Review: ‘Five Graves to Cairo’

Idea of making Field Marshal Rommel's campaign into an exciting fable is by Lajos Biro, Hungarian writer, who did so many successful Ernst Lubitsch screen hits. It affords a vivid picture of Rommel, Erich von Stroheim doing a capital job. The characterization is tailor-made for him.

Idea of making Field Marshal Rommel’s campaign into an exciting fable is by Lajos Biro, Hungarian writer, who did so many successful Ernst Lubitsch screen hits. It affords a vivid picture of Rommel, Erich von Stroheim doing a capital job. The characterization is tailor-made for him.

Surprisingly for such a dynamic, moving vehicle, there is a minimum of actual battle stuff. Director Billy Wilder handles the varied story elements, countless suspenseful moments and vivid portrayals in excellent fashion. In some instances the absence of spoken word or muffled sentences have been pointed up through skilful pantomime and action.

Basically Five Graves is the story of a British corporal (Franchot Tone) who impersonates a Nazi spy to gain military information from the Germans as they sweep towards Cairo.

Crackling dialog and fine scripting by director Wilder and Charles Brackett enhance the Biro original [play]. Camerawork of John Seitz is outstanding, as is the film editing by Doane Harrison. Use of sound effects, indicating superb recording, especially during the running gun fight, also is topflight.

1943: Nominations: Best B&W Cinematography, B&W Art Direction, Editing

Five Graves to Cairo

Production

Paramount. Director Billy Wilder; Producer Charles Brackett (assoc.); Screenplay Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder; Camera John F. Seitz; Editor Doane Harrison; Music Miklos Rozsa; Art Director Hans Dreier, Ernst Fegte

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1943. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Franchot Tone Anne Baxter Erich von Stroheim Peter Van Eyck Akim Tamiroff Fortunio Bonanova
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