Ice Cold In Alex is, before now, a film from which I’ve only seen one scene over and over and over… when John Mills is drinking Carlsberg and everyone else is staring at him.
The M*A*S*H unit in World War II have to get from A to B in the desert, B being the British lines in Alexandria. Captain Anson (Mills) is having to leave behind one of his men, even though he did offer to stay behind, himself. Anthony Quayle puts on a dreadful Afrikaans accent as Captain van der Poel, who tags along for the ride, as does Anson’s colleague Pugh (Harry Andrews) and nurses Diana (Sylvia Syms) and Denise (Diane Clare).
Anson has a drink problem, yet as he expresses to the insanely hot Sylvia Syms, while they’re sat in the ambulance, he wants to give her one… a pint of Carlsberg that is (other beers are available), which are served in Alex.
There’s some superb use of cinematography, and a number of suspense-filled scenes, including spotting for mines, and as a movie, it’s pretty entertaining, even though it goes on for a fair while. I can imagine some road movies running for longer than my preferred length of movie (105 minutes) because they can put anything they want into them.
I love how, early on, when Anson is forced to give his car to someone higher up – and it’s that which gets blown up, he’s more concerned about the lost of his whisky that was onboard.
I also didn’t realise until afterwards that they did, indeed, film in the Libyan desert, yet today, they’d film in a sandpit in Prague. Or a studio with a ton of green screen. In fact, one of the interviews with Ms Syms has her commenting about how someone once told her that it looked faked in a studio 🙂
So, when it came to not having seen Ice Cold In Alex when it came out, due to the fact that I wasn’t yet born then, on this 60th anniversary release, is it like the Carlsberg… worth waitng for? Well, it’s pretty entertaining, but it’s probably not the best movie in the world 😉
J Lee Thompson also directed a horror movie from 1975 which I saw as a kid and will never forget, The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, where the man comes back to life, ends up sleeping with his own daughter, his widow/her mother susses it out, and kills him by whacking him in the balls with a paddle while on the boat! So he’s dead again!
The film is presented in the theatrical 1.66:1 widescreen aspect ratio and in 1080p high definition, and there’s a minor slight grainy look that most people won’t really notice, and I probably do because I look out for this sort of thing, but what we have here, for so much of the movie, is such a sharp, remastered print for a movie that, had it not got a year attached to it, you would not expect is anything like 60 years old as it’s fantastic.
The sound is in 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, and as it’s mono, and being mostly dialogue with occasional score, there’s nothing to set the speakers alight, but no problems, either.
The extras are as follows:
- Steve Chibnall on J Lee Thompson (12:34): Steve Chibnall is Professor of British Cinema at De Montfort University, and he goes into detail about the movie and how they spent 7 weeks shooting in the Libyan desert.
- Interview with Melanie Williams (15:39): Less an interview, and more a critique from a fan of the film. Like Chibnall, she also comments on J Lee Thompson’s battle with the BBFC over a romantic scene and what we’d now consider mild language, but back then, they wanted him to remove the word “bloody” from the script. There’s still a couple of “bastard”s, though.
- Interview with Sylvia Syms (21:50): A brand new interview with the actress, and in Q&A style with the questions on captions, as if they couldn’t spring for someone to ask them, to make this extra look more natural. However, she’s very self-depricating about her time on set, and this a very engaging interview to watch.
For such a short piece, like the film, this also has 12 chapters. If only the same detail had been applied to the main movie!
I love how she says she was only paid £30/week for the film, but that she received a lot more for the Carlsberg advert! (although she didn’t say how much)
- John Mills Home Movie footage (15:01): Footage shot with his cast and director while on-set during the film. There’s no sound, but it’s still fascinating to check out. The footage is in 4:3.
- Old trailer (3:20): Yes, it’s billed as “Old trailer”, even though Theatrical trailer would’ve done fine, and it begins with the announcement that this is the film which is showing next week at the theatre… yes, remember when cinemas just showed ONE film? Or maybe two, if they had a second screen? They usually only had one or two showings a day, and were packed out, rather than being open all day to more-than-half-empty rooms… although I do like being the only one in the cinema, which has happened a few times.
The trailer is presented in 4:3.
- Stills Gallery (0:00): 12 on-set pics.
- A Very British War Movie Documentary (12:58): Presented in 4:3, this is an extended clip from a Channel 4 documentary which aired on August 28th, 1999. It features John Mills, J Lee Thompson, Sylvia Syms and former desert nurse Molly Jennings – who signed up for overseas service, plus others.
The menu features clips from the film set to a brief piece of the theme, subtitles are in English only and chapters are the usual lacklustre 12.
Ice Cold In Alex 60th Anniversary Edition is released today on Blu-ray, and click on the packshot for the full-size version.
Running time: 130 minutes
Released: February 19th 2018
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS 1.0, Dolby Digital 1.0
Widescreen: 1.66:1 (Spherical)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: J Lee Thompson
Producer: WA Whittaker
Screenplay: TJ Morrison and Christopher Landon (based on the novel by Christopher Landon)
Music: Leighton Lucas
Captain Anson: John Mills
Sister Diana Murdoch: Sylvia Syms
Captain van der Poel: Anthony Quayle
M.S.M. Pugh: Harry Andrews
Sister Denise Norton: Diane Clare
Captain Crosbie: Richard Leech
Brigadier (D.D.M.S.): Liam Redmond
Brigadier’s Staff Officer: Allan Cuthbertson
C.M.P. Captain (Tank Trap): David Lodge
C.M.P. Captain (Check Point): Michael Nightingale
C.M.P. Lieutenant (Alexandria): Basil Hoskins
1st German Officer: Walter Gotell
2nd German Officer: Frederick Jaeger
German Guard: Richard Marner
British Officer at Oasis: Peter Arne
Barman: Paul Stassino
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.