A group of army personnel and nurses attempt a dangerous and arduous trek across the deserts of North Africa during the second world war. The leader of the team dreams of his ice cold beer when he reaches Alexandria, but the problems just won't go away. Written by
The Austin K2 Ambulance used was actually four wheel drive and had presumably been converted for the movie using a front axle and wheels from a Canadian Military Pattern truck along with a transfer box and prop shafts. The hubs are slightly different to that on a normal K2 and the differential housing of the live axle can be seen on some shots. It was probably changed so it could extricate itself more easily in the shots where it was bogged down. There's seems to have been 2 Austin K2s used for "Katy" as in some shots it has the driven front axle and in others the original beam axle fitted to these vehicles. See more »
The following quoted statement is incorrect:
"The British party have what they call Jerry Cans. In fact only the Germans had them; hence the nickname."
In fact, the British had captured large numbers of Axis Jerrycans in Benghazi, and were also making their own copies of the German cans since seeing them in Norway.
Unlike the Americans, the British directly copied the superior design of the German cans. It would be hard to tell the difference without seeing what language the embossed writing was in. See more »
Army ambulance Captain Anson is ordered out of Tobruk just before it is besieged in 1942. He is fatigued by battle, dependent on drink, and despised by his friend and fellow officer who wrongly suspects him of asking to be released from the siege.
With Sergeant Pugh, the squadron's senior mechanic he prepares to leave, but enemy action separates them from the rest of the column and presents two nurses as unwelcome passengers. They later encounter Van der Pol, an ebullient South African Officer who offers to share his large rucksack of gin if the ambulance crew will give him a lift. The five then set off eastwards, trying to reach Alexandria, and safety.
But nothing about the journey is straightforward and Anson must deal with the desert, enemy forces, his own alcoholism, and the growing realisation that one of their number is an enemy agent. An incident in which one of the nurses is killed forces Anson to face up to his drunkenness and he promises his next drink won't be until they reach 'Alex' and it will be a cold beer, giving the film its title.
As the journey progresses the identity of the agent becomes obvious, but in parallel the others find themselves becoming drawn to him because of his bravery and integrity. The setbacks and hazards in the desert asks tough questions of them all, but none more difficult than how to remain loyal both to their country and to an enemy soldier to whom they each owe their lives.
John Mills as Anson, and Anthony Quayle as Van der Pol head an excellent and well-directed cast. Sylvia Simms and Harry Andrews support, without taking the limelight and although the script occasionally dips below standard, nothing can really detract from one of the finest wartime stories ever told.
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