Monday, September 19, 2011

36 Hours (1965)

Director: George Seaton

Starring: James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Rod Taylor, Werner Peters, John Banner, Russell Thorson, Alan Napier

More info: IMDb

Tagline: "Give me any American for 36 hours and I'll give you back a traitor"

Plot: In this psychological war-drama an Army Major is captured by the Germans during World War II. They attempt to brainwash him into believing the war is over and that he is safe in an Allied hospital, so that he will divulge Allied invasion plans.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yup.

Here's an excellent WWII thriller you probably never heard of. It's been a while since I last saw it and it still had some surprises in store for me. I had forgotten a major plot point of the ending. This is one case where I'm glad my memory didn't serve me well. You've got some solid performances by the three leads, particularly Rod Taylor. He was damn good. Garner is always fun and likable as hell. He's that same guy here but with less of the funny he sometimes brings to his roles. Look for Schultz (John Banner) from TV's HOGAN'S HEROES and Alfred the butler (Alan Napier) from TV's BATMAN.

I like the surprises in the last half hour and that definitely makes for some good "Oh, FUCK!" moments but there are a couple of things that bugged me. The first is Dimitri Tiomkin's score. I like every note except for the fluffy guy/girl business. Even for the mid-60s it sounds outdated, as if it were written for a love story 15 years earlier. Everything else he wrote for this picture is great. The other thing is there's too much attention paid to Anna (Saint) and her back story. I don't mind her history, as I think it's important, but there were a couple of times, one in particular that lasted several minutes, where the picture screeched to a halt to give us the details. It fell forced and it interrupted the tension. 36 HOURS is almost two hours already and I can't help but feel that there could have been a better solution. But don't let any of that sway you from watching this. It's worth it.

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