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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In this film, when Rommel (Erich von Stroheim) says to Mouche (Anne Baxter) that her trial will not be conducted under German law in order "to show you we are not the barbarians you think - according to your own law, the Code Napoleon", this is, according to Leonard Rubinstein in his book 'The Great Spy Films', a reference to von Stroheim's character Rauufenstein in La Grande Illusion (1937). Moreover, according to the Virgin Film Guide, Otto Preminger's POW Camp Commandant character Colonel Oberst von Scherbach in Stalag 17 (1953) (Billy Wilder's other WW II movie) is also a play on Erich von Stroheim's similar character Captain von Rauffenstein in Jean Renoir's, La Grande Illusion (1937). See more »
When John Bramble is introduced to the Germans as Paul Davos, a calendar is behind him on the wall. It is a 1942 calendar but shows Saturday, July 4th in red as a holiday...which of course is not a holiday in Egypt. See more »
[checking his guidebook entry about the hotel]
You have a native cook by the name of Berek.
Terek, sir. Terek. Yes, sir. But he ran away this morning. With the British to Alexandria.
[checking the guidebook]
You have a wife.
Oh, yes, sir. Yes. But *she* run away. Yes, sir.
With the British to Alexandria?
No, sir. With a Greek to Casablanca.
See more »
Billy Wilder was one of the best directors of his era, so it's no surprise that, in spite of a certain amount of wartime propaganda, 'Five Graves to Cairo' has a fizzy plot, a strain of black humour and a lightness of touch that sets it apart from the majority of films made at this time. It's also interesting as a film made while the war was still going on: far from demonising the enemy, it provides a generous portrait of Rommel, an unpleasant but human German army and a comedy Italian general for light relief. The plot also features a cynical Frenchwoman and a slightly racist realisation of an Egyptian: in some ways it's surprising to see how little this almost-fresh picture differs from those made later (if anything, since we discovered Auschwitz, it's been harder to make a film that shows that humanises the Nazis). 'Five Graves to Cairo' isn't Citizen Kane, and of course today this sort of thing would be done with much more violence, sex, and swearing: but that's a kind of recommendation in itself.
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