The subject of World War II has been approached from almost every conceivable angle by film-makers. Most dwell on the major events or pivotal moments in the conflict. J. Lee Thompson preferred to focus on the smaller skirmishes and battles, concentrating on the peripheries or human stories. He did this successfully in the big budget and award-winning The Guns of Navarone. Thompson collaborated again with Anthony Quayle on Ice Cold in Alex. A film which pitches a ragtag group against the elements.
Captain Anson (John Mills), the commanding officer of the British RASC Motor Ambulance Company, is ordered to evacuate to Alexandria ahead of the German advance. Travelling with a mechanic (Harry Andrews) and two nurses (Sylvia Syms and Diane Clare), his ambulance becomes separated from the rest of the company. They decide to cross the desert to reach the British lines, picking up an Afrikaner (Quayle) along the way. As their situation becomes increasingly perilous, they must work together in order to survive.
Ice Cold in Alex is a classic war film which has very little to do with the fighting itself, instead concentrating on the human drama as they battle with mother nature. Mills is superb, embodying Anson’s demons and inner-turmoil. Whilst the final scene remains the most iconic, it’s their journey which really stays with you. Ice Cold in Alex is up there with the best British war films. Taking the characters on their own merits and embracing their flaws.
* NEW Steve Chibnall on J. Lee Thompson
* NEW Interview with Melanie Williams – Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, University of East Anglia
* Interview with Sylvia Syms
* John Mills Home Video Footage
* Original Trailer
* Behind The Scenes Stills Gallery
* Extended Clip from A Very British War Movie Documentary
The 60th Anniversary 4k Restoration Edition of Ice Cold in Alex is released on Blu ray, DVD & Download by StudioCanal Vintage Classics on 19 February.