36 Hours
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Seaton
Screenplay byGeorge Seaton
Story by
  • Carl K. Hittleman
  • Luis Vance
Based on"Beware of the Dog"
by Roald Dahl
Produced byWilliam Perlberg
CinematographyPhilip H. Lathrop
Edited byAdrienne Fazan
Music byDimitri Tiomkin
  • Perlberg-Seaton Productions[1]
  • Cherokee Productions[1]
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer[1]
Release dates
  • November 26, 1964 (1964-11-26) (London)
  • December 15, 1964 (1964-12-15) (Pittsburgh)
  • February 19, 1965 (1965-02-19) (United States)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States[1]
Box office$2.2 million[2]

36 Hours is a 1964 American war thriller film written and directed by George Seaton from a story by Carl K. Hittleman and Luis Vance, based on the 1944 short story "Beware of the Dog" by Roald Dahl.[3] The film stars James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Rod Taylor, and Werner Peters. In the plot, a Nazi 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.


Having attended General Eisenhower's final briefing on the upcoming Normandy landings, U.S. Army Major Jeff Pike is sent to Lisbon, Portugal 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 explains that Pike has been having episodes of amnesia 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 German nurse, the dispassionate Anna Hedler. 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 he has been deceived. 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 on 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, who never believed the deception 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, but the weather on June 5 is so bad that Eisenhower postpones the invasion a day (which actually occurred). 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 do finally land at Normandy. Gerber helps Anna and Pike escape, asking Pike to take his groundbreaking research on amnesiacs with him. When the invasion begins the next morning, 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 Furzen. Pike and Anna bribe him with his watch and her rings to get them across the border. Furzen gives Elsa one of the rings. Schack shows up at the minister's after Furzen 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 Furzen 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 Anna are put in separate cars. Anna cries as they part, her first display of emotion in years.


In addition, James Doohan – still a year away from taking on the role of Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the television series Star Trek – makes a brief uncredited appearance as Bishop, clerk to the Colonel MacLean character.


Most of the film was shot in Yosemite National Park.[4] Exterior shots were filmed at the Wawona Hotel near the entrance of Yosemite National Park.



36 Hours received largely positive reviews upon its initial release. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 83% of 6 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.2/10.[5]

Domestic reviews

The New Yorker called the film an "ingenious thriller" and praised Garner, Saint, and Taylor for being "plausible in highly implausible roles."[6] Kate Cameron of the New York Daily News gave the film a full four-star rating and said that "the plot is cleverly and believably worked out on the screen, and the excitement of the intelligence operation is augmented by the limited time the Germans have at their disposal to brainwash their prisoner into believing he has had a form of amnesia that has blotted out six years of his life."[7] A user of the Mae Tinee pseudonym wrote that "unfortunately, the plot is al- most too complicated, with Eva Marie Saint, a former inmate of a concentration camp, and Rod Taylor, as the psychiatrist, battling their better instincts; and a greedy traitor clowning clumsily in the finale. However, it's a moderately good yarn."[8] Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times said that "the audience is in on the hoax from the beginning, so I am not divulging too much. Up to this point the picture is tinglingly suspenseful: 1t is suspenseful afterward, too, but with so many contrivances of melodrama, in the old-fashioned Hitchcock manner, that it ends up having more twists than a German pretzel. Yet even though it may become too clever for its own good or at least for credibility's sake it is still the stuff of movies."[9] Henry T. Murdock of The Philadelphia Inquirer said that "the clever Perlberg-Seaton team plays fair with its audience and plants its major clue right in front. Once you get that clue, the strategy should become apparent.[10] Sandra Saunders wrote in the Philadelphia Daily News that "the full impact of the bizarre situation is weakened by the fact that the audience is in on all the details from the beginning. However, tension and suspense mount steadily as Garner innocently falls into the trap, accidentally discovers he's been duped and then launches a "game" of his own to befuddle the Nazis. Garner, whose flair for screen comedy is well established, comes through equally well in the highly dramatic role of the desperate American officer. I Taylor also is impressive as the German doctor, a humanitarian torn between his natural instincts and his loyalty to his country."[11] Louis Cook of the Detroit Free Press said that "after awhile '36 Hours' begins telegraphing its minutes but even then it maintains a certain interest. And up to the point where the actors start spilling the beans about how it's all going to come out, there is an immense amount of absorbing ingenuity in the picture."[12] Louis R. Cedrone, Jr. wrote in The Evening Sun of Baltimore, that "when it is about half over and the gimmick has run its course, '36 Hours' becomes Just another spy drama, but a good enough one as they go."[13] Myles Standish, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, caled the film "a bizarre and intriguing [spy melodrama], with a fantastic espionage plot and an exciting duel of wits. He noted:

