I like this movie, especially Rod Taylor and the phony post-war world we get a few glimpses of, but the story suffers in parts from being needlessly overplotted to the point of undermining the whole premise.

Primarily I'm thinking of the audience suddenly learning, out of the blue, that Garner's and Saint's characters (Pike and Anna) are married. This is utterly pointless to the story; nothing is different than it would have been had they just become romantically involved. More to the point, the Germans were trying to make Pike give them the D-Day info; why distract him with extraneous aspects that have no bearing on their effort, which in fact could only interfere with it? By introducing such an unnecessary element the Germans were running a greater risk of something going wrong. As for the filmmakers, to spring this on the audience out of nowhere, and then basically just drop it as a plot line (almost no mention of it is made after the initial revelation, which is thrown in virtually as an afterthought), makes the film that much less focused and sensible.

Some of the interaction and competition between Gerber and Schack is also overdone, with needless plot threads tossed in to no purpose.

Unfortunately this was a tendency of writer-director George Seaton, who often overburdened his plots with pointless asides and developments that had no bearing on the story and just made the drama fuzzier and less believable.

And by the way, NO ONE with knowledge of the Normandy invasion was allowed out of Britain for months prior to D-Day. (And the German spy network of elderly people stalking Pike in London was laughably absurd.)


This is about 2/3 of a great and involving film, but then it really loses its way in the last 1/3. Same thing with Seaton's other WW2 movie COUNTERFEIT TRAITOR. Terrific through most, then a big letdown.

When seen in the theater in the mid-60s, 36 HOURS was so involving that when Pike reveals all the Normandy beachhead names, the audience gasped! Ohmygosh, we just lost the war! (20 years later)

"I think it would be fun to run a newspaper"


I agree with you about 36 HOURS. But I actually like THE COUNTERFEIT TRAITOR a lot, though it did take several viewings over a few years to make me fully appreciate it. It was one of the few of Seaton's films that he didn't overplot (well, only a little). I host a classic movie weekly at a club I belong to and when I ran CT a few years ago people were blown away by it -- they just loved it. I was surprised how many had never seen it. I may try 36 HOURS when it comes out in June.


This is about 2/3 of a great and involving film, but then it really loses its way in the last 1/3.
I agree, at least about the last third. The first part was good although my credulity was stretched almost to the breaking point by Taylor's character's actions.

But then they escape, then they hide in a wrecked building, then they show up at the minister's house.... That's when I shut if off. The movie just didn't know when to stop. To me, the movie was about the "36 hours" and whether or not Garner would fool the Germans. It should have ended when that was resolved.

"The more you drive, the less intelligent you are"
-- Repo Man


contains Spoilers *** Hobnob -- I think the reason they told Garner that he was married was that a spy might be more willing to tell secrets to a wife rather than a stranger; it also gives the perfect reason for her staying with him night & day. Observation (1) Garner's character gives away the landing location not just once, but THREE times - and the 3rd time is even AFTER he knows they are playing tricks with him (by setting the clock ahead) Not a very good spy! Observation (2) When they go to the minister for help escaping, Garner never tells them that their operation has been given away when he spilled his guts to the Germans. If the minister's maid had known this, she could have escaped while there was still time.


Some good points...and you may be right that the Germans would have thought he'd spill to his "wife" more readily than to others. But my major problem with this plot element is the way it was handled -- as I said, just thrown in off-handedly and belatedly. If they were going to make this a key part of the plot (movie plot or the Germans' plot-within-the-movie) they should have made Anna's status clear from the start (and why bother making her a nurse, or emphasizing that aspect until dropping the wife bombshell?). But I still think there were too many potential pitfalls that could lead Pike to figure out or discover that something was amiss by throwing in what's still a basically meaningless plot point.


Actually, I think the plot worked well in this film, and details about her being married to Pike was appropriate, in line with continually springing little surprises on both Pike and the audience. The two things that bothered me about this otherwise excellent film were (1) somehow I think Rod Taylor was miscast in the rolel I don't know why, but he never convinced me he was a German officer, which is key; and (2) the love-theme music, especially at the end, was so soapy it almost ruined the film. The absence of sex/romance between Saint and Garner was refreshing, especially since compassion and caring was substituted, but the score did not support that, unfortunately.

"Counterfeit Traitor" was also, IMHO, a great war film. And as a trilogy of sorts, one could add the little-known but fine James Garner / Julie Andrews war movie, "The Americanization of Emily" -- also centering on D-Day (and one of all-time favorites).


