1942 and in the Libyan war zone an ambulance with two frightened nurses,
a sergeant major and a fatigued officer are desperate to reach the safety
of Alexandria. This exciting premise is given a further
twist of tension as they pick up a stray South African officer (Anthony
Quayle) who is not all he seems to be.
many ways this is a very different view of the desert from the one shown
in Lawrence of Arabia (largely because it is in black and white and
therefore the desert is a sort of greyish colour). However it is also
a tense psychological drama with some superb performances - especially
from John Mills (who plays a character he has done before - but does
it bloody well) and Anthony Quayle (hugely underrated). Sylvia Syms
is as beautiful as ever and Harry Andrews supports well.
movie walks a careful line pointing out that the British stiff upper
lip sometimes works to great effect…..especially when your land rover
gets into trouble on a hill. The detailed character development between
two sides in a conflict; and remember this was just 13 years after the
war which both Sir Quayle and Sir John both fought in with distinction.
I’m sure at the time it was sensitive because basically it points out
that are Germans are not as bad as they were made out to be.
wanting to ruin the plot too much John Mills has become too fond of
the booze and on his journey across the desert in the Land rover allows
on Anthony Quayle the mysterious South African Captain (sporting gin)
who soon adds an element of menace as they begin to suspect that he's
a German spy. This idea of 'the enemy within' is exploited further as
our plucky crew runs into a group of German soldiers. Seemingly surrounded
on all sides they look doomed.