George Raft’s career was well and truly on the downslide when he signed a three-movie deal with Lippert Pictures in the early 50s. The third of these films was the British-Italian-American co-production The Man from Cairo, and it’s rather fun.
French intelligence agents investigating the disappearance of a hoard of government gold during the war keep getting murdered. Finally they assign an American detective to the case, but meanwhile American tourist Mike Canelli (George Raft) finds himself in the middle of conspiracies and counter-conspiracies. It seems that everyone in Algiers wants that gold which is reputed to be somewhere in the desert (the movie should have been called The Man from Algiers but that might have led to confusion with the 1938 drama Algiers).
Needless to say Mike gets mixed up with several dangerous dames along the way. Also involved are an elderly professor, a transport tycoon, a shady night-club owner and the local police captain who may or may not be honest.
George Raft gets to play the two-fisted tough guy that he played so well, Gianna Maria Canale makes a glamorous femme fatale and the supporting cast is generally solid.
With a collection of devious characters chasing a treasure that may or may not exist the plot will remind viewers of The Maltese Falcon, one of the many films George Raft turned down in a career notable mostly for a staggering lack of judgment (he also turned down High Sierra and liked to claim he was the first choice to play Rick in Casablance although the claim seems dubious. John Huston was apparently relieved when he bowed out of The Maltese Falcon, allowing him to go with his own choice, some guy called Humphrey Bogart.
Raft was a major star long before Bogart but once Bogart established himself at Warner Brothers Raft would remain in his shadow for the rest of his career. I quite like Raft but he’s no Bogart. As several other reviewers have noted this movie would have worked better as a Lemmy Caution movie with the great Eddie Constantine in the lead.
Despite these caveats it’s an entertaining movie in its own right. There’s nothing particularly noir about it, but if The Maltese Falcon can be considered noir (and many people seem to think so) then there’s no reason to exclude The Man from Cairo. It definitely has the femme fatale angle covered.
I have a weakness for noirish crime thrillers in exotic settings so that may be why I’m disposed to cut this movie some slack and recommend it.
The Man from Cairo is included in Kit Parker Films/VCI’s Forgotten Noir series 2 DVD boxed set. It’s a very good transfer and includes a brief documentary on the career of George Raft.