36 Hours is a fanciful war melodrama limning an incident during that crucial number of hours immediately preceding D-Day. The production takes its title from the span of time allotted a German psychiatrist to learn from a captured US intelligence officer fully briefed on the oncoming Allied invasion the exact point of landing.
Based on Roald Dahl’s Beware of the Dog and a story of Carl K. Hittleman and Luis H. Vance, it provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse of high military intelligence at work.
James Garner plays the American sent to Lisbon to confirm through a German contact that the Nazis expect the Allies to land in the Calais area rather than the secretly-planned Normandy beach. Drugged, he’s flown under heavy sedation by the Germans to an isolated resort in Bavaria where upon regaining consciousness he’s led to believe he has been an amnesia victim for six years.
Rod Taylor registers most effectively in the offbeat role of the German, playing it for sympathy and realistically. Garner in a derring-do part is okay and up to his usual sound brand of histrionics. Eva Marie Saint also delivers strongly as the nurse drafted by the Nazis from a concentration camp and promised help by Taylor if she plays her part well – in the masquerade with Garner.