Five Graves to Cairo - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Five Graves to Cairo Reviews

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June 16, 2015
Fantastic opening that the rest of the film never really tops. But this nice little wartime thriller works on multiple levels. Propaganda film, yes, with some "end justifies the means philosophy" but also a decent spy thriller with a mistaken identity twist. Tone strikes an slightly imperfect tone (sorry) - he's ok but a tad generic/forced as the hero. But the rest of the cast excel, especially von Stroheim hamming it up as Rommel, and Tamiroff as the flustered, decent hotel owner.

The only thing that doesn't really work are some of the broader attempts at humour - they sit and bit oddly with the dark and cynical tone of the rest of the film. Strangely overlooked effort on Billy Wilder's resume - it came just before two of his classics - Double Indemnity and Lost Weekend. I guess those had better scripts and casts, and Billy was still honing his directorial craft here - but nevertheless - the lensing is often stunning, and very clever, compared to most films of the era. And typically for him, the film is laced with dry, wry dialogue, which he captures in some nice exchanges.

Milder Wilder, but even milder Wilder is well worth it.
½ September 19, 2014
This early Billy Wilder film (written with Charles Brackett) takes place in Egypt during WWII with Stroheim as Rommel. He makes a tough egotistic and possibly neurotic Nazi. Franchot Tone plays the Brit who gets mistaken for a double agent and finds himself able to find out about Rommel's secret plans and pass them along to the Allies. The whole story takes place in a run-down old hotel in the middle of the desert run by Akim Tamiroff (playing Egyptian) and Anne Baxter (playing French). It's more fun than suspenseful but it is also pointed propaganda (allowing Wilder to avoid the sappy happy ending that seems to be coming). Uh, spoiler (but not if you know Wilder).
December 6, 2011
Lots of propaganda, but still a decent story.
½ August 9, 2010
A bit disappointing, but atmospheric.
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).
½ January 3, 2013
The fate of Cairo is in the hands of a British corporal undercover in Rommel's headquarters
Super Reviewer
½ 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
½ October 9, 2012
wilder's take on 'grand hotel"
½ August 17, 2012
Wartime adventure with thriller, suspense and historic events--Offbeat war flick!!
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.
½ February 16, 2011
A pretty good classic spy-drama from Billy Wilder.
½ September 23, 2010
A good early film by Billy Wilder. Made in 1943, I suppose the propagandistic ending was inevitable. Other than that, an interesting entertaining film.
February 22, 2010
another winner fron Wilder just re-watched and upgraded great WWII movie
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.
½ June 29, 2010
"Five Graves to Cairo" is a terrific entertainment from early in Billy Wilder's career. Franchot Tone plays a British officer who impersonates a hotel waiter to evade German discovery when they take over an Egyptian inn, only to find out that the real waiter had been a Nazi agent. Now he's in a delicate game of cat and mouse, forced to keep up the charade in order to avoid the suspicions of Field Marshall Rommel (well played by Eric von Stronheim), but also to make good on an opportunity to discover the secret of Rommel's North Africa Campaign. The plot keeps thickening in this ever-tense war/espionage hybrid, but in true Wilder fashion, there is plenty of levity, most often in the form of a flamboyant Italian general played by Fortunio Bonanova.
Super Reviewer
May 13, 2010
(1943 Director: Billy Wlder) Hmmm...interesting plot. Sounds like some humor?!
½ April 27, 2010
Billy Wilderâ??s debut is a truly forgotten gem. A war film that dissevers a lot more attention.
½ March 21, 2010
Writer & director Billy Wilder's sophomore frame as a helmer occurred with the World War II era suspense-thriller "5 Graves to Cairo," the first of several W.W. II movies that included a real-life personality from the war, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Despite it being a pro-Allied propaganda effort, the Billy Wilder & Charles Brackett screenplay treats Rommel with considerable respect considering what some Allied war movies did to him. Noted Austrian silent movie director and actor Erich von Stroheim plays the renowned military leader and struts about in high fashion with a swagger stick. The Academy nominated this black & white, 96-minute film for three Oscars, including Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.

The story concerns resilient British Corporal J.J. Bramble (Franchot Tone of "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer") is the member of an Allied tank crew. Everybody in the armored vehicle is dead and the tank careens through the desert over one dune after another until Bramble regains consciousness and bails off it. Confused and delirious from his long walk in a broiling sun, he wanders aimlessly through the sands and finds himself at an oasis hotel. Unfortunately for Cpl. Bramble, the British have pulled out and the Afrika Korps are pulling in to occupy the joint as their new headquarters. The hotel owner Farid (Akim Tamiroff of "Topkapi") and his chambermaid Frenchwoman Mouche (Anne Baxter of "All About Eve) try to persuade Bramble to get out while he can. Bramble refuses to leave. He assures them that he will shot either as an enemy soldier or as one that they cannot afford to furnish water. While the Germans swarm into the hotel and dictate the new arrangements for the owners and the new boarders, Farid hides Bramble behind the registration counter. Later, Farid and Mouche watch in horror as the Germans move the counter to another spot in the room. Bramble remains hidden in the counter while all of this is transpiring. Bramble hears them talk about a waiter named Davos who worked for Farid. It seems that Davos died in an explosion. Bramble dons the waiter's uniform and slips into his shoes, shoes designed for a man with a clubfoot.

Surprisingly, the Germans seek out Davos because he is an elite German spy with a well-deserved reputation, but nobody knows him by face. Nevertheless, the Germans accept him as the spy and plan to infiltrate him into Cairo. Meanwhile, Bramble meets an opera-singing Italian general and plans to steal his automatic pistol so that he can shoot Rommel. Several British officersâ??now prisoners-of-warâ??are shown into Rommel's company. Farid warns Bramble that the British were well-acquainted with Davos and would recognize him without fail. Bramble makes contact with one British officer while serving him liquor and the officer orders Bramble not to kill Rommel. Later in the evening, Rommel sits down to dine with the captured British officers and answer their twenty questions. Afterward, he reveals that he posed as an archaeologist before the war and execrated five secret supply dumps, the "Five Graves to Cairo", for the conquest of Egypt. has buried armaments at five sites inside Egypt that will enable him to carry the fight to the British and capture Cairo. The tension in "Five Graves to Cairo" grows partially out of Bramble's masquerade as Davos and the reality that the real Davos lies dead and buried under the rubble under the cellar. Inquisitive Rommel aide Lieutenant Schwegler (Peter van Eyck) discovers Bramble's treachery during an RAF air raid. Bramble and he struggle and he kills Schwegler. Bramble is certain that the Germans will find out about him. One of the subplots deals with Mouche trying to obtain information about her only living brother in a German concentration camp. Schwegler takes advantage of her desperation to learn something, anything about her brother. She accepts blame for Schwegler's killing and the Germans smuggle Bramble as Davos off to Cairo. Bramble receives a promotion to a lieutenant in charge of a tank for his excellent undercover work.

This is a great film with some nail biting suspense!
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