Billy Wilder (director)
96 min (length)
17 August 2020 (released)
05 August 2020
Billy Wilder’s FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO is partly war film and partly spy thriller. Thanks to its solid performances by a terrific cast the tension never subsides in this b/w affair from 1943.
North Africa during WW2: a British tank, attacked by Field Marshal Rommel’s infamous Africa Korps, rolls aimlessly through the relentless desert. Only Corporal John Bramble (Franchot Tone) survives the attack and, exhausted from heat and thirst, crawls along the seemingly endless sand until he reaches the small, isolated hotel 'Empress of Britain' which is managed by the Egyptian Farid (Akim Tamiroff). Apart from a young French woman called Mouche (Anne Baxter) who seems to be the ‘girl for everything’ there are no other employees in the building. The cook has fled and waiter Davos (a German spy) got killed a few days ago during an air raid by the Germans (the irony!). When Farid learns that the German troops under Rommel (a perfectly cast Erich von Stroheim) are advancing at frightening speed, he asks Bramble pretending to be Davos in order not to expose himself as a British enemy. Reluctantly he agrees, even imitating Davos ’clubfoot’ walk. When the Germans arrive they lose no time taking over the hotel as their makeshift-headquarters. Bramble/Davos plans to kill Rommel with a pistol he stole from opera-loving Italian General Sebastiano (Fortunio Bonanova) but Mouche, who dislikes the English as she feels they abonded the French during the battle of Dunkirk, would like to shoot Rommel himself ... after he has pardoned her young brother who is held wounded in a concentration camp. Rommel - a misogynist – ignores her desperate pleas. Mouche gets more sympathy from Lieutenant Schwegler (Peter van Eyck) who begins to flirt with her and shows her fake documents that indicate her brother's possible release – prompting Bramble to accuse Mouche of ‘sucking up to the Germans’. Only when he learns her real reason as to why she does what she does he changes his opinion about her.
Meanwhile, Bramble wants to prevent Rommel’s troops from advancing further and thus tries to find out where the Field Marshal is hiding his secret weapons supply… He learns that some time ago Rommel has already been to Egypt as an archaeologist, to prepare the supposed ' Five graves of Cairo' (hidden dumps). Now Bramble needs to find out where these ‘graves’ are and luckily finds a map in Rommel’s hotel room - all the graves are marked with letters that refer to the word 'Egypt'. But before Bramble manages to grab the the map and warn the nearest British military station the hotel is attacked by the Allies. While Farid, Mouche, Bramble and the Germans seek shelter in the cellar, Schwegler discovers the buried corpse of the real Davos whom he recognizes by his clubfoot ... A fight between Bramble and Schwegler arises during which the German lieutenant is killed. Amidst the overall chaos following the raid, Bramble manages to escape at the last moment with Rommel's map and warn the British. Later on he returns to the badly destroyed hotel with a gift for Mouche, a parasole she’d always wanted… only to find a sixth grave, and a real one at that...
This 4K-restored Blu-ray release contains the following Bonus Features: trailer, collectors booklet, audio commentary and the radio play version (for the Lux Radio Theater) of FIVE GRAVES with Franchot Tone and Anne Baxter (her attempts of a French accent isn’t entirely successful mind you).