As it’s Father’s Day today, what better time to introduce one of our new regular features ‘Movies My Dad Likes’. This bi-weekly feature pretty much does what it says on the tin, every couple of weeks my Dad will be reviewing some of his favourite movies as well as a few he didn’t like so much. He has a varied and expansive collection, and even a wide selection of Arnold Schwarzenegger flicks, happy reading – Chris
One of my favourite films is Ice Cold in Alex which was made in 1958. The film has a stellar cast including John Mills playing the courageous battle weary captain with a drink problem and Anthony Quayle pretending to be a South African soldier but who is really a German spy. These two are ably supported by the dependable Sgt Major; played as always by Harry Andrews: and Sylvia Syms as an unflappable nurse.
Although outwardly it is a Second World War film it is also a very human story of a group of individuals who through bad luck and adversity have to work as a team in order to survive a treacherous journey through the unforgiving Sahara desert. The trials and tribulations they experience along the way create an unbending bond of respect and trust for each other.
Their fear of death or capture is humorously masked by a common goal of reaching civilization in order to partake of an ice cold lager at a bar in Alexandra. Hence the contradictory film title.
Although each character saves the day during the various obstacles they encounter it is their means of transport, a beat up ambulance, which turns out to be the real hero.
The most memorable sequence occurs when the ambulance cannot negotiate a steep sand hill even at low gear. The crew resorts to hand cranking the vehicle backwards to reach the crest. Seeing each of the three male characters take turns at inching the vehicle up the hill by their own muscle and sweat creates an unbearable tension. Of course the female forgets to put the handbrake on when they stop for a rest near the top, with inevitable consequences. But the film is British so they roll up their sleeves and start the climb all over again.
In the final scenes the Brits tell the Jerry that they know he is a spy but as they have become all mates they save him from the firing squad by making out he’s a captured soldier. This takes place in the bar while they down the ice-cold nectar which is “probably the best advert in the world”.
Being in good old black and white ensures that the emphasis is kept on the story rather than on the scenery. The script (based upon the author’s own wartime experiences) is both understandable and believable, and does not rely on any sexual swearwords to make it an engrossing film experience. Something that could not be said about the conveyer movie belt that we see today.