Monday, October 29, 2007

Five Graves to Cairo (Billy WIlder, 1943)

****½
USA

A taut mix of action, intrigue, humour and espionage, where a British corporal takes shelter in an isolated North African hotel and is forced to pose as an Alsatian double agent when the Nazis take over. The various accents and adopted nationalities are taxing on your disbelief - what with all-American Franchot Tone playing a Brit playing a German (who can't speak German), and Anne Baxter impersonating a charred maid from Marseilles. But the plot takes on a new twist every five minutes, the one-liners whiz by and the staging is expert. Billy Wilder directs - for only the third time - off a script he'd written with Charles Brackett, and his plot handling and sense of economy already bear the mark of a master. As a bonus, he even slips in some feeling towards the end.

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