The Guns of Navarone appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Time has not been kind to this film, for while some aspects of it looked fine, much of it appeared weaker than it should.
Sharpness seemed inconsistent but was generally pretty good. Most of the movie appeared clear and well-defined. Softness interfered with the image at times, however, and left parts of it less than concise. Moiré effects and jagged edges occurred infrequently, but edge enhancement was a definite concern. Fairly prominent haloes popped up throughout the movie and created distractions.
The print itself varied. It seemed pretty grainy at times, and not just because of the use of rear projection techniques, which add a generation of film to the mix. Many shows looked grainy, and I also noticed occasional examples of marks, specks, grit, and other blemishes. The image didn’t seem overwhelmingly dirty for a film of this one’s age, but it showed more concerns than I’d like.
The movie’s worst problems stemmed from the fading that affected the colors. In that regard, the print fared poorly, as the hues of Guns seemed very wan and pale. Colors that should appear bright and bold were mediocre at best, and less powerful hues came across as very flat.
I considered the possibility that the movie was supposed to look this way, as some films do intentionally utilize very limited palettes. While I can't state with certainty that this wasn't the case, I got the impression that the lack of color related more to the flaws of the print than to any form of purposeful cinematography. The movie betrayed a drabness that often sucked the life out of it.
Black levels had some problems as well. For the most part, they looked decently dark, but they usually lacked richness and seemed a bit bland. Shadow detail tended to appear overly thick and heavy, although much of that resulted from the frequent use of "day for night" photography. That technique often makes the overall picture seem much darker than it should, which was the case here. I found Guns to remain watchable, and at times it looked fairly good, but the poor colors really hurt it in the long run, as they created a dull appearance that infects every aspect of the movie.
Much better were the film's surprisingly strong Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtrack. I heard little to differentiate the pair. Actually, in this case, the Dolby mix came across as a little livelier, but across the board, the two tracks sounded very similar.
The mixes presented a broad soundfield, especially in the forward channels. Separation between channels seemed fine, with audio that was well-placed and discrete. I heard good blending between speakers as well. The rear speakers added a nice punch to the package. The surrounds tended to mainly bolster the sound from the front speakers, but they did so effectively and provided a nicely spatial sense that made the entire track very involving. A few livelier scenes added to the package as well, such as the ones set at sea.
The quality of the audio betrayed a thin timbre typical of films from the era, but it still seemed pleasantly robust. Dialogue sounded relatively warm and natural, and I had no trouble with intelligibility. Only a smidgen of edginess crept into the presentation. Music worked best of all, as it appeared clear and smooth, with no signs of shrillness. I could have used some more low-end from the score, but it still came across as well-recorded and bright. Effects sounded slightly thin but were adequately realistic and even dropped some good bass at times. There were occasions when the effects shook up the action in a positive manner. A slight amount of distortion affected the explosions and gunfire at times, but this seemed extremely minor considering the age of the material and the prevalence of loud noises. All in all, the 5.1 mixes fared nicely.
How did the picture and audio of the Superbit Guns compare to those found on the prior DVD? Across the board, all elements seemed identical. The earlier disc already included the same good Dolby Digital mix heard here, and its transfer suffered from the same set of problems that marred this DVD’s image. The Superbit comes with no extras, which means it loses the pretty decent set of supplements that appeared on the special edition.
That transfer is what made it impossible for the Superbit release substantially outdo the earlier package. Without a new transfer, there’s only so much that extra bit space can do. With a reworked visual presentation, the Superbit Guns of Navarone remains a flawed piece. Stick with the prior special edition of the film, as I can see - and hear - no reason to pick the Superbit instead.