Ice Cold In Alex Review

It is during World War II and in the North African desert, where a small British base comes under heavy fire by the Nazis, who are looking to strengthen their control of the area. Evacuating the base, MSM Tom Pugh (Harry Andrews) and nurses Diana Murdoch and Denise Norton (Sylvia Syms and Diane Clare) watch as a leaving vehicle and the officers inside it are blown up by a roadside bomb, so they decide instead to take Katy, their ambulance, and travel across the desert to Alexandria. Joining them is Captain Anson (John Mills) but he's seen enough of war and is battling with alcoholism but what keeps him going through the desert is the thought of a glass of cold beer in his favourite bar in Alexandria.

Not long into their journey, they meet a South African officer in the desert. Captain van der Poel (Anthony Quayle) joins them and, what with his speaking German, comes in useful when they're stopped by the Afrika Korps. Somehow, van der Poel manages to ensure their safety and gets them back on the route to Alexandria. But that night, Anson watches as van der Poel leaves the fireside on his own, taking his suitcase with him. Tom sees it too and shares a glance with Anson. As they journey further into the desert and van der Poel continues in his persuading the Germans to let them pass, which his then followed by his going off on his own with his suitcase. One time, van der Poel simply shows the Nazis the contents of his case before letting him pass. Whispering together by the fireside, Anson and Tom wonder if van der Poel is a Nazi spy, asking, if he is, how long can they afford to wait before confronting him?

It's probably fair to say that since became a staple of the Sunday afternoon film club - being anything decent set during Biblical times, the Second World War, the Wild West or involving horse-riding - Ice Cold In Alex has become best known for a Carlsberg advertisement in which John Mills watches the froth settle on a pint of beer, runs his finger down the condensation and says that it's, "Worth waiting for!" That rather gives away the ending of the film, being that Mills is looking forward to that pint for its entire running time, but it is worth mentioning as it is, in spite of some competition, the one really outstanding scene in the film. Even taken apart from the rest of the film, the feeling of release in the scene is palpable, so much so that it might be argued that the rest of Ice Cold In Alex only exists to place it in context. But to do so would be to overlook a quietly impressive film that says so many decent things about the war effort in North Africa.

As enjoyable as Ice Cold In Alex is, it's hard to pick out anything other than that ending. Mills' performance, though very good, seems to be no more than workmanlike although, to be fair, that may be more in his skills as an actor than in what the part called of him. Harry Andrews is a gruff, no-nonsense Northerner whilst Sylvia Syms very much plays to the era, being a beautiful nurse who's reduced to a flap late in the film. Unsurprisingly, she shares a touching romantic moment with Mills but that's out of kilter with the rest of the film. If anything, Anthony Quayle has the outstanding role but it still seems very subdued compared to a more gung-ho film.

Then again, gung-ho isn't how one might describe Ice Cold In Alex. This isn't a barnstorming adventure out of the pages of the Warrior comic - being Tommy Gun: He Battles The Hun! or somesuch - but is, instead, a film that appeals to the best instincts of the folks back home, saying that the war effort was very much the right thing for the British army to do and that even in a time of war, the British way was to honour the enemy with a pint of beer. With that, Ice Cold In Alex was the right film at the right time, one that suggested the absolute certainty that not only was the British army right in their fighting the Nazis across the English channel, the countryside of mainland Europe and the desert of North Africa but that they were also the right people to do so. The kind of people, it was saying, that could share a pint of beer with a Nazi spy on account of him doing the decent thing when he was called upon to do so. Mills does the equally decent thing, saving van der Poel to not only let him finish his beer but to make sure that his arrest is as a prisoner of war and not a spy. When Pugh tears off van der Poel's fake dog tags, it's as one saving the life of another, not only recognising what one's duty calls a soldier to do but also the responsibility that lies with wearing the uniform in the first place, not only win the war but to do so in such a manner as to make the country proud. Little surprise, then, that so understated a film has remained in the public consciousness, even to that Carlsberg advertisement.


Originally produced in lovely black-and-white, albeit with a touch of being very matter-of-fact and without any obvious stylistic touches, Ice Cold In Alex flatters this DVD release, being a well-made film that disguises rather an ordinary transfer. Presented in 1.6:1 within a 1.78:1 frame, this looks quite sharp but never overly so and though it's let down by some stray lines, spots and other visual defects, they're never very distracting. However, these are indicative of this being a fairly ordinary transfer that might well be good enough on a smaller television but will be pushed to perform on a decent home cinema system. Similarly, the DD2.0 Mono is fine but no great shakes, sounding good but letting the occasional bit of noise drift into the audio track such as the silence before Tom and Anson's uncovering of van der Poel. Finally, there are no subtitles.


There are no extras on this DVD release.

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Last updated: 14/07/2018 17:58:41

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