Rainer's Review of Five Graves to Cairo
Five Graves to Cairo(1943)
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).