Ice-Cold in Alex (1958) is a British film based on the novel of the same name by British author Christopher Landon. Directed by J. Lee Thompson and starring the late Sir John Mills, the film was a prizewinner at the Berlin International Film Festival, is frequently shown on television, and is also available on video and DVD.
A recut version of the film — 48 minutes shorter than the original — was released as Desert Attack in 1961 in the US.
Anson motivates himself by thinking of the cold lager he will order when they finally reach the safety of Alexandria, Egypt — the "Alex" of the title. En route, the group meets with various obstacles including a minefield, a broken suspension spring (during its replacement, van der Poel's great strength saves the group when he supports 'Katy' when the jack collapses), and the dangerous terrain of the Qattara Depression. Twice the group encounters parties of Afrika Korps soldiers; in one encounter they are fired upon, and Norton is fatally wounded. van der Poel, who speaks German, is able to talk the Germans into allowing them to go on their way. The second time, however, they seem reluctant, until he shows them the contents of his pack.
This pack becomes the focus of suspicion. Pugh, already troubled by van der Poel's lack of knowledge of the South African army's tea-brewing technique, follows him when he heads off into the desert with his pack and a spade (supposedly to dig a latrine). Pugh thinks he sees an antenna. Later, at night, they decide to use Katy's (the ambulance) lights to see what van de Poel is really up to. He panics, blunders into some quicksand, and buries his pack, though not before Anson and Murdoch see that it contains a radio set. They drag him to safety and, while he recovers, decide not to tell him of their knowledge. During the final leg of the journey, Katy must be hand-cranked in reverse up an escarpment, and van der Poel's strength is again crucial to achieving this.
When they reach Alexandria, they make their way to a bar, where Anson orders a beer. But before they have drunk their first round, a Royal Military Police officer arrives to arrest van der Poel. Anson, who had prearranged this at a checkpoint as they entered the city, orders him to wait. Having become friends with van der Poel and indebted to him for saving the group's lives, Anson tells him that if he gives his real name, he will be treated as a prisoner of war, rather than as a spy (which would mean he would be executed by firing squad). van der Poel admits to being Otto Lutz, an engineering officer with the 21st Panzer Division. Pugh notices that Lutz is still wearing fake dog tags and rips them off before the police see them. Lutz, after saying his farewells and concluding that "the desert was the greater enemy", is driven away. There are continuity errors at this point: as they drive into the square a 1956 Morris Minor can be seen; and as van der Poel/Lutz leaves, a Series 2 Land Rover and a Renault Fregate are in the frame.