Published on April 2nd, 2008 | by Chris4
36 Hours (1965)
36 Hours takes the typical concept of a war movie and tosses it out the window, instead giving us a cynical, suspenseful, psycho-thriller that will make you smirk, think, and it *will* surprise you.
James Garner plays US Army Major Jeff Pike, who's dispatched to Portugal on a mission just before D-Day. He's privy to the details of operation Overlord, and the Germans know it. Through their nasty network of Nazi spies they manage to kidnap him, and then the real fun begins.
Instead of sending him off to your typical Gestapo interrogation session and prison camp, the Germans have created an elaborate fantasy world set six years in the future. This "Allied" hospital, located in "occupied" Germany, is just the thing Pike needs to get over his retrograde amnesia, or so they tell him. He buys into it, having his hair greyed and his eyes doctored so he looks and feels a bit older.
His doctor, "Major" Gerber (Rod Taylor) is in fact an SS researcher, albeit a strangely benign one. His motives actually appear on the up-and-up, having invented this "process" to help shell-shocked German soldiers from the Russian front overcome their hurdles. But as Gerber so eloquently puts it, its been subverted by the SS for nefarious purposes.... And his SS overlords have given him a short 36 hours (hence the title) to get the information out of him. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Also present is ex-concentration camp prisoner Anna (Eva Marie Saint), who has been "recruited" to play Pike's nurse. Recruited probably isn't the right word, more like "acquired" as she speaks English and actually is a nurse.
Well, after falling for the experiment for a time, and indeed revealing crucial details of the invasion, Pike accidentally gets some salt in a paper cut. The same paper cut he got during the D-Day briefing, and the charade is revealed. He confirms it by pulling a fast one on the gate guard, who instinctively clicks his heels together at the mention of a superior officer.
As you can imagine, the SS overseer Schack (Werner Peters) takes charge, and immediately distrusts Pike's information on the invasion, instead choosing to bend facts and statements and arrive at a conclusion which instead supports the Reich's original intelligence on the matter. It's this sort of cynicism which I think drives the picture. Between the "who do you trust" aspect, and the dealings with Gerber, you can't help but just nod and go, "yep, that figures."
The real gem of the movie comes though at the end, when Pike and Anna escape. I won't spoil it, but lets just say the minister's housekeeper's husband is one of the best war movie characters ever.
36 Hours is a great overall film, not just a good war movie. No you're not going to get to see any great battles or intense shootouts, or even any insight into the "warrior mind." Instead you'll get a great comment on the business of military intelligence, and if nothing else, a heaping helping of good old fashioned bleak 1960's cynicism.
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Summary: 36 Hours is a great overall film, not just a good war movie. No you're not going to get to see any great battles or intense shootouts, or even any insight into the "warrior mind." Instead you'll get a great comment on the business of military intelligence, and if nothing else, a heaping helping of good old fashioned bleak 1960's cynicism.