Film / 36 Hours (1965)

36 Hours is a 1965 World War II film directed by George Seaton and starring James Garner, Rod Taylor, and Eva Marie Saint. It was adapted from a short story by Roald Dahl.

The film is set just before D-Day. The Germans drug and capture Major Jefferson Pike (Garner), an American intelligence officer on a mission to Lisbon. They know he was briefed on the planned time and place of the invasion. How to make him talk freely?

When he wakes, he is told that he has lost all memory of the last six years. That's right, Major, it's 1950. Yes, of course the Allies won the war back in 1944. You are in a U.S. military hospital in Occupied Germany while we treat your most recent bout of amnesia. Now, as part of your therapy, tell us the last thing you remember...

This film provides examples of:

  • Amnesia Danger: Inverted. Pike doesn't have amnesia. He just is being made to think he does.
  • Amnesiac Lover: Inverted. Pike is led to believe that he fell in love with and married Anna Hedler during the period he cannot remember.
  • Bittersweet Ending: If you were expecting wedding bells, think again. The winds of war take the lead characters in different directions. But there is a hint that Anna Hedler has regained the ability to feel.
  • Chessmaster: Gerber.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory: Upon beginning to suspect the ruse, Pike barks an order at a supposed hospital staff member, who promptly clicks his heels in classic German fashion.
  • Faked Rip Van Winkle: Done twice. First as the whole premise of the film, and again when Gerber sets the clock in Pike's room ahead several hours so that Pike will think the invasion has begun.
  • Foregone Conclusion: We all know that the D-Day landings will achieve surprise. The tension-arousing question is how Pike will penetrate the ruse, and whether he will survive.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Dr Gerber
  • Idiot Ball: Pike, when he falls for the ruse about the clock when he already knows that Gerber has huge form when it comes to messing about with his perceptions of time.
  • I Gave My Word: Pike and Hedler go back for the case notes that Gerber had made about real amnesia patients before his scientific idealism was corrupted, in order to fulfil their promise to him.
  • Just One Little Mistake: Pike notices that the paper cut he got in England - supposedly six years ago - still has not healed.
  • Locked Out of the Loop / Massive Multiplayer Scam: an entire cast of English-speaking German agents work together to deceive Pike.
  • Only in It for the Money: The amiably corrupt Sergeant Ernst who helps them escape and shoots the evil SS officer, Schack, rather than have Schack spoil his profitable people-smuggling business.
  • Trapped in Villainy: Anna Hedler