When engine problems force a plane headed for Athens to land in Beirut, the past catches up with purser Norman Jones (Mickey Rooney). He manages to convince captain Jamie Faulkner (Lex Barker) and the crew that claims by ruthless gangster Malouf (Walter Szelak) claiming he has stolen his money is a mistake. But once the kidnappings begin, the doubts set in.
Producer Harry Alan Towers (Five Golden Dragons, 1967), though he remained wedded to the exotic locale, would soon learn to prioritize action over romantic entanglement and this suffers from too much romance – married Faulkner trying to resolve his relationship with stewardess girlfriend Louise (Helga Summerfeld), co-pilot Tommy (Michael Medwin) ignoring another stewardess Franzi (France Anglade) in favour of local girl Mimi listed in his little black book of previous conquests.
After a failed attempt to kidnap Jones, the gangsters turn their attentions to female members of the crew. Slim built Tommy proves handy with his fists and soon the crew are either running from trouble or running into trouble even as they attempt to enjoy the city high life. The title has a double meaning – the crew take it to mean that they have time on their hands to pass in as pleasant manner as possible only later realizing that their accidental landing provides the gangsters with a complete day to apprehend/kill Jones before the plane’s rescheduled take-off.
Although a good sight more attractive in the 1960s than when war destroyed the city, Beirut still had comparatively little to offer a visitor beyond a historic site claimed to the Garden of Eden, posh hotels, swimming pools and the kind of belly dancers that you could get anywhere in the Middle East. Still, the movie does its best to convince the audience they are in for an exotic treat. Unfortunately, locale and girls in bikinis do not make up for poor plotting and lack of action.
In terms of casting Towers had hit upon a decent formula in the international coproduction line, Hollywood stars who didn’t cost too much but still retained marquee value and up-and-comers who might be sold as the next best thing to their respective countries, thus bringing in global revenue. Former MGM child star Mickey Rooney (Secret Invasion, 1964) is the requisite Hollywood star, his credentials buffed up by the hit It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), and continually newsworthy for his love life – he was currently on marriage number five.
All-purpose action hero Lex Barker was the surprise box office package. A former Tarzan he was enjoying a new lease of life as a huge star in Germany thanks to the Old Shatterhand series of westerns. Veteran Walter Slezak (Come September, 1961) completed the small group of actors who audiences might automatically recognize.
Heading the newcomers was Englishman Michael Medwin (Crooks Anonymous, 1962) who would later turn producer of If…(1968) ably supported by a stewardess trio played by German Helga Sommerfeld (The Phantom of Soho, 1964), French starlet France Anglade (The Oldest Profession, 1967) and Austrian Helga Lehner (Games of Desire, 1964). Likely more memorable for purveyors of the European scene would be a brief appearance by another Austrian, Maria Rohm (Five Golden Dragons), wife of the producer. You might also spot Wolfgang Lukschy (A Fistful of Dollars, 1964).
British director Peter Bezencenet (Bomb in the High Street, 1963) was better known for his editing skills but didn’t cover himself in glory in either department here. Australian Peter Yeldham (The Liquidator, 1965) wrote the screenplay along with Towers. While not a great film, you can see the Towers style in embryo, this being only the fourth of the around 100 films that would go out under his banner.