Customer Review

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Human decency 1, Insanity of war 0, 17 Feb 2006
This review is from: Ice Cold in Alex [DVD] [1958] (DVD)
This is not the usual 1950s sort of 'big' WWII story full of perfectly heroic good guys and perfectly villainous bad guys. Instead of the usual stereotypes, there are complex individuals who start off reserved strangers and gradually build up trust and friendship. A hero is allowed weaknesses and a villain can be heroic. The North Africa campaign is going badly for the allies. The Germans are about to besiege Tobruk and so the Brits must move out. Captain Anson and Sergeant Pugh of the military ambulance service have been ordered to take their ambulance and leave. Everything goes wrong from the start. Because a bridge is blown up before they are able to cross, they find themselves isolated on the wrong side. And with two nursing sisters to get to safety they are forced to take a difficult and dangerous route across the desert in order to reach Alexandria on the coast of Egypt. They encounter a South African who introduces himself as Captain Van Der Poel and persuades them to let him join them. To start with, his contribution to their efforts seems a mixed blessing. He's one of those brash, domineering types who doesn't like to waste time on prudence and caution so he soon gets into trouble in a mine field. He also seems to be carrying a large quantity of gin which he shares generously with Captain Anson. Poor Anson has developed a serious drink problem as a result (probably) of what they refer to nowadays as 'post traumatic stress'. One of the nurses, Sister Norton, seems to be suffering the same kind of stress, but she is driven to hysteria by those terrors that cause Anson to hit the bottle. The only solidly uncomplicated characters are Sergeant Pugh and Sister Murdock. Pugh and Murdock have to worry about keeping Anson and Norton straight and balanced and they all distrust Van Der Poel, who speaks German rather well and keeps disappearing at regular intervals with his heavy, rectangular looking back-pack. They don't appear to be a very promising team but, as the saying goes: 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going' - and that's what happens in this case. Events drive them and they have to pull together to survive the hostile environment of the desert and the constant threat of capture or worse by the advancing Germans. Each time it seems that adversity is going to grind them into the desert sand, they reach inside themselves and find further resources to overcome it. Remember Sisyphus, who was condemned to endlessly push a huge rock up a hill? Well, he'd certainly sympathise with one of their trials. I found myself fully engaged with them: pushing with them, pulling with them and identifying with all their hopes and fears.
Finally, trust, friendship and common humanity triumphs over the insanity of war. And everybody gets a cold beer. Lovely.
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4.5 out of 5 stars (12 customer reviews)
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