Director Billy Wilder salutes his idol, Ernst Lubitsch, with this comedy about a middle-aged playboy fascinated by the daughter of a private detective who has been hired to entrap him with the wife of a client.
A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus.
June, 1942. The British Army, retreating ahead of victorious Rommel, leaves a lone survivor on the Egyptian border--Corporal John Bramble, who finds refuge at a remote desert hotel...soon to be German HQ. To survive, Bramble assumes an identity which proves perilous. The new guest of honor is none other than Rommel, hinting of his secret strategy, code-named 'five graves.' And the fate of the British in Egypt depends on whether a humble corporal can penetrate the secret... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
According to the book 'The Great Spy Films' by Leonard Rubinstein, " . . . this film was released in early 1943 shortly after the British victory at El Alamein [in North Africa] and incorporated some footage from that battle in its closing scenes, besides providing an imaginative explanation for that success." See more »
In different shots, the pepper and salt shakers on the table in front of Rommel change positions, inexplicably, as he taunts his captives with his plan. See more »
If Erich Von Stroheim didn't exist Hollywood would have had to invent him
This 1943 World War II film is Billy Wilder's second directorial effort and it's a pretty good outing. According to a recent biography of Wilder, Cary Grant was offered the lead and turned it down, saying he didn't feel like going on location in the desert near Yuma, Arizona in August. The part then fell to Franchot Tone who gave a good account of himself as did Anne Baxter and Akim Tamiroff.
The film though really revolves around Von Stroheim and his portrayal of Erwin Rommel. In 1943 all that was known of Rommel was his military prowess in the desert. After the war we learned about his part in the plot to assassinate Hitler and the real story of his death. That's all covered in The Desert Fox and in James Mason's outstanding portrayal there.
What we get here is a portrayal of a cold, merciless, military machine Hun and no one did that better than Erich Von Stroheim. You watch this as did so many in the theaters in 1943 after the North African campaign was over and he became the man you love to hate.
Because of what later came out about Rommel this film became immediately dated. Yet it's still a curiosity and worth a look.
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