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Not really a sequel...
on April 22, 2002
Taken for what it is, "Force 10 From Navarone"(1978) is a decent wartime action adventure. It is based on Alistair MacLean's sequel to his highly successful novel, "The Guns of Navarone" which was released a major film in 1961. The movie version though is a "sequel" in name only, and is connected to the original film by just a few plot threads. Recurrent characters bear no resemblance to their previous incarnations. This is understandable, as this movie plays to almost a whole new audience.
None of the principal actors associated with the original film, Gregory Peck (Major Mallory), David Niven (Corporal Miller) and Anthony Quinn, were capable of reprising their roles, some 17 years later. Robert Shaw, replaces Peck as "Mallory", and Edward Fox assumes the role of "Miller", the explosives expert. Their new mission is to locate a traitor named "Lescovar" (Franco Nero), who is operating in Yugoslavia as a member of the Partisans. The pair are attached to a special operations group code named "Force 10", commanded by Lt. Colonel Barnsby (Harrison Ford). The group has their own top secret mission, which begins in Italy by stealing a plane. Sgt. Weaver (Carl Weathers), unexpectedly joins the mission after forcing his way into the plane, and parachutes with Force 10 into Yugoslavia.
Upon landing, circumstances quickly reduce the group to just five men. Wandering the countryside, the group meet up with what they believe are Partisans. When they turn out to be Chetniks collaborating with the Germans, Mallory and the rest find themselves prisoners. Spinning a yarn about hijacked penicillin buys Mallory and Barnsby an opportunity for freedom, and with a little help, the two men are soon free, and able to make contact with the real Partisan group.
Capt. Lescovar occupies a position of trust among the Partisans, and can't be touched for the moment. Force 10's mission is revealed, as they were to have attempted to destroy a vital bridge, and thereby prevent a Nazi advance. Believing that with Miller's expertise the mission might still be accomplished, Barnsby and Mallory head back to the Chetnik camp to free him. After a bloody shootout, the group make a surprisingly easy escape, and Miller and Weaver rejoin their mates.
Realizing that destroying a nearby dam would release tons of water that would undermine the bridge's foundation and take it down, the group is in desperate need of some high explosives. Treachery abounds as the group attempts to get the supplies. An attempt to airdrop them has disastrous results, so the team decides to get what they need by raiding a German ammo dump. After another close call, they succeed in securing the explosives. Leaving the depot by train, they take time to clean up a loose end, before heading for the dam and their final mission. For this task, it does seem odd that the "expert" Miller, is not called on to place the explosive charges. The job instead is left for Barnsby and Mallory (bad leg and all). The slightly built Fox, who plays Miller as a cartoon character, is just not hero material.
Much is made in this film of the fact that Weaver is a black man. He is the brunt of jokes, and suffers racial slurs and other harassment from his own side as well as the enemy. The leader of the Chetniks, played by Richard Kiel (Jaws from the Bond films), makes a special point of harassing the Sergeant, and calling him "blackie". Was all this really necessary? Carl Weathers gives a dignified performance under the circumstances. He brings a much needed rugged physical presence, to a cast primarily consisting of older actors.
Director Guy Hamilton, a veteran of several Bond films, is a man accustomed to executing a script with loaded dialog. The story for the most part entertains (minus the racial aspects), and moves along at a steady pace. At first glance, the assembled cast may not appear to be the most cohesive group, but their overall performance is actually not bad. The scenes of Yugoslavia may have added interest in light of recent events there. Ron Goodwin's soundtrack is good, with a rousing main title theme, but the music is ever so reminiscent of the work he did on "Where Eagles Dare", another MacLean creation. The special effects scenes related to the dam and floodwaters bring to mind scenes from Earthquake, minus the motorcycle.
The DVD transfer is good but the poor quality of the original material shows through at times. You have a choice between the widescreen and full screen versions of the film. The sole extra, is a tattered example of the original trailer. The booklet provided with the disk is very informative, discussing the background surrounding the sequel and the efforts of producer Carl Foreman to get the story to the screen. While too much time had passed for it to be a true sequel, "Force 10" stands on its own merits as a solid wartime adventure worth at least one viewing.