Some critics have said it is absurd that the Nazis would set up such an elaborate and expensive hoax just to delude one prisoner. Well, it wasn't too expensive for Perlberg to set up to make the picture, and certainly learning the Allied Invasion plans was vastly more important to the Nazis than this picture to Perlberg. Besides, it is implied the Nazis used the same setup to trap a number of prisoners. It was far wiser to get Information willingly and unknowingly than under torture, because Allied intelligence threw out so many false leads Nazi intelligence couldn't tell which information was true and which false (the Nazis actually learned the point of invasion and didn't believe it). Seaton has kept the pace taut, and the plot full of surprises. Garner, Taylor, Miss Saint and Werner Peters as a Nazi intelligence officer all deliver trenchant performances.[14]

Stanley Eichelbaum of the San Francisco Examiner described 36 Hours as "a mighty tense and exciting suspense film",[15] while Marjorie Adams of The Boston Globe said it "lives up to what most people expect of the men who made 'Counterfeit Traitor' and 'The Bridges of Toko-Ri' in that it deals with fast action, intriguing characterization and a logical conclusion. It is the kind of cinema in which heroes are real heroes, not ambivalent adventurers. You know you'd never be as brave as Major Jefferson Pike, but just the same, you'd like to be."[16] Thomas Blakely of The Pittsburgh Press said that the film "bristles with action and suspense most of the way" and that "top performances abound" in it.[17] Lee McInerney of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote:

THE TWO funniest words in films today are, "Heil, Hitler." What a bungler he was. His top staff officials knew the when and where of the Allied invasion of France, yet on June 6th, 1944, who was in the wrong place? The Germans were. And who—ha—won the war? Ah yes, the comfort of victory is a big comfort, and helps the enjoyment of the suspense- drama, "36 Hours," which is all about what the first paragraph here is about. The film carries pretty well.[18]

A critic billed simply as B.A. in the Buffalo Evening News said that "the suspense in '36 Hours,' in the Paramount depends on your first suspending your sense of logic. It is, after all, an escape movie (you get to escape from the various wars of today while James Garner escapes from the Nazis), and if you're going to be captious about it and insist on reason, you’ll miss all the fun—and there’s a lot."[19] While Henry S. Humphreys of The Cincinnati Enquirer called it "a better-than-average espionage thriller",[20] Dale Stevens of The Cincinnati Post wrote that "the plot runs out of stamina in the late going. And Garner is a trifle weak as dramatic performer, falling back on his comedy devices when the subject is serious. Still, the film manages moments of impact and, there is a good characterization of a spineless SS man."[21] Connie Richards of The Commercial Appeal wrote that the film's premise "may sound flimsy on paper, but it is terrifyingly real on the screen with the help of James Garner as the bewildered officer, Rod Taylor as an American-born Nazi psychiatrist and Eva Marie [Saint] as an effectively cool accomplice."[22] Edwin Howard of the Memphis Press-Scimitar wrote that "there are an infinate number of ways to tell any given story, and I'm not sure director-scenarist George Seaton chose the right way to tell '36 Hours'", adding:

Imagine what an impact the film would have if the audience gradually awoke to this monstrous hoax, as the Major does. But Seaton has not chosen to tell his story in that way. Instead he begins at the beginning, letting the audience in on what is happening as it happens There are still enough plot twists to stir up excitement, but there would have been a lot more amazement if Seaton had started telling the story in the middle.[23]

