36 Hours (1965 film)

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36 Hours
36 hours movieposter.jpg
Directed by George Seaton
Produced by William Perlberg
Screenplay by George Seaton
Story by
Carl K. Hittleman
Based on "Beware of the Dog"
Harper's 1946
by Roald Dahl
Starring James Garner
Rod Taylor
Eva Marie Saint
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography Philip H. Lathrop
Edited by Adrienne Fazan
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • January 28, 1965 (1965-01-28) (New York)
Running time
115 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2,200,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

36 Hours is a 1965 American suspense film, based on the short story "Beware of the Dog" by Roald Dahl.[2] The picture stars James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, and Rod Taylor and was directed by George Seaton. On June 2, 1944, a German army doctor tries to obtain vital information from an American military intelligence officer by convincing him that it is 1950 and World War II is long over.

Plot[edit]

Having attended General Eisenhower's final briefing on the Normandy landings, U.S. Army Major Jeff Pike (James Garner) is sent to Lisbon on June 1, 1944, to meet an informant to confirm that the Nazis still expect the invasion at the Pas de Calais. He is abducted and transported to Germany.

Pike wakes up in what looks like a U.S. Army hospital. His hair is graying, and he needs glasses to read. He is told it is May 1950 and he is in post-war Occupied Germany. Psychiatrist Major Walter Gerber (Rod Taylor) explains that Pike has been having episodes of memory loss since he was tortured in Lisbon. He advises Pike that his blocked memories have always resurfaced, helped along by a therapy of remembering events prior to Lisbon and then pushing forward into the blank period. Various props including U.S. Army jeeps and uniforms, baseball, and fake letters, newspaper and radio broadcasts, are used to carefully convince Pike that the year is 1950 and that he is among fellow Americans. He is assisted by a nurse, the dispassionate Anna Hedler (Eva Marie Saint). Pike is taken in by the deception. As part of his "therapy", he recounts the critical details of the invasion plans, including the location and the date, June 5, to his eager listeners.

When Pike notices a nearly invisible paper cut he got the day he left for Lisbon, he realizes that it is a hoax. He confirms it by tricking an "American" soldier into reflexively snapping to attention in the German manner. He confronts Anna, who admits that the date is June 2, 1944. She was recruited from a concentration camp because she was a nurse and spoke English.

Pike instructs Anna to tell Gerber that he was onto the plot, while he makes a feeble attempt to escape. Quickly recaptured, he states that he realized what was going soon after waking up due to his paper cut. Gerber does not believe him. After two days of interrogation, however, Pike and Anna convince SS agent Schack (Werner Peters), who never believed the hoax would work. Schack is sure the invasion will be at the Pas de Calais. Gerber, however, sets the clock forward in Pike and Anna's room so they think it is the morning of June 5, then states that the Germans have been surprised at Normandy. Pike lets his guard down and confirms it. Gerber sends an emergency dispatch to Wehrmacht authorities, but the weather on June 5 is too rough, so Eisenhower postpones the invasion a day. By midday June 5, Gerber has been discredited and Schack orders his arrest.

Gerber knows that Schack will kill them to cover his own blunder when the Allies land at Normandy. Gerber helps Anna and Pike escape, asking Pike to take his groundbreaking research on amnesiacs with him. When the Normandy landings begin on the morning of June 6, he laughs at Schack when he arrives, revealing that he has taken poison and pointing out that Schack will likely be liquidated. Schack pursues the escapees on his own, too hurried to wait for troops.

The couple flee to a local minister who (Pike knows) had helped downed RAF pilots escape to nearby Switzerland. The minister is away, but his housekeeper Elsa introduces them to a jovially corrupt German border guard, Sgt. Ernst (John Banner). Pike and Anna bribe him with his watch and her rings to get them across the border. Ernst gives Elsa one of the rings. Schack shows up at the minister's after Ernst and the couple have left for the border – he recognizes Anna's ring on Elsa’s finger and forces her to reveal where they have gone. Schack catches up at the border, but Ernst shoots him and arranges Schack’s body to make it look as if he had been killed while trying to escape himself.

Safely in Switzerland, Pike and Hedler are put in separate cars, Pike to go to the U.S. Embassy, and Anna to a refugee camp. Anna cries as they part, her first display of emotion in years.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Most of the film was shot in Yosemite National Park.[3] Exterior shots were filmed at the Wawona Hotel near the entrance of Yosemite National Park.

Reception[edit]

The New Yorker called the film an "ingenious thriller" and praised Garner, Saint, and Taylor for being "plausible in highly implausible roles."[4]

Background[edit]

Banner's role, which provided the comedy relief in 36 Hours, was the role model for his easy-going German soldier, POW camp guard Sgt. Hans Schultz, in the TV series Hogan's Heroes (1965–71). Coincidentally, Sig Ruman played POW camp guard Sgt. Schultz in the William Holden feature film Stalag 17 (1953).

The film was remade as a 1989 TV movie, Breaking Point, starring Corbin Bernsen.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ This figure consists of anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Top Grossers of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 36 and Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood, Bear Manor Media, 2010 p104
  2. ^ http://www.roalddahlfans.com/shortstories/bewa.php "Beware of the Dog" by Roald Dahl
  3. ^ Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood (Bear Manor Media, 2010) p103
  4. ^ http://archives.newyorker.com/?i=1965-06-19
  5. ^ Inman, David (8 November 2010). "'36 Hours' is World War II thriller". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 

External links[edit]