Five Graves to Cairo

five-graves-to-cairoBBB.5

(out of 5)


A British soldier (, employing very little Britishness) arrives at a remote Egyptian hotel, delirious from wandering the hot desert sun, and promptly passes out.  When he is conscious and his mind clears, he discovers that the building has been taken over by the “Desert Fox” Field Marshall Rommel () and his soldiers; thinking quickly, Tone barely manages to avoid being detected before he gets into the uniform of a waiter who died in a bombing.  He uses his position as an opportunity to discover the secret location of five cargo holds of supplies for the German army (the five graves of the title) while also dealing with a persistently paranoid hotel manager () and a beautiful chambermaid () who hates the British for what her brother suffered in the French army.  This was the second film directed by Billy Wilder in Hollywood and he already shows a smooth command of performance, photography and dialogue; if for no other reason the film is worth watching to see what a natural the man was at the job from the very beginning.  The plotting is a bit too stagebound, it’s a spy film that barely goes beyond a few rooms for much of its running time, but the characters attach themselves to you easily and von Stroheim brings more than just the usual harsh accent and commanding manner that actors generally give to portrayals of Nazi menace.  The ending is surprisingly moving (this was made, after all, before we knew we were going to win the war) and the whole thing looks exotic and beautiful.


USA, 1943

Directed by Billy Wilder

Screenplay by Billy Wilder, , based on the play by

Cinematography by

Produced by Charles Brackett

Music by

Production Design by ,

Costume Design by

Film Editing by


Cast Tags:  , , , , ,


Academy Award Nominations
Best Art Direction (Black and White) (art direction: Hans Dreier, Ernst Fegte; interior decoration: Bertram Granger)
Best Cinematography (Black and White) (John Seitz)
Best Film Editing (Doane Harrison)


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