Film reviews

#521 – 6 Hours to Live (1932)

6 Hours to Live (1932)

Film review #521


SYNOPSIS: World diplomats have convened at a special assembly to agree on a new global trade deal that requires unanimous approval from all countries. The only country that is opposed to it is Silveria, whose representative Paul Onslow believes it is only his country which will suffer form it. When Paul is murdered, Professor Otto Bauer uses his experimental invention to bring him back to life, so Paul can identify his murderer and be present at the final vote of the trade deal. However, the experiment  only allows him to live six more hours, so he must wrap up all his business in that time…

 THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: 6 Hours to Live is a 1932 drama/sci-fi film, based on the story “Auf weidersehen” by Morton Barteaux. The film centres around a meeting of representatives from every country in the world, as they have convened to agree on a new global trade deal. The deal requires unanimous approval from every country, and the only country refusing to sign is Silveria, represented by Captain Paul Onslow, who believes the deal is bad for his country. This, naturally, has made him many enemies, and an attempt on his life is made after he leaves the conference. While he is in hiding, he realises he is in love with Baroness Valerie von Sturm, who his friend Karl Kranz is in love with, setting up a love triangle of sorts. Unfortunately, Onslow is killed in another attempt on his life, but Professor Otto Bauer’s latest experiment is able to bring him back to life. Unfortunately, it can only do so once for six hours, so Onslow has to find his murderer, deal with his affairs, and go to vote on the trade deal all before he dies for the second and final time. The story is primarily a drama; partly political, partly romance, and as such, there is a lot of dialogue to get through, and many of the scenes are just talking. A lot seems to happen to Onslow in one day, with him realising he is love, having two attempts on his life, and having to vote on this trade deal: with all these things going on, you’d think the film would be packed full of things, but as mentioned, the talking really takes over the majority of the scenes. I feel like more could have been done to set the scene of the film: the politics of this trade deal are left really unexplored, and we don’t know the details, and we are left to experience what feels like an entire relationship between Onslow and the Baroness in the span of one day. It’s easy to pick up and understand, but some exposition would have helped, like why the fictional country of Silveria is the only country in the world not to benefit from this supposed deal, and why he is holding out against it; since the representative who would fill in for him if he was absent also seems to want to vote for it. Him being against everyone else almost makes him seem like a villain, as we have no real knowledge of his motivations, over than “love of his country.” which could mean anything.

So when Onslow is brought back to life for six hours, it makes things a bit more interesting: he has to confront his murderer, vote against the treaty, and deal with his personal affairs all before his time runs out. Given only that a few people know of what has happened, he is able to mostly carry on like nothing has happened, and uses that to end his relationship with the Baroness and to force her to move on, as she is unaware that he is about to die (again), and that will be easier for her to accept. While you might think that returning from the dead would be a shocking and harrowing experience knowing you’re about to die again, Onslow is very serene and tranquil about the whole thing, and his “experience” of death has left him unafraid of what is to come. Instead of hurrying about, he revisits some people he met during the day, to comfort them and aid their troubles. He becomes almost an angelic figure, and I think the leaving of many things ambiguous is intentional to give it that mysterious feel and to keep the mystery of death intact. It almost feels like Onslow is meant to have a change of character when he was revived into this caring, empathic individual, but his personality was more or less like that to begin with, which doesn’t have the impact of something like Ebenzer Scrooge’s change of heart in “A Christmas Carol.” while the premise is interesting, it eventually falls into a very typical message of “science not going too far, and that some things should be left to God.” which crops up a lot in films of this era. Also, the whole reveal of the murderer at the end is anticlimactic, as it turns out to be someone who was only briefly seen at the start of the film, and plays no part whatsoever in anything. The scene where Onslow visits a prostitute to comfort her is a good one with some uplifting and genuine dialogue, but on the whole it is a very mixed bag.

Overall, 6 Hours to Live has an interesting premise, and provides some dramatic scenes, but some parts (particularly the romance and the dichotomy of science vs God) feels very much of it’s time. The acting carries the drama very well for the most part, but being very dialogue-heavy, it is not going to appeal to everyone. there’s definitely areas to improve in the film, but it still has some good points that keep the film together.