Charles Moore of the Atlanta Constitution, called it "another routine 'escape' film"[24] but Sam F. Lucchese of The Atlanta Journal described it as a "first-rate film".[25] William J. Nazzaro of The Arizona Republic called the film "a neat, well-acted, melodrama dealing with espionage in the days before the Allied invasion of Europe in 1941. Though this Perlberg-Seaton production makes the usual concessions to popular taste, '36 Hours' should prove entertaining to anyone who craves a fair amount of action for his film fare. This department's principal reservation is that the suspense is not carried all the way, and that humor is allowed to break any spell of reality. But as an example of Hollywood filmmaking, this is two or three cuts above the average."[26] William Mootz of The Courier-Journal recommended the film "for the fan who likes a thriller neatly turned and swiftly paced."[27] Giles M. Fowler of The Kansas City Star, called the film "an absorbing and well-crafted bit of nonsense, guaranteed to keep the most, skeptical viewer on tenterhooks."[28] Emmett Weaver of the Birmingham Post-Herald called it "an exciting melodrama" and a "first-rate screen attraction".[29] Jean Walrath of the Democrat and Chronicle said that it "wasn't made to be believed (or somebody is crazy) but while it runs its course the viewers [are] too intrigued to care."[30] George Bourke of The Miami Herald said that the film "ticks off the minutes at a fascinating pace in an espionage suspense drama with a unique twist."[31] Brainard Hall of The Journal-Herald said the film was "loaded with suspense and good acting.[32]

In the opinion of The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, "What is annoying about this picture is that the set-up for pulling off the plot is just too slick and artificial, too patly and elaborately contrived. ... Even though Mr. Seaton has done a thorough and careful job of staging this massive deception and has got his able cast to play it with reasonable assurance, it has such a synthetic look and, indeed, the idea is so theatrical that the whole thing rings curiously false."[33] In Baltimore, Maryland, R.H. Gardner wrote in The Sun that "the first half of '36 Hours' is such stimulating stuff that one can't help resenting script writer George Seaton's inability to keep his story from deteriorating into a standard spy-melodrama."[34] Will Jones of The Minneapolis Tribune said that "for a while the psychological cat-and-mouse game built around Dahl's idea has amusement value. But the idea runs out of gas soon, and "36 Hours" turns into a dull and predictable melodrama populated by all those grim, stocky hood types who were playing Nazis in the flicks 20 years ago."[35] Don Morrison of The Minneapolis Star said that the film "would have been a whale of a thriller, but it lets itself run self-indulgently for two hours and it runs, finally, right into the ground."[36] Herb Michelson of the Oakland Tribune said that the film had "a devilish little premise and one that keeps you taut for nearly half the film. Seaton's story, during Act I, stands back and takes quick, admiring glances at the efficiency of the Nazi intelligence operation, of their plans to convince Pike the war has ended and get him to talk about what was to come off on D-Day. Then, abruptly, the taut stack of cards collapses in a string of cliche dialog and characterization that renders '36 Hours' just so-so from an over-all view. It's possible Seaton could find no other way out of his plot, although I doubt it. From the moment Maj. Pike learns he's been tricked, the story resorts to easy outs and obvious solutions. And because the early going succeeded by not being "easy," the complete effort is damaged."[37] Jack Holley of the Evening World-Herald in Omaha, Nebraska said that "the set-up for the plot is too artificial and too contrived" and that "suspense would have been better maintained if the staff and patients had made occasional slips, especially Rod Taylor, who is overly all-American as the German doctor who dreamed up the scheme."[38] David Cobb of The Toronto Star said that "though the movie is kept constantly alive by director George Seaton and is never less than entertaining, the second half is a disappointment after the first. It doesn't ring true, not because there weren't such people, but because it is presented with a cloying, sanctimonious patness."[39]

