FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO BLU RAY REVIEW

As the war dragged on, Billy Wilder FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO, is released. Its a wartime thriller about a Corporal John Bramble, a British soldier who is stranded in the desert after the Afrika Korps victory. He walks to the hotel, Empress of Britain. The local British have left and in their place, Erwin Rommel’s victorious Afrika Korps.  Farid (Akim Tamiroff) the hotel owner does not want the death of this man and instead joins a conspiracy with his staff, Frenchwoman Mouche (Anne Baxter). They will pretend Bramble is a waiter called Davos, was killed the night before by German bombing. However what no one seems to know, is that Davos was a German spy.

1943 was a hell of a year for film. JANE EYRE, FOR WHOM THE BELL TOOLS and THE OX BOW INCIDENT all appeared in cinemas. In the same year Billy Wilder set up for his second feature film. His first film was a success, THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR in 1942. It had wit, studied with fast paced dialogue and humour. It also had Cary Grant. A man that Wilder wanted for this but failed to get on board. Wilder wanted something with a bit more bite and so focused on Lajos Bíró play Hotel Imperial. When it was time for Wilder and his long term writing partner Charles Bracket to adapt it, they imported more caustic written wit into it.

Wilder was an intelligent film maker and knew that the audience wanted thrills, CASABLANCA’s success the previous year (and MRS MINIVER prior) heralded this. What you get with FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO is just that. Maybe more, heightened tension and dark humour. You get a ranging script, clever narrative, emotional urgency and Von Stroheim with the menace of a pitbull. What you do not get is the LOST WEEKEND styling of self destruction and despair.

DISC

The presentation is industry standard. Let us be honest. The stock is well cared for and any issues are well looked after. A major director is always going to achieve this level of respect and rightfully so.

 

EXTRAS

I really enjoyed the radio Lux version . I felt it was punchier and adjusted well to the audio experience. Martin’s commentary is fact filled and tactful but it drags a little in the central part. He really digs into details. Which can be dull if recited like a log.

  • 1080p presentation on Blu-ray for the first time ever in the UK from a brand new 4K restoration
  • Uncompressed LPCM audio (original mono presentation)
  • Audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
  • Billy Wilder on Five Graves to Cairo
  • Five Graves to Cairo” episode of Lux Radio Theatre, originally aired in 1943, starring Franchot Tone and Anne Baxter
  • Theatrical trailer
  • A collector s booklet featuring new writing by critic Richard Combs; and an archival article from 1944 about Wilder and Charles Brackett

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