The island of Todday, off the coast of Scotland, is 100 miles from anything close to recreation, so it’s small island community gets by on thet pastime of whisky drinking. However, due to rationing, the whisky stores dry up, and the island is suddenly devoid of alcohol. The previously cheerful, easygoing folk become irritable and distant, until one night a cargo ship wrecks out in the bay. The cargo? 50,000 crates of whisky. However, just as the locals are set to launch their boats into the water to pilfer the booze, the clock strikes midnight on the Sabbath, and any such business would be going against their religion.
This film was nominated for me to watch by T. Sorenson of T Sorenson 1001 Movie Blog, a fellow 1001-lister who is taking the unrecommendable approach of hitting all the films on the List chronologically, so he’s a crazy person. He’s up to 1953 now, so it was no surprise that the films he nominated for me came from before that year. And as crazy as he might be, he at least has good taste, because Whisky Galore! is fantastic, so thanks Thomas for recommending it.
This is a comedy that works because not only is the inherent set-up comical, but it derives further comedy from the characters placed within the situation. The notion of an island that thrives on the existence of alcohol suddenly finding itself bereft of any immediately brings a smile to my face at the possibilities for the commotions that will occur, but when you throw in pompous English military man Captain Waggett (Basil Radford, Charters from The Lady Vanishes), who takes it upon himself to personally stop the locals from stealing the wrecked whisky, or the shopkeeper Macroon (Wylie Watson), whose two daughters have both recently become engaged to men under Waggett’s command, whom Macroon blackmails that they can’t have permission to wed until he gets his whisky, well then hilarity can’t help but ensue.
I got a very heavy Dad’s Army feel to a lot of the scenes here, particularly between Captain Waggett and the rest of his men, including Sergeant Odd (Bruce Seton) and George Campbell (Gordon Jackson, Mac from The Great Escape!), with Waggett in the bumbling Capt. Mainwaring role, Odd as Sergeant Wilson and Campbell as Private Pike. Of course, Dad’s Army wasn’t made until some twenty years after Whisky Galore!, but I’d assume some inspiration was taken for the show from the film. The first scene with the road block, whose assembly is being practised in preparation for a German invasion, was wonderful, with it being pointed out to Waggett that regardless of how effective the road block is, the only road on the island runs all the way around the perimeter, so any invaders stumped by it could simply turn around and go back the other way. (Also, if you’re a fan of Dad’s Army and haven’t heard about the remake, go and see what a tremendous cast they’ve assembled, even if it does seem to be people who are capable of directly parroting the actors gone before them.)
I’m not a huge fan of whisky. Other than a sip of champagne, it was the first alcohol I’d ever tried, and I strongly wouldn’t recommend it. It would seem, however, that I’m missing out, because there apparently is literally nothing that the stuff cannot do, having properties as both medicine and car fuel. It was also a delight to see how devout, religious folk secluded from events thought about the war in general. One elderly inhabitant believes that the war shouldn’t be fought on the Sabbath, and that if the Germans continue to fight on a Sunday, then that is for their own consciences to bear.
The only issue I had with the film is the denouement, with a rather depressing ending slapped on post-climax. It adds a moral element to the story, but it took away a great deal of the previous 80 minutes of fun and entertainment. Other than that, however, this was great.
Choose Film 9/10