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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Ice Cold in Alex (1958)


Starring: John Mills, Sylvia Syms, Harry Andrews and Anthony Quayle
Optimum Classic
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 13 June 2011

When the German attack commences on the North African town of Tobruck, the civilians and nurses are evacuated. However, two nurses are stranded and it falls to Captain Anson, with the aid of MSM Tom Pugh, to get the women back to safety. Along the way they pick up a South African officer, Captain Van der Post, who may not be what he seems. Together with the nurses, Diana Murdoch and Denise Norton, Anson must take his group through mine fields, across a dry and inhospitable landscape, always with the promise of an ice cold beer waiting for them at the end of their journey in Alexandria...

Ice Cold in Alex (1958 - 2 hr, 10 min, 13 sec) is a character study directed by J. Lee Thompson. The script was adapted by Christopher Landon, with the help of T.J. Morrison. The film won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1958 Berlin International Film Festival.

The film is not the usual war film, in fact, not unlike The Cruel Sea (1953), it is rather a study of people enduring harsh conditions, in this case the North African desert. The inclusion of Anthony Quayle's character of the is he/isn’t he a German spy, does lend other elements to the story. But the truth is that as a pretty obvious spy, even this only succeeds in sprinkling a little flavour on proceedings, rather than creating another viable level to the story.

That said the film does boast a very impressive cast with John Mills taking the role of the slightly shell shocked, alcoholic Captain Anson. Harry Andrews is the solid and dependable MSM Tom Pugh, thankfully not playing the part as a plucky, cheeky chappy enlisted man. Sylvia Syms is plucky as Sister Diana Murdoch and Anthony Quayle is stuck trying to give some credence to the fact that he is Captain van der Poel and not Hauptman Otto Lutz, even though it’s pretty obvious to the audience, he was nominated for a BAFTA for this portrayal.

As the group trek across the unforgiving terrain, one of their number is killed in a confrontation with the Germans and from this point the tension builds as it is not obvious that any of them will survive the journey. The final scene in the bar in Alexandria has become an almost iconic cinematic image.

The restoration of the film is first class; the only damage evident is on the stock footage inserts at the start of the film. Blacks and grey scales are good as it the level of detail. The film is presented with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. The mono LPCM DTS MA track is clear and bright.

The extras include an interview with Sylvia Syms (21 min, 50 sec) who is very candid about the conditions which they endured in making the film, a nice piece which is both revealing and at times funny. There is John Mill’s Home Movie Footage (15 min, 01 sec), which is silent, but fascinating to see what the film looked like in colour as well as general antics of the cast and crew. The Original Theatrical Trailer (3 min, 20 sec) also looks to have been restored. The disc wraps with a photo gallery.

The new Blu-ray is certainly worthy of a place in your collection, now looking better than it has been for years. The disc is part of Optimum's series of discs which aim to restore classic films for a modern audience, thereby also preserving them for the next generation.


Charles Packer

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