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Ice Cold in Alex(1958)
1942: The Libyan war zone, North Africa. After a German invasion a British ambulance crew are forced to evacuate their base but become separated from the rest of their unit. Somehow they must make it to Alexandria, but how? Their only hope is a dilapidated ambulance named "Katy" and an irrational, alchoholic soldier known as Captain Anson. Facing landmines, Nazi troops, spies and the merciless, scorching, brutal environment of the desert, can Captain Anson face his demons and make the road to hell a journey to freedom? Starring some of British cinemas most celebrated actors, John Mills (Great Expectations, Gandhi), Sylvia Syms (Ferry To Hong Kong, Shirley Valentine) and Harry Andrews (The Hill, Battle Of Britain), Ice Cold In Alex is an action packed and suspenseful wartime classic. Directed by John Lee Thompson, creator of Guns Of Navarone and Cape Fear, it's one of the most intensely gripping films ever made.
For more about Ice Cold in Alex and the Ice Cold in Alex Blu-ray release, see Ice Cold in Alex Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 29, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: John Mills, Sylvia Syms, Anthony Quayle, Harry Andrews, Diane Clare, Richard Leech
Director: J. Lee Thompson
» See full cast & crew
Ice Cold in Alex Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 29, 2011
Winner of the International Critics Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, J. Lee Thompson's "Ice Cold in Alex" (1958) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; video interview with actress Sylvia Syms; John Mills' home movie footage; and behind the scenes stills gallery. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
WWII, Libya. The German army has launched a massive attack on the Allied forces and all military personnel in the town of Tobruck are ordered to leave. Captain Anson (John Mills, Great Expectations, Gandhi), a jaded man with a serious drinking problem, and his loyal Sergeant Major Tom Pugh (Harry Andrews, Battle of Britain, Sands of the Kalahari) decide to cross the desert with an old ambulance and join the British army in Alexandria (referred to as "Alex"). They take two nurses (Sylvia Syms, The Queen, and Diane Clare, The Plague of the Zombies) with them who have been left behind.
Along the way they encounter a South African officer, Captain Van der Poel (Anthony Quayle, The Guns of Navarone, Lawrence of Arabia), carrying a large bag and a couple of bottles of gin. After Anson tastes the gin, he is allowed to travel with the group to Alex.
Things get complicated when deep into the desert a German patrol fires at the ambulance and injures one of the nurses. Van der Poel convinces the Germans to let his friends go but shortly after that the truck gets stuck in the sands. While trying to figure a way out, the group also begins to suspect that one of them is an enemy agent.
Adapted by Christopher Landon from his own classic novel and directed by J. Lee Thompson, Ice Cold in Alex is a very entertaining old-fashioned adventure film with a number of effective twists. A few are rather easy to predict, but there are also more than a few that are indeed quite surprising.
The film is formally divided into two parts. In the first, the main characters are introduced and their strengths and weaknesses identified. By the time Van der Poel enters the quicksand, it is clear that the story will not be focused entirely on the dangerous journey but also on important relationships. Later on, two of them dramatically affect the tone of the film. In the second, there are important character transformations.
Shot on location in Libya, the film is gritty, intense and very realistic. One could literally feel the sun beating down in the segment where the men try to push the ambulance up the hill; the exhaustion their faces reveal is undoubtedly real. Elsewhere, there is a terrific long shot of Mills collapsing from the heat next to the truck.
As the story progresses, the "enemy" becomes a non-factor - everyone realizes that unless they help each other they will never be able to get out of the desert alive. This realization, however, does not move the film into soapy melodrama territory; rather, it enhances even more the film's gritty and realistic atmosphere. The famous finale has one of the most enjoyable bar scenes ever shot.
The acting is excellent. Mills is fantastic as the aging alcoholic who isn't ready to give up just yet. Quayle is also convincing as the big and strong South African officer. Occasionally, Andrews looks a bit stiff, and his lines are the weakest ones in the film, but he is nevertheless enjoyable to watch. Syms looks absolutely beautiful.
Note: In the United States, Ice Cold in Alex was cut by its distributor to 79 minutes and released as Desert Attack. The Blu-ray disc herein reviewed, courtesy of Optimum Home Entertainment, contains the film's original British theatrical version, running at approximately 130 minutes.
Ice Cold in Alex Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, J. Lee Thompson's Ice Cold in Alex arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
In the press materials I was sent it is noted that Ice Cold in Alex has undergone full digital restoration - and it clearly shows. There are some minor flecks and scratches occasionally popping up here and there, but the high-definition transfer is very strong. The large panoramic vistas from the desert, for instance, convey tremendous depth and impressive clarity. Additionally, all of the background shimmer and light blocking present on the R2 UK SDVD release of the film are now gone. Edge-enhancement is never a serious issue of concern (the only scenes where I noticed some extremely mild sharpening are early into the film, before Captain Anson and Sergeant Major Tom Pugh meet the nurses, but are far from problematic). The best news, however, is that heavy DNR corrections have not been applied. Naturally, there is a steady light layer of fine grain throughout the entire film. Lastly, aside from a few inherited shaky frame transitions, none of which are problematic, there are absolutely no stability issues whatsoever. All in all, this is yet another very pleasing Blu-ray release of a famous classic film by Optimum Home Entertainment. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B "locked" or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content),
Ice Cold in Alex Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0 (with portions of German). For the record, Optimum Home Entertainment have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The English LPCM 2.0 track does not disappoint. Understandably, its dynamic amplitude is somewhat limited, but the audio has all of the organic qualities one would expect from a strong loseless track -- the audio has very pleasing depth and fluidity, and does not suffer from any distortions. For the record, I also did not detect any pops, cracks, excessive hissing, or audio dropouts to report in this review.
Ice Cold in Alex Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Ice Cold in Alex Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I cannot recommend J. Lee Thompson's Ice Cold in Alex highly enough. It is a very entertaining, beautiful film, which has been recently restored and now released on Blu-ray. I am definitely looking forward to see more classic films coming through Optimum Home Entertainment and Studio Canal as their recent Blu-ray releases have been simply terrific. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Note: The newly restored version of Ice Cold in Alex will be showing at the Odeon Panton St. (in London) from June 17th. So if you are visiting London, this would a terrific opportunity to see the film theatrically.
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Ice Cold in Alex Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Ice Cold in Alex Blu-ray Announced - May 16, 2011
British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment have announced that on June 13th they will release on Blu-ray J. Lee Thompson's Ice Cold in Alex a.k.a Desert Attack (1958), starring John Mills (Great Expectations), Sylvia Syms (Victim), Anthony Quayle (Lawrence ...
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