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 Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion (1937). Moreover, Otto Preminger's POW Camp Commandant character Col. von Scherbach in Stalag 17 (1953) (Billy Wilder's other WW II movie) is also a play on von Stroheim's similar character Capt. von Rauffenstein in "La grande illusion". 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 »
[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 »
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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