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.
• 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