International reviews

Dick Richards of the Daily Mirror said that "the film '36 Hours' (Empire, A) is a tense game of cat-and-mouse that may have some flaws for those who were mixed up with wartime Army Intelligence. But most people will find it a sound, absorbing couple of hours as they watch a fascinating battle of wits."[40] Richard Roud of The Guardian called it a "first-class commercial film. Commercial is not used pejoratively; it simply defines the scope of the film. And within that scope, it comes close to perfection. For one thing, its story is exciting, compelling, and ingenious. For another, the direction does not get in the way of the story technique is invisible, but effective. Not so invisible as all that, however, for-Mr Seaton gets better performances than one would have dreamed possible from the two male leads. James Garner and Rod Taylor, and the fine one that one expected from Eva Mane Saint. But it is the story that counts. Obviously one can't give it away, but the basic premise is too good to keep."[41] Patrick Gibbs of The Daily Telegraph gave the film a negative review, believing the storyline to be far more suited to print than to film and was rendered unrealistic by Seaton's direction.[42] Alexander Walker of the London Evening Standard had a more reserved welcome to the film, saying that "Seaton's direction is not as sharp as the idea deserves and the Germans fall into stock Nazi types" but that "the suspense is strong and there Is a nice irony when the Germans, filling In their prisoner about how the war ended, just happen to Invent a bomb plot against Hitler."[43] Colin Bennett of the Australian newspaper The Age called the film "a startlingly clever wartime thriller."[44]

Comments from James Garner

Garner wrote in his memoirs that he felt "the movie doesn't work because there's no suspense; everybody knew that in real life the D-Day invasion was a success and that we'd won the war", but he did enjoy working with Saint and George Seaton.[45]


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 television series Hogan's Heroes (1965–71). Coincidentally, Sig Ruman played a similar POW camp guard named Sgt. Schultz in the William Holden feature film Stalag 17 (1953).


