James Monaco's Movie Guide gave "Five Graves to Cairo" 4 1/2 stars ouot of 5 and praised its "devilishly clever plotting," dialogue and cast, particularly Erich von Stroheim. "Foreign Affair" has 3 1/2 of 4 stars in Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, which calls it a "great Wilder comedy."
The official word:
Two 1940s classics by Billy Wilder, one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of the studio era, are coming to DVD for the first time ever from Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Universal Studios Home Entertainment (USHE). Released as part of the TCM Vault Collection, the two-disc Directed by Billy Wilder set includes the wartime espionage thriller Five Graves to Cairo (1943), starring Franchot Tone, Erich von Stroheim, Anne Baxter and Akim Tamiroff, and the delightfully cynical comedy A Foreign Affair (1948), with Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich and John Lund.
Directed by Billy Wilder will be available exclusively through TCM’s online store at http://shop.tcm.com, beginning Oct. 15. On-screen bonus materials include publicity stills and behind-the-scenes photos, posters, lobby cards, pressbooks and more.
The 1940s marked an important transition in Billy Wilder's career, one that saw him emerge as one of Hollywood's most talented writer-directors. In between making Five Graves to Cairo and A Foreign Affair, Wilder won Oscars® for writing and directing the 1945 Best Picture winner, The Lost Weekend. The two films in TCM and Universal's Directed by Billy Wilder DVD set are reflective of Wilder’s astringent wit, piercing intelligence and attraction to controversial subject matter that yielded some of his finest work during this decade.
Five Graves to Cairo (1943)
In Five Graves to Cairo, Franchot Tone stars as a British corporal who goes undercover in a Cairo hotel to infiltrate the inner circle of Field Marshal Rommel (Erich von Stroheim) and expose his plans to the Allies. Anne Baxter and Akim Tamiroff run the hotel in this exciting film that showcases Wilder and co-screenwriter Charles Brackett's skill at balancing drama, action and humor. Five Graves to Cairo earned Oscar® nominations for its art direction-interior decoration (Hans Dreier, Ernst Fegté and Bertram C. Granger); cinematography (John F. Seitz) and film editing (Doane Harrison).
A Foreign Affair (1948)
Billy Wilder's A Foreign Affair stars Jean Arthur as a prim Congresswoman who gets caught up in the decadence and black market world of post-war Berlin. Marlene Dietrich, who plays Arthur's rival for the affections of an Army captain (John Lund), shines with performances of the songs "Ruins of Berlin" and "Black Market." The screenplay by Wilder, Charles Brackett and Richard L. Breen earned an Oscar® nomination, as did Charles Lang's outstanding cinematography.