FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO: DVD
In June 1942, the British Army, retreating from victorious Desert Fox Erwin Rommel (Erich von Stroheim), leaves a lone survivor on the Egyptian border: Corporal John Bramble (Franchot Tone). Finding refuge at a remote desert hotel - soon to be the German HQ - Bramble finds the hotel's manager Farid (Akim Tamiroff) and its lone employee Mouche (Anne Baxter) ready to help. He assumes the identity of the hotel's dead waiter, which proves unexpectedly perilous. The new guest of honour is Rommel himself, hinting at his secret strategy, code named 'five graves to Cairo'. The fate of the British army in Egypt depends on whether a humble corporal can unravel the secret.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This cleverly orchestrated espionage/war drama (with a patriotic coda befitting its year of production, 1943) is enhanced by subtle touches of humour - all emenating from character - which makes it a triple joy as a classic from Billy Wilder. (Triple because Wilder's work is one, the cast's work is double ...) Erich von Stroheim gives a grizzly performance as Rommel yet manages to quote from an opera as he mischievously declines a special offer from Anne Baxter's wonderfully created Mouche, the hotel chambermaid with a French brother rotting in a German camp. Fortunio Bonanova adds yet more humour as Italian Gen. Sebastiano. And Akim Tamiroff is a 100% comic creation, a farcical caricature of a nervous and servile chap whose heart is in the right place ... except when it's in his throat from fear.
But the story gets deadly serious as the plot moves towards its climax. Baxter is terrific; beguiling, sweet, determined, vulnerable and heroic all at once. Franchot Tone makes an appealing accidental hero, a Corporal who rises to the occasion with courage and resilience. His decency also makes him charming. Peter Van Eyck captures all the arrogance and venality of an officer in an army that believes it is a natural source of power, and all the supports are top notch.
The drama plays out in sustained tension under Wilder's effortless direction and Miklós Rózsa's score is a perfect example of how it was done (very well) in the 40s.
Published: April 17, 2008
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FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO: DVD (PG)
CAST: Franchot Tone, Anne Baxter, Erich von Stroheim, Akim Tamiroff, Peter Van Eyck, Fortunio Bonanova
PRODUCER: Charles Brackett
DIRECTOR: Billy Wilder
SCRIPT: Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett (play by Lajos Biro)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Seitz
EDITOR: Doane Harrison
MUSIC: Miklós Rózsa
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hans Dreier, Hal Pereier
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
PRESENTATION: 4:3 Black & White
SPECIAL FEATURES: Hollywood Remembers: Anne Baxter
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
DVD RELEASE: May 4, 2007
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.