The film was remade as a 1989 television film, Breaking Point, starring Corbin Bernsen.[46]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "AFI|Catalog".
  2. ^ This figure consists of anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Top Grossers of 1965", Variety, January 5, 1966, p. 36, and Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood, Bear Manor Media, 2010, p. 104
  3. ^ "Beware of the Dog". by Roald Dahl
  4. ^ Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood (Bear Manor Media, 2010) p. 103
  5. ^ "36 Hours". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved January 9, 2024. Edit this at Wikidata
  6. ^ http://archives.newyorker.com/?i=1965-06-19 (subscription required)
  7. ^ Cameron, Kate (January 29, 1965). "Suspense Thriller at Music Hall". Daily News. New York, New York, United States. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  8. ^ Tinee, Mae (February 1, 1965). "Exciting Film, '36 Hours', Is Cunning Tale". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  9. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (February 18, 1965). "'36 Hours', Thriller About Daring Hoax". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  10. ^ Murdock, Henry T. (February 4, 1965). "At The Stanton: Garner's '36 Hours' Is Ingenious Thriller". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  11. ^ Saunders, Sandra (February 4, 1965). "'36 Hours, a Spy Thriller, Now Playing at Stanton". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  12. ^ Cook, Louis (March 4, 1965). "Will Garner Crack? He Has Only '36 Hours'". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  13. ^ Cedrone, Jr., Louis R. (February 16, 1965). "On The Screen: '36 Hours' Showing At The Playhouse". The Evening Sun. Baltimore, Maryland, United States. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  14. ^ Standish, Myles (May 7, 1965). "The New Films". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  15. ^ Eichelbaum, Stanley (February 25, 1965). "The Fantastic Suspense of '36 Hours'". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  16. ^ Adams, Marjorie (February 4, 1965). "'36 Hours': Garner and Rod Taylor in Espionage Picture". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  17. ^ Blakely, Thomas (February 11, 1965). "D-Day Intrigue in '36 Hours'". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  18. ^ McInerney, Lee (February 11, 1955). "Stanley Has New Suspense Film—It's 36 Hours". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  19. ^ "At the Paramount: '36 Hours'—Escape Has To Be Total". Buffalo Evening News. February 6, 1965. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  20. ^ Humphreys, Henry S. (March 18, 1965). "Critic Interviews Strolling Czech Pianist—Ivan Moravec". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  21. ^ Stevens, Dale (March 19, 1965). "'Pinocchio' Puppets Booked Into Shubert". The Cincinnati Post. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  22. ^ Richards, Connie (February 13, 1965). "Grim '36 Hours' Opens at Warner". The Commercial Appeal. Memphis, Tennessee, United States. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  23. ^ Howard, Edwin (February 13, 1965). "'36 Hours' Details Bizarre Spy Plot". Memphis Press-Scimitar. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  24. ^ Moore, Charles (February 12, 1965). "'36 Hours' a Psychiatric Tale Of D-Day Intrigue in War II". The Atlanta Constitution. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  25. ^ Lucchese, Sam F. (February 15, 1965). "New World War II Drama Full of Excitement, Thrills". The Atlanta Journal. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  26. ^ Nazzaro, William T. (February 19, 1965). "'36 Hours' Proves Good Production". The Arizona Republic. Phoenix, Arizona, United States. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  27. ^ Mootz, William (February 11, 1965). "'36 Hours' Well Worth The Time". The Courier-Journal. Louisvile, Kentucky, United States. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  28. ^ Fowler, Giles M. (January 31, 1965). "'36 Hours'...Two Hours on Tenterhooks". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  29. ^ Weaver, Emmett (February 11, 1965). "Horror, Suspense and War Films Give Good Variety". Birmingham Post-Herald. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  30. ^ Walrath, Jean (February 6, 1965). "'36 Hours' Taut, Tidy Spy Yarn". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, New York, United States. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  31. ^ Bourke, George (January 29, 1965). "'36 Hours' Fascinating Spy Drama". The Miami Herald. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  32. ^ Hall, Braniard (February 17, 1965). "Garner Turns To Drama In Intriguing '36 Hours'". The Journal-Herald. Dayton, Ohio, United States. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  33. ^ Bosley Crowther (January 29, 1965). "Screen: Contrived Trapping of Spies:Perlberg-Seaton Offer '36 Hours,' a Drama". The New York Times.
  34. ^ Gardner, R.H. (February 12, 1965). "Of Screen: Standard Spy Film". The Sun. Baltimore, Maryland, United States. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  35. ^ Jones, Will (January 29, 1965). "After Last Night: War Story is Dull One". The Minneapolis Tribune. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  36. ^ Morrison, Don (January 30, 1965). "Don Morrison's 2 Cents' Worth: '36 Hours' Seems About That Long". The Minneapolis Star. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  37. ^ Michelson, Herb (March 5, 1965). "Stage and Screen: Ditched Beachhead". Oakland Tribune. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  38. ^ Holley, Jack (February 27, 1965). "Plot in '36 Hours' Weak". Evening World-Herald. Omaha, Nebraska, United States. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  39. ^ Cobb, David (February 27, 1965). "Plot of '36 Hours' overcomes faults". The Toronto Star. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  40. ^ Richards, Dick (November 27, 1964). "POP GOES A MUSICAL—that could have been so much better; An offbeat battle of wits". Daily Mirror. London, England, United Kingdom. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  41. ^ Roud, Richard (November 27, 1964). "New Films in London". The Guardian. Manchester, England, United Kingdom. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  42. ^ Gibbs, Patrick (November 27, 1964). "The Agent's Not for Bluffing". The Daily Telegraph. London, England, United Kingdom. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  43. ^ Walker, Alexander (November 26, 1964). "Yes, everybody gets a pay-off and that's what makes it so funny". Evening Standard. London, England, United Kingdom. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  44. ^ Bennett, Colin (February 8, 1965). "Wartime Thriller of D-Day". The Age. Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  45. ^ Garner, James; Winokur, Jon (2011). The Garner Files: A Memoir. Simon & Schuster. p. 255.
  46. ^ Inman, David (November 8, 2010). "'36 Hours' is World War II thriller". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved November 8, 2010.