Saturday, April 21, 2012

Five Graves to Cairo

After his tank division has been shelled in North Africa, a soul surviving British officer stumbles his way across the desert into an abandoned hotel in a bombed out city inhabited only by its manager and a female member of the staff. When General Rommel, the Desert Fox, takes up residence with his unit in the inn, the officer assumes the identity of a deceased server, which puts him in a unique position due to the fact that this waiter was also a German spy! Now, with access to the secret location of five arms bases, the officer now has the ability to turn the tide of the war in Britain's favor! "Five Graves to Cairo" is an early war yarn from master writer/director Billy Wilder. It is not funny in the typical Wilder sense, but it is still a tense, pointed, and well constructed film. Franchot Tone is excellent as the dry hero and Akim Tamiroff, Anne Baxter, and Peter van Eyck have fine supporting roles as the hotel manager, the staff member, and the German officer she is trying to seduce to return for her POW brother's release. Erich von Stroheim is also a lot of fun as an idiosyncratic Rommel. With "Five Graves of Cairo", Wilder demonstrates his dexterity and his certified skills as one of our great auteurs.