Apparently many reviewers at the time thought Rod Taylor was not quite cast right, though paradoxically most of them also thought he gave the best performance in the movie! I'm a fan of Taylor and always thought he never quite got as far as his talents merited, but while his casting doesn't particularly bother me, I can understand why many people just don't feel right about him playing this character -- it seems a little, well, out of character.

I also agree with you about the love-theme part of the music score. Here again, I'm a great fan of Dimitri Tiomkin and love most of his music, but that love portion really was soapy, as you say (I might add sappy), and so low key, and so out of tenor with the rest of the film, that it was a misfire. In fact too much of this score was understated; some occasionally more rousing music would have been more appropriate.

But I stick by my belief that the marriage was a needless contrivance. Besides being irrelevant to the plot, it would simply distract Pike onto other matters when the Germans needed him to concentrate on his "recovery" and spill the beans about Normandy. And they were vastly increasing the chances of a mistake, some misstatement or other error on the part of Anna or anybody else involved in the deception. The first rule of disinformation is to keep it simple. Fewer contrivances, fewer lies: less margin for error, more believable to the subject.


Funny enough. I feel that the Germans had beat themselves before they started (even though they get the info). They were getting complicated because he was "intelligent" and might see through too simple a ruse. Of course they were obviously not prepared on all fronts of their deception, what with all the boot-clicking.

As for the paper-cut...WTF!?! Why did the Germans give in so fast? He (The Major) could have easily played it off as Garner's character (Pike) simply relating irrelevant things. I mean he is in a hospital for serious amnesia and he bought all that fairly quickly, to suddenly see a paper-cut and have an epiphany of the truth!

And Taylor's character was right after all. As for the Germans being had at Normandy, I'm sure there were people in Germany who knew the invasion would be at Normandy and they did prepare for it, but the Allies had learned their lesson about invading NAZI occupied Europe. The Germans could have known for weeks, months I dare say, and it wouldn't have mattered much. Five straight years of war with the nations of the world can bring you down a notch.

The Volkssturm Gruppenführer was hilarious at the end though. See quotes section for best line in the movie.

Nice to see Garner in something besides a Western or Romantic-Comedies.


THat's exactly the point that Rod Taylor is supposed to look miscast as a German officer. Remember Garner's line after he's caught on, when he tells Taylor "the most convicing part of it was you". And remember that Taylor's character was born in the US, much loike Peter Graves in Stalag 17.


I caught one thing that didn't seem to make sense. After Ostermann tells Gerber that he has 36 hours, Gerber brings up the 18 successful cases. He says the information obtained was minor ("troop disposition, strength of units"), but Pike knows about D-Day. That sounds like he was using his technique on Allied soldiers, but later on, when he tells Pike about the other cases, he's talking about German soldiers.


Haven't seen it recently but I think it was intended that the false amnesia technique started out as a method to treat traumatised German soldiers but had been developed to the stage of gaining intelligence from enemy soldiers-Garner's character would be it's toughest test yet as he wasn't a 'simple' frontline soldier but a trained intelligence officer likely to be far more sceptical-the marriage part which seems to obsess above posters is logical-was pretty common for wounded soldiers to form relationships with their nurses and finding out he was 'married' would act as a shock to make him more amenable to other elements of the plot-it also has the effect of making the audience think about previous things done by the Germans and how they fit in to their scheme (getting the rings etc).

As to finding out where the invasion would be, there were more options for the Allies to invade than the Germans could cover well enough to stop them (if indeed it was possible at all, given Allied air and naval supremacy)-the Allies had engaged in a variety of plans to mislead them and there were legitimate military reasons to think the Pas de Calais would be the target or even further up the Belgian coast to capture the port of Antwerp etc.

'What is an Oprah?'-Teal'c.


"Most important of all, it substantiates what the High Command has been planning on."

The advantage of being on the defensive is that you have interior lines of communication. That is, the defender can easily move his forces from one zone of the battle to another, as well as easily reinforce forces in contact with the enemy and supply all of his forces. The attacker must maneuver around the enemy's controlled area to distribute, reinforce, and supply.

In landing on a hostile beach head there are several limiting factors. It must be a beach; we do not have landing craft that can land on rocks. That isn't completely true today because the Marine Corps has LCACs (hovercraft), helicopters, and LAAAV-7s (amphibious armored assault tractors) that can handle much rougher coasts than landing craft could deal with during WW 2. The weather needs to be cooperative. If waves are too high or tides too low, a landing will be impossible. Also, bad weather can make it impossible to land airborne troops or to provide air attack.

The Germans did not have sufficient force to protect all possible landing sights, but they had enough to destroy a landing attempt if they could be close enough to the beaches to concentrate power in time. So, misleading them about the location was vital to a successful landing.

A key element of a successful misinformation campaign, such as convincing the Germans that we would invade at the Pas de Calais is to give the enemy hints that you will do what they expect you to do. The Allies knew that the German High Command expected the Allies to land at the Pas de Calais. It was the most likely spot for us to land. It was the nearest to the embarkation points, the closest to the Allied air bases, and so forth. So, the Allies reinforced that belief at every opportunity. It worked so well that Hitler refused to allow reinforcements to move from the area around the Pas de Calais to the Contentin Peninsula or Normandy until at least 48 hours after the start of the invasion.
Even so, the invasion was no walk over. We did not achieve all of the objectives for D-Day until D-plus 47. Fortunately, the Germans had pretty much spent themselves delaying us that long.

Once Patton's Third Army broke out, we blasted through France and the Low Countries as rapidly as the Germans had four years earlier. Then came the Battle of the Bulge. That looked terrible for the Allies at the time, but in hindsight it may have hastened Allied progress. The Germans through most of their remaining front line forces against the Allies, then they were cut off and destroyed. Had they used them to hold us at the Siegfried Line, they might have held us there until the Russians advanced all the way to the Ruhr Valley. Who knows?


I basically agree. The first time Pike mentioned Normandy as the invasion site to Anna was when they were sitting out on the porch talking about his past- before she told him that they were "married." That revelation came afterwards. And you're right- if the Germans thought that he would talk more freely with a woman who was supposed to be his wife, they would have told Anna to share that "fact" a lot sooner than she did, if it was that important.


I'm not sure the 'marriage' thing was well-contrived - but this was a different era of cinematography, and audiences were less sophisticated. Hitchcock's 'North By NorthWest' (1959) was made in the same period, also featuring Eva Marie Saint: recall the the U.S. Secret Service were misleading foreign 'spies' by continually re-locating their own fictional spy, for whom Cary Grant is mistaken? The plot hinges on the events that occur as a result. No one questioned whether foreign agents are dumb enough to mistake freshly-tailored suits and rented (but empty) hotel rooms for a real person! So, perhaps a mid- 1960's audience might 'buy' that a person who is told that he has amnesia, could forget about a spouse?

That aside, I think hobnob's objections make for a valid and interesting debate. Nonetheless, the premise of the film was nifty. I mentioned in another posting that the Mission Impossible people used a similar plot a few years later for TV. Such devices may be a mix of suspense and science-fiction, but they make for good viewing.

I also concur that the last 1/3 of the film was needless. I would add about 10 minutes to the interrogation/realization portion, and end the film as Garner and Saint escape. Overall: shorter.

:-) canuckteach (--:


Thanks for your nice words, canuckteach. Still, I have to take issue with the analogy you drew between North by Northwest and 36 Hours, about the development of the plot in each film.

Of course, the plots of every film are driven by its elements. But in NbyNw the business about Grant's being mistaken for a spy isn't some incidental concept; it's the hinge of the entire movie, however illogical some of it may be (and much of it is). There's no film without it.

By contrast, the marriage aspect in 36 Hours is completely extraneous to the plot -- it serves no real function (either in the Nazis' plan, or in the film's storyline), and is therefore entirely dispensible to both the Germans' ruse and to the film itself. The fake marriage never has any bearing on the characters' behavior, what they do or say, or on anything else -- within the context of the film's tale, or for the film as such. It's just a tossed-in, utterly pointless bit that is quickly forgotten and made irrelevant after its initial mention. And, of course, as I've argued, as a device for the Germans to use, it not only serves absolutely no purpose (as we see in the movie), but is fraught with pitfalls, needlessly adding a pointless element, requiring more contrivances and deceit, that could only heighten the risk that the Germans' plans could be uncovered.

Certainly, someone with amnesia could forget a marriage. But that, too, is totally beside the point. Why bother to complicate matters with such a useless, pointless, irrelevant and needlessly risky side issue? Even the movie makes little of it. So why stick it in at all?


... this was a different era of cinematography, and audiences were less sophisticated.

So you're saying today's audiences are more sophisticated?

Judging by the majority of movies that are being made today, I somehow don't think so.


I think the reason they told Garner that he was married was that a spy might be more willing to tell secrets to a wife rather than a stranger; it also gives the perfect reason for her staying with him night & day.

Good explanation Ksf-2; thanks.

My 150 (or so) favorite movies:


In addition, the concentration camps were not liberated until April, 1945, almost a year after D-Day, so the camps and tatooed numbers were know by very few.


The marriage is quite well used in my mind. They stole his mother's rings from his London flat and then he sees them on Anna's finger. In his mind how else could they have gotten there other than from a legitimate wedding?

Then the rings are used as barter to get across the Swiss border and also are used by Krauss to expose the maid(although I'm not sure why he recognizes the rings).

I am also confused as to why Pike didn't warn the maid about the minister being exposed as a friend of the Allies.


The point is, why drag in a marriage at all? It serves no purpose for the Germans' plan -- in what way did this ploy advance their scheme? Bringing in a marriage adds all sorts of needless complications to the cover stories, his fake post-war biography, etc. It sets up many more potential traps the Germans could fall into while working on Pike. If they had to fake a relationship between him and Anna, a simple romance at the base would have sufficed...but why bother with this aspect at all anyway? It's always best to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible. No complications, nothing to explain, no stray rings and other problems to account for with ever more tenuous lies. The marriage is even presented as an afterthought -- Anna casually mentions it only after quite a while has elapsed. The way this is suddenly sprung on the audience is preposterous and unconvincing -- we never hear anything about it beforehand, and with all the nuances and potential pitfalls of the Germans' plot being laid out in great detail ahead of time, you'd think it would have been a pretty major thing for Gerber to have mentioned in his briefings to the other Germans on the base. No, this marriage was an idiotic and completely pointless complication, both to the film itself and to the story in the film.


"The way this is suddenly sprung on the audience is preposterous and unconvincing -- we never hear anything about it beforehand"

Well we do get a little inkling about it prior. We see the rings get swiped from his apartment in England. What's that called? Foreshadowing?


Yes, they take his mother's rings. They also take a lot of his other personal stuff. If they were going to convince him he'd been in hospital for a long time undergoing treatment, they'd certainly have moved as many of his personal belongings as possible to the place in order to convince him things were legitimate. There's nothing more noteworthy about taking the rings than there is about taking his comb, as far as the Nazis' plot or the film's storyline is concerned.

Nor is there any mention in England, or at any time prior to Anna's casual, off-handed mention that they'd been married, of any fake marriage in the Germans' plot.

But even if you regard taking the rings as some kind of foreshadowing of the Germans' plot (and I doubt anyone thought of such a thing before hearing about the "marriage" later on), it's still beside the basic point: that the fiction of a marriage is utterly irrelevant to anything the Germans need to make their deception succeed. It does not advance their plot (or the film's story line); it's either unmentioned or forgotten altogether throughout almost the entire film other than the brief segment where Anna drops this little tidbit, making its total irrelevancy even more glaring; and in terms of the Nazis' plans, it not only adds nothing whatsoever to helping their cause, it heightens the risk of discovery by forcing them to use more lies and contrivances in deluding Pike. Again, such deceptions require as much simplicity in execution as possible in order to maximize their chances of success.

The fake marriage is just a poorly contrived and irrelevant aside thrown in by the filmmakers for no discernable purpose, as it has no bearing on the film's storyline itself, nor to the Germans' plans within the film. If it had, it would have been central to the story, which it clearly isn't, and been made much of in the movie, which it also isn't.


When Maj. Gerber (Rod Taylor) told Maj Pike (James Garner) that one of the newer techniques of extracting information, "No sleep," it later shows both Pike (Garner) and Anna (Eva Marie Saint) being subjected to this technique and acquiring info about the Normandy landings within a rather short period of time. I would think this technique would take longer, perhaps a minimum of 4-5 days or more. But in 36 hrs, it appears to have been accomplished within one or two days.


Although I think the whole plot was actually quite impressive, I agree that the marriage/romance between Garner and Saint may be kind of overdrawn. It's one of the first things that further confirms his beliefs it's all a hoax after he rediscovers his paper cut, and it lays out other flaws with the so-called perfect strategy that has been played out 18 times before, like why aren't they living together? It's a bit too simplistic to just state it's against policy. So, what, they never sleep together?

With all other things like the fact he leaves Britain shortly before the invasion, I can totally suspend my disbelief. I wouldn't allow it but I can live with their reasoning of keeping up appearances like everything is business as usual.