famous British spy (hence Sean Connery‘s casting as his father in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), and Force 10 becomes an unexpected love letter to the long-running 007 franchise.
Speaking of love letters and XXX (a combination that I’m betting you weren’t quite expecting in a WWII-themed movie review), I do have one particular fond memory from my first viewing of the film when I was about 10 or 11 years old. Having already been a fan of the original film and Harrison Ford, I was particularly excited to watch Force 10. With its PG rating, my dad didn’t give it a second thought and rented it for us. Imagine my shock when a third of the way through, my Spy Who Loved Me crush, Barbara Bach, stepped out completely topless from a old-fashioned bath barrel! My dad, who had at this point fallen asleep from the film’s “endless thrills,” was none-the-wiser – that is, until the next day when he mentioned that he wanted to go back and finish the film. Knowing that it was inevitable that he would discover the offending scene, I fessed up fully expecting a scolding. “What?!” he yelled. “Why didn’t you wake me up? I would’ve liked to see that!”
Overall, on its own, Force 10 from Navarone is a decent, if underwhelming WWII flick with little to show beyond its impressive collection of Hollywood stars. As a sequel to The Guns of Navarone, it is a bland failure that serves only as a curiosity rather than a faithful follow-up…unless you’re a fan of barrel baths however…