This highly entertaining 1p review comes from guest Mike Petty…
Unlike other Saturday-afternoon staples like The Dam Busters and Reach for the Sky, the film of Ice Cold in Alex is based on a novel. I simply can’t remember if I’ve read it before, so comprehensively has it been elbowed out of my consciousness by the film. I know I owned it, though; it formed part of my collection of Pan war books along with forgotten efforts like Two Eggs on My Plate and The White Rabbit.
The reason I know I owned it is that I used to gaze for hours at the photograph on the back cover (above), which featured Sylvia Syms spilling tremendously out of her khaki shirt, untrammelled it would seem by brassiere (nursing officers for the use of), gazing wantonly down at a rather corpse-like (and spookily peroxided) John Mills for all the world as if she’s planning to suckle him. The image had a powerful effect on an impressionable 12-year-old; in fact I’m not sure I’ve ever got over it. If I had read the book I would have searched in vain for the scene it portrayed, because it’s nowhere to be found. In fact, the unsettling thing about reading (or rereading) this book now is that the John Mills character isn’t even the love interest. The relationship that develops (the highs of which are related in a manner that is coy in the extreme) is between Diana the nurse and RSM Pugh, the stolid, dependable non-com whose wife was killed in the blitz on Plymouth. That, I hardly need remind anybody, is Harry Andrews, who as far as I can remember was never a love interest either before or since.
Anyway, the current edition (available for a penny here) features a glass of lager on the front and a sand dune on the back, nowhere near as exciting. The lager, of course, is what Captain Anson promises himself when he and his unlikely crew have flogged their ambulance across the desert to Alexandria, having overcome oil leaks, water leaks, quicksands, stray German patrols, hostile Arabs, sand dunes – and his own alcoholism. And that, ultimately, is what the novel is about: Anson and his demons.
He just about keeps going in Tobruk, as Jerry gets closer and the shells fall, on nerves and whisky. So the order to transport two stranded nurses to safety in Alex (where ‘they serve it ice-cold’) is a blessing, not even much disguised. The other nurse is rather quickly killed by a stray bullet in an encounter with a German patrol (something of a relief all round since she has been in a permanent state of hysterics ever since the trip began), but her still-warm body serves to convince a kindly German that Continue reading