The Guns of Navarone

  • Directors: J Lee Thompson
  • Producers: Carl Foreman
  • Writers: Alistair MacLean, Carl Foreman
  • Genres: Action, Drama, War, Adventure
  • Actors: Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle, Stanley Baker

The film opens with an aerial view of the Greek Islands, and a narrator (James Robertson Justice), setting the scene. The year is 1943, and 2000 British soldiers are holed up on the island of Keros in the Aegean near Turkey. Rescue by the Royal Navy is impossible because of massive guns on the nearby island of Navarone. Time is short, because the Germans are expected to launch an assault on the British forces, to draw Turkey into the war on the Axis’ side.

Efforts to blast the guns by air have proven fruitless, so a team has been hastily assembled to sail to Navarone and blow up the guns. Led by Major Roy Franklin (Anthony Quayle), they are Capt. Keith Mallory (Gregory Peck); Andrea Stavros (Anthony Quinn), a Colonel in the defeated Greek army; Corporal Miller (David Niven), an explosives expert; Greek-American street tough Spyros Pappadimos (James Darren); 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 boat and boarded. On Mallory’s signal, they attack and kill all the Germans and blow up the patrol boat. Afterwards, Mallory confides to Franklin that Stavros has sworn to kill him after the war, because he was inadvertently responsible for the deaths of Stavros’ wife and children.

Mallory and Miller are taken on board the destroyer, while Stavros, who has fallen in love with Maria, decides to return to Navarone with her and shakes hands with Mallory, having given up his planned vengeance when Mallory risked his life to save him.

Zulu

  • Directors: Cy Endfield
  • Producers: Stanley Baker, Cy Endfield
  • Writers: John Prebble, Cy Endfield
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobsson, James Booth, Michael Caine

In 1879, a communiqué from British South Africa to the government in London, narrated by Richard Burton, details the crushing defeat of a British force at the hands of the Zulus at the Battle of Isandhlwana. The first scene shows a grassy landscape with many dead British soldiers, while victorious Zulus gather their weapons.

A mass Zulu marriage ceremony witnessed by missionary Otto Witt (Jack Hawkins), his daughter (Ulla Jacobsson) and Zulu King Cetshwayo (Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi) is interrupted by a messenger who informs Cetshwayo of the great victory earlier in the day.

A company of the British Army’s 24th Regiment of Foot, depicted as a Welsh regiment, is using the missionary station of Rorke’s Drift in Natal as a supply depot and hospital for their invasion force across the border in Zululand. Upon receiving news of Isandhlwana from the Witts and that a large enemy force is advancing their way, Lieutenant John Chard (Stanley Baker) of the Royal Engineers assumes command of the small British detachment, being senior to Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead (Michael Caine). Realising that they cannot outrun the Zulu army, especially with wounded soldiers, Chard decides to fortify the station and make a stand, using wagons, sacks of mealie, and crates of ship’s biscuit. When Witt becomes drunk and starts demoralising the men with his dire predictions, causing the soldiers of the Natal Native Contingent to desert, Chard orders him and his daughter to leave in their carriage.

The next morning, at dawn, the Zulus withdraw several hundred yards and begin singing a war chant; the British respond by singing “Men of Harlech”. In the last assault, just as it seems the Zulus will finally overwhelm the tired defenders, a reserve of soldiers Chard had hidden behind a final redoubt emerge, form into three ranks, and pour volley after volley into the stunned natives. They withdraw after sustaining heavy casualties. Later, the Zulus sing a song to honour the bravery of the British defenders and leave. The film ends with a narration by Richard Burton, listing defenders who received the Victoria Cross, including Private Hook. Eleven were awarded for the actual fighting at Rorke’s Drift, the most ever for a regiment in a single battle in British military history.