36 HOURS (1964) has a really neat thriller premise, derived from Roald Dahl: James Garner has the details of the D-Day landings in his head, and German psychologist Rod Taylor wants to make him spill. He kidnaps Garner and tries to convince him that traumatic amnesia has caused him to lose all recall of the last six years — it’s really 1950 and the war is over, and to help him recover his memory, he ought to tell the good doctor everything he can remember…
Since Garner’s character is called Jefferson Pike, this whole film is basically “Don’t tell him, Pike!”
The Dad’s Army similarity is reinforced by a bit of ill-advised comedy relief at the end involving the German Home Guard and featuring, among others, an aged, aged Sig Rumann.
The other televisual connection is with The Prisoner. Here’s Jim Garner waking up in a new environment ~
And here’s Patrick McGoohan doing the same. ~
To clinch the resemblance, recall that McGoohan was put through a similar scheme, being tricked into thinking he’d escaped from The Village, in the episode entitled The Chimes of Big Ben.
36 HOURS would be pretty good too, a Phildickian conspiracy thriller, except it turns into a run-of-the-mill escape drama at the end — too bad, they got ninety minutes out of their Unique Selling Point High-Concept, then abandoned it. Garner and Taylor make great sparring partners, and the movie even manages to make its villain sympathetic by giving him a nasty, stupid S.S. officer opponent. Werner Peters plays this part nicely, his purring delivery at times recalling the considerably suaver Anton Walbrook. And he has a cute way of ending a conversation with a mumbled, “H’l’ittler.”
Eva Marie Saint, obviously, is good too, though it seems sadly typical of MGM to cast, as a concentration camp survivor, the least Jewish actor they could find.
I liked the detail of this newspaper — the Germans have to invent an alternate future, based on the information available in 1944, to convince Garner that it’s 1950. Roosevelt’s vice-president, Henry Wallace, was generally expected to succeed him, and Harry Truman was a nonentity in 1944. Werner Peter’s sickly reactions to Taylor’s recounting of the war’s end is wickedly funny.
I wonder how the original story ends? Dahl was rather good at endings.
One thing about George Seaton’s script and direction — he makes a lot of play of windows, and this pays off nicely at the end, when of course romance must blossom…