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Five Graves to Cairo | Billy Wilder’s World War II spy thriller on Blu-ray

The only survivor in his unit after a battle with Rommel’s soldiers in North Africa, British Corporal Bramble (Franchot Tone) staggers through the desert until arriving at the largely deserted Empress of Britain hotel, staffed only by owner Farid (Akim Tamiroff) and his French employee Mouche (Anne Baxter).

While Bramble hopes to hide there, the hotel doesn’t remain deserted for long – Rommel (a scene-stealing Erich von Stroheim) and his men arrive and take over the building as new headquarters. Bramble assumes the identity of a recently killed waiter… only to discover that the waiter was also serving as a German spy, a role Bramble now has to adopt for his own survival. And while Mouche knows Bramble’s true identity, she has her own reasons for not wanting to aid in his plot.

Filled with duplicity and danger at every turn, Five Graves to Cairo (1943) was Billy Wilder’s second Hollywood film and an underrated early gem from the filmmaker, who would strike gold with his next project, Double Indemnity.

The underrated World World II spy thriller also demonstrated that Wilder and screenwriter Charles Brackett – who would collaborate on 13 films, winning screenplay Oscars for The Lost Weekend and Sunset Boulevard – were already working at the peak of their powers, delivering an espionage yarn that never lets up on the suspense.

Five Graves to Cairo is out now on Blu-ray as part of Eureka Entertainment’s The Masters of Cinemas Series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray 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 (1943), starring Franchot Tone and Anne Baxter
• Theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by critic Richard Combs; and an archival article from 1944 about Wilder and Charles Brackett

 

A Foreign Affair | Billy Wilder’s postwar romantic comedy on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes Billy Wilder’s Oscar-nominated postwar romantic comedy A Foreign Affair on Blu-ray as part of The Masters of Cinema Series.

When a US congressional committee flies into occupied Berlin to monitor the morale of American troops, staunchly conservative Iowa congresswoman Phoebe Frost (Jean Arthur) is appalled by the lax attitudes exhibited by the troops. She then also starts her own investigation when she discovers that a popular cabaret singer Erika von Schlütow (Marlene Dietrich) was the former mistress of wanted ex-Gestapo agent Hans Otto Birgel (Peter von Zerneck) and is being protected by a mystery American officer. But when she enlists the services of fellow Iowan Captain John Pringle (John Lund) to root him out, she’s unaware that Pringle’s her man – and now he’s trying to cover his tracks by wooing her…

Shrewd, sharp with a whole lot of heart despite its cynical undertones, this is one of Wilder’s best-loved films, thanks to its winning combination of some amazing location footage of a decimated Berlin, delightful performances (especially Jean Arthur), and the divine Dietrich in sultry fine voice.

SPECIAL FEATURES
· 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
· Uncompressed LPCM 2.0 audio
· Audio commentary by film historian Joseph McBride
· From Berlin to Hollywood: Wilder and Dietrich’s Foreign Affair – A video essay by Kat Ellinger
· Two radio adaptations of A Foreign Affair, broadcast as part of the Screen Directors Playhouse in 1949 and 1951. Featuring Billy Wilder, Marlene Dietrich, Rosalind Russell, John Lund, and Lucille Ball
· Archival interview with Billy Wilder
· Theatrical trailer
· Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by film historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas; a new essay by critic Richard Combs; and archival material

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) | Billy Wilder’s melancholic celebration of Conan Doyle’s great detective gets a first-time Blu-ray release

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

From Eureka Entertainment comes Billy Wilder’s underrated 1970 adventure comedy The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, as part of The Masters of Cinemas Series on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

Director Billy Wilder’s personal, melancholic celebration of Conan Doyle’s great detective was originally conceived as a three and a half hour extravaganza, and he never forgave the studio for hacking it to bits (with many of the deleted scenes now lost forever).

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

What remains is rewarding, but it leaves you begging for more, as the bored Baker Street sleuth (Robert Stephens) investigates a mystery that takes him and his faithful companion Doctor Watson (Colin Blakely) from London to Inverness, and involves an enigmatic amnesiac (Geneviève Page), Holmes’ conniving brother Mycroft (Christopher Lee), Queen Victoria and – yes – the Loch Ness Monster.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

Stephens plays Holmes with tortured, whimsical perfection, and both Blakely and Lee are perfectly cast in their respective roles, but it’s Irene Handl rather than the alluring Page who steals every scene she’s in. Her Mrs Hudson is a comic stand-out. Other familiar faces include the legendary Stanley Holloway, Clive Revill (The Legend of Hell House), Catherine Lacey (The Sorcerers) and Jenny Hanley (Scars of Dracula).

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

The film’s rich period detail and authentic locations is also matched by the witty script (one of 11 that Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond wrote together) and the whole affair sparkles like a well-polished (rough) diamond.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 1080p presentation
• Uncompressed PCM soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles
• A new video interview with film scholar Neil Sinyard
• The Missing Cases (50 mins): A presentation of deleted sequences, using script excerpts, production stills and surviving film footage.
• Deleted Epilogue Scene (audio only)
Christopher Lee: Mr. Holmes, Mr. Wilder – an archival interview with Christopher Lee about his experience working with Billy Wilder
• Interview with editor Ernest Walter
• Original theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet

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Fedora (1978) | Billy Wilder’s last great film shines a spotlight on the ugly face of Hollywood

Fedora (1978)

‘Youth had been a habit of hers for so long that she could not part with it’
When Fedora (Marthe Keller), the world’s most famous, ageless film star dies, having thrown herself in front of a train, her one-time lover, Hollywood has-been producer Dutch (William Holden), feels a sense of guilt about hounding her in starring in a new version of Anna Karenina. But, at her funeral, he learns a terrible truth…


Fedora (1978)

You’ll get a real sense of nostalgia watching Billy Wilder’s penultimate film, Fedora (1978), as it bookends his Oscar-winning 1950’s classic Sunset Boulevard, and – for all intents and purposes – this is his sun-drenched farewell to a Hollywood changed forever.

I was drawn to the film not because of Wilder, but for William Holden, who hit his stride in the 1950s before becoming a veteran for hire in 1970s genre favourites like The Towering Inferno, Damien: Omen II and Network. His grizzled has-been Dutch is not unlike his down-at-heel screenwriter Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard, and he again uses on that fabulous smoky growl. And it’s his narration that drives the story, based on Tom Tyron’s novella, which begins as a mystery before the big reveal…

Fedora (1978)

You see, time has not been kind to the 67-year-old Fedora, who has a plastic surgeon (José Ferrer) on call 24-7 to keep her looking youthful, while the wheelchair-bound Countess (Hildegard Knef) relies on her servant (Frances Sternhagen) and chauffeur (Gottfried John) to keep Fedora out of the public eye and out of trouble. She also fears that the public will be mortified to learn that Fedora not only has a drug addiction – she also has an unhealthy obsession for the actor, Michael York…

Fedora (1978)

The other reason I was drawn to the film was because of Tom Tyron (1926-1991). Ever since he ditched acting in the late-1960s, he went on to craft some fascinating horror, mystery and sci-fi novels, some of which were adapted for the big and small screen, like the American Gothic chiller The Other (1971).

His original novella is all about an obsession with youth, and his Fedora is portrayed as an addict desperate for her latest fix from her surgeon. It’s a character that certainly belongs in the pantheon of Grande Dame Guignol – and a sense of that creeps into Wilder’s film, especially in the relationship between Fedora and the Countess (they reminded me of real-life sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine).

Fedora (1978)

Taking Tyron’s premise, Wilder then weaves in his own in-jokes to shine his old-style Fresnel lanterns on the ugly face of Hollywood and its acquiescence to youth-orientated culture that has seen the old guard replaced by bearded pot-heads waving a camera around.

Golden Age aficionados, meanwhile, will be richly rewarded with references that pay homage to screen legends like Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford, music that evokes The Third Man; Euro horror settings and visuals; and campy colourful Douglas Sirk-styled melodramatics. Not to mention an OTT funeral that’s to die for. As the Countess says, it’s ‘Magic Time!’

The new high-definition presentation of Fedora on dual format (Blu-ray & DVD) from Eureka! includes English subtitles, deleted scenes, a restoration comparison and a collector’s booklet featuring essays on the film and archival images.

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