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Five Graves to Cairo Reviews

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rubystevens
rubystevens

Super Reviewer

December 4, 2012
fun wartime espionage thriller set in the sahara. franchot tone makes a fine dashing lead, a british soldier stranded in the desert and overtaken by the nazi high command, with anne baxter as his haughty love interest, a french hotel maid desperate to make a deal with them. and how can one go wrong with erich von stroheim as field marshall rommel. akim tamiroff is a wee bit over the top but there's suspense, comedy, romance, really something for everyone. watch the first scene and see if you're not hooked
February 9, 2008
See Von Stroheim playing Rommel and die. The German genius must have been secretly delighted to hear about the break out of WWII as he could once more be "the man you'll love to hate". The rest of the film is rather an uninteresting studio B despite a few good scenes by director Billy Wilder who may not have been quite used to Hollywood yet.
August 9, 2010
A bit disappointing, but atmospheric.
ray
January 24, 2013
My choice of Wilder films I'm watching is indeed a thing of curiosity. At this point, I've only seen some of his mediocre work and beside The Apartment left out the good stuff.

Five Graves to Cairo is one of his earliest films (his third feature as a director), and beside some funny moments and a really great premise is a comedy of errors - literally.

Beside the hilariously bad opening sequence with the "ghost tank" in the desert and maybe the worst staggering I've ever seen by a professional actor, the casting is slightly atrocious. Multinationality Hollywood-style: Anne Baxter (US) plays a French maid (faking a really bad accent), Franchot Tone (US) plays a British army Corporal (he doesn't even try), Erich von Stroheim (Austria) plays Erwin Rommel with a light Schwarzenegger-esque accent, furthermore we've got a Spanish as an Italian and an Armenian as a Egyptian. Lol, why not?

The film also fails in focussing on the good stuff and leaving out the goofy scenes. It doesn't get to thrilling even though there would be enough material for a serious spy film and despite some memorable one-liners, it doesn't fulfill its comedic potential either.

There are some scenes though, that show what Wilder is capable of doing. In situations of great despair and earnestness he finds the fun stuff beneath the drama, digs it out and makes us laugh - and feel kinda bad for it the next second - Wilder specialized in this kind of storytelling like no second director (Lubitsch and in some of his films, Chaplin, came close though).
This is an early efforts of his and definitely not his best - I can't understand why Tarantino put it in his list of his favourite eleven movies of all time (which was actually the reason I was watching it).
Kevin L.
January 3, 2013
The fate of Cairo is in the hands of a British corporal undercover in Rommel's headquarters
Aditya D. Mallya
March 3, 2012
An early Billy Wilder gem, 'Five Graves to Cairo' doesn't have the tightness and supreme perfection of the master's later works, but it is still a tremendously entertaining and gripping film.
December 5, 2011
It's not badly acted or directed, but Wilder made a war movie look like a mix of a James Bond film and a bad children's cartoon, with the worst elements of each. Everyone is annoyingly charicaturesque, the mystery is obvious and the abuse of stereotypes is revolting. Besides, the Desert Fox's portray is one of the most ridiculous, unfunny, rioting and historically innacurate ever. Old bad nazi, good ally flick with charm for people who like shallowness, bad vaudeville comedy, and dislike solid war themed movies.
T.S.M.
August 8, 2010
Terrific stuff. Preachy at times, but Wilder maintains a good pace and some solid suspense, allowing the film to function without the context of war. Franchot Tone and Anne Baxter aren't the most nuanced performers, but I enjoyed watching them here, and Erich von Stroheim brings his usual level of awesome. And there was a young Peter Van Eyck as well, which was nice to see. The standout though, as he so often is for me, was Akim Tamiroff. Hilarious comic relief throughout the film, but the look on his face in the penultimate scene is heartbreaking. Wilder still seems to be finding his feet as a director, but I think this is a very solid early entry in his canon.
The -Stick
January 6, 2010
The Second Battle of El Alamein, which commenced October 1942, marked a major turning point for the allies in Northern Africa. The advancement of General Erwin "Desert Fox" Rommel's Afrika Korps were finally halted and repulsed in their bid to gain the rich oil fields of the middle east.

Director Billy Wilder (who also co-wrote the screenplay) capitalized on this historic battle for his 2nd Hollywood film, FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO - which actually takes a fictionalized account of the behind-the-scenes events leading up to the actual battle itself. I think it's fascinating how the story in the film meshes with real life events and gives an added dimension to this wartime propaganda film...and as propaganda - the film succeeded in boosting morale of filmgoers at the time, I'm sure - but it's blend of drama, suspense and comedic moments ensure that moviegoers today will still find it a treat.

Corporal John Bramble (Franchot Tone) is the lone survivor of a british tank crew. During the opening credits we see a lone tank rumbling over sand dunes, apparently with it's accelerator stuck and the crew either dead or passed out. A half-conscious Bramble manages to climb up to the top hatch only to be ejected from the tank as it crests a dune. Bramble wanders the desert until he comes to a town deserted by it's inhabitants for fear of the advancing Nazis. Delirious from heat-stroke, Bramble mistakes a deserted inn for British headquarters. Inn-keeper Farid (Akim Tamiroff) and his french-born maid, Mouche (Anne Baxter) hears the noisy intruder in the lobby and investigates. Farid is quick to render aid to Bramble...but not so Mouche - as she has grown to hate the British due to events stemming from the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940.

Bramble passes out in the lobby just as the Nazis arrive in town and Farid does his best to hide him...as for Mouche - she suggests they turn him over to the Nazis and be done with him - lest they face the firing squad for harboring an enemy.

Representing the Nazis is Lt. Schwegler (Peter Van Eyck), a young and handsome Aryan who is General Rommel's top aide. Schwegler is in charge of setting up the inn as temporary lodging for the General and his staff. The ever-nervous Farid reluctantly welcomes the business...but Mouche has her own agenda regarding the Nazis.

Erich Von Stroheim portrays General Rommel here. I think it's very interesting how Rommel has such a prominent role in this film. He isn't the stereotypical nasty Nazi as seen often in other wartime propaganda films. There is a bit of depth to his character here at least...
Director Stroheim will team up with Billy Wilder again seven years later in the classic SUNSET BLVD.

I really don't want to mention anything more about the story because the film does take some interesting twists along the way. You'll have to find out for yourself what the "Five Graves" are...

8.5 / 10
SeeTheSun
June 28, 2006
[font=Trebuchet MS]Full review to come.[/font]
rayatcov
July 27, 2005
[font=Fixedsys]I have recently seen this film on TV in England (where I live) and taped it on video and have watched it another twice (two times US). I rate it very good not as good as Cassablanca or the like but enjoyable all the same. With all due respect to those involved it is quite a change for an American actor (Franchot Tone) to take the part of an Englishman with any credible belief.
I quite enjoy this film and look forward to watching it again in the near future.
Ray
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