Ice Cold in Alex
Ice Cold in Alex – 1958 | 132 mins | Drama, War | B&W
Gripping wartime drama based on a true story; the film follows an ambulance commander and his efforts to transfer two nurses safely across the desert in enemy occupied North Africa – unaware that a German secret agent is watching their every move.
It’s 1942 and war is raging in the North African desert. Alcoholic Captain Anson (John Mills) and Sergeant Andrews (Harry Andrews) are escorting nurses Diana Murdoch (Sylvia Sims) and Denise Norton (Diane Clare) from Tobruk to Alexandria. After leaving Tobruk they come across shifty South African Captain van der Poel (Anthony Quayle) who wishes to ride with them, his initial request to join them is refused by Anson until he offers three bottles of gin as payment. The group must first contend with an enemy minefield, a task made easier for them by the German Luftwaffe who clear a route through the minefield for their own armoured division. The ambulance meets a German patrol while crossing the desert and attempt to escape by out running the German half-tracks, during the ensuing chase Sister Norton is shot and killed. The group disguises her as their patient and the German patrol guides them safely through the minefield before allowing the ambulance to continue on its voyage.
Anson becomes suspicious of van der Poel due to a mysterious pack he clings to, Anson begins to covertly question him about his military past but the answers seem plausible. Ansonís suspicions are only heightened when they meet another German patrol and van der Poel seems to persuade the German officer to allow them to continue despite the fact they no longer have a patient. The group continues on their journey but they must contend with heat, sand and the ambulances’ temperamental engine. They begin become more doubting of van der Poel and his secret pack, Sergeant Pugh decides to follow van der Poel van der Poel on one of his frequent walks into the desert and discovers the pack is in fact a transmitter.
Captain van der Poel goes on another one of his frequent walks during the night and falls into quicksand, Anson quickly turns on the ambulances headlights in an attempt to see what the South African is doing. Scared of being exposed, van der Poel pushes the transmitter into the quicksand and then calls for help. After rescuing him and having seen the transmitter the rest of the group believe van der Poel to be a spy, but decide to not take any action in the belief he will be of use to them during the journey. He certainly does come in useful when they meet their greatest obstacle, a sand hill that is so steep they can only overcome it by using the engine starter handle to manually drive the ambulance over the arduous hill.
Together they finally succeed and eventually reach Alexandria, then fulfil Captain Ansonís promise of an ice-cold beer in Alex. Captain Anson has a surprise in store though, he has arranged for the Military Police to arrest van der Poel at the bar. Captain van der Poel owns up to being part of a German Panzer division and before leaving with the Military Police admits to having learnt a lot about the English and what had become their common foe during the trek – the desert.
J. Lee Thompson: Director
Gilbert Taylor: Cinematography
Richard Best: Editing
Leighton Lucas: Original Music
WA Whittaker: Producer
Christopher Landon: Script
TJ Morrison: Script
Anthony Quayle: Captain van der Poel
Sylvia Syms: Sister Diana Murdoch
Harry Andrews: Sergeant Tom Pugh
Diane Clare: Sister Denise Norton
Richard Leech: Captain Crosbie
Liam Redmond: Brigadier
Peter Arne: British Officer
Allan Cuthbertson: Staff Officer
David Lodge: CMP Captain
John Mills: Captain Anson