Saturday, March 19, 2011

218. Whisky Galore! (1949)

Running Time: 82 minutes
Directed By: Alexander Mackendrick
Written By: Angus MacPhail, Compton Mackenzie, from novel by Compton Mackenzie
Main Cast: Basil Radford, Catherine Lacey, Bruce Seton, Joan Greenwood, Wylie Watson


I've had "Whisky Galore!" sitting here at the house for most of the week now and with my wife off at work today, I figured I'd hunker down in the bed and give it a look. To be honest, I actually had to take a respite about half way through and catch "forty winks", which is sad considering the short running time of this film.

The plot is pretty simple, so I'll try to keep this synopsis short and sweet. The film takes place on the small, isolated Scottish island of Todday, where wartime rationing leads to a dry spell on the island. By "dry", I mean that the whisky has ran out and gloom descends upon the natives of the island, who have learned to go about their daily lives, only if their bellies are filled with the drink. The islanders go about their lives, with their heads hung low, speaking in monotone voices, unable to snap out of their depression over the loss of their beloved whisky. By chance, a boat carrying 50,000 cases of whisky and headed for America, runs aground and the crew are forced to abandon ship and leave it for the sea to swallow. When the natives get wind of what the precious cargo was, they plan to steal it and when the clock strikes midnight signaling the end of the sabbath day, they commence with their plans. The cast of characters are headed up by the brilliant Basil Radford (one of the few brilliant things about "Whisky Galore!) who plays Captain Paul Waggett, the English head of the Home Guard, who, with nothing better to do assigns his men to keep watch over the sinking ship, until it is well under the sea. When the natives succeed in capturing the cargo, Captain Waggett makes it his duty to find the culprits necessary and bring them to justice.

I really need to get out of Britain as far as my movies choices are concerned. I don't have anything against the Brits but their films are just to prim and proper and for my tastes, I should have spread them out and watched them sparsely. Now don't get me wrong, I've really liked some of the British films that I've been watching, but I think it's just too much and we need to make a detour and get into some other period or some other country. I just flat out didn't enjoy this movie and aside from a few short scenes and small elements, there was almost nothing about it I found appealing. Basil Radford was good and provided all of my laugh out loud moments in the film, but even those were reduced to small chuckles. I just didn't find anything funny or amusing about an island that is cleared of whisky and the inhabitants who go into a grand funk over the loss of it. Other than that, I really can't put my finger on why I disliked "Whisky Galore!" so much, I can say, however, that this is a prime example of a movie that really makes me scratch my head and wonder, "How in the hell did this make it into the book, when so many other, great films weren't included." This is NOT, by any means, something that one MUST SEE before they die and I'd say unless you're a fan of classic Britcom films, then it's a must to avoid.

RATING: 3/10 That's a generous rating as far as I'm concerned. "The Lavender Hill Mob" still holds up as the best Ealing Studios comedy thus far. Really need something stellar to come along as I've seemed to have hit a slump of bad - average films.


March 19, 2011 6:20pm


  1. Oooohh, movie man!
    (Please read this with an amused smile :), and with totaly mock outrage!)

    Thats fighting talk Movie man.. Ealing comedies were grafted into the very soul of anyone born pre 1960 in the UK. We watch them through very rose tinted glasses as they represent an idealised era that is long gone, (if it ever existed), and we lament the loss.
    But I will strongly dispute the suggestion that Ealings are 'prim & proper'. The very basis of them is their anarchy, the triumph of the 'little man' over the authorities. It is the captain's (Radford) character that is prim and proper, and he is the subject of mockery. It is the lawless, anarchic islanders playing the 'lovable rogues' that are presented as the heroes. This is the ongoing theme of most Ealings. Just about every Ealing I can think of has the prim & proper establishment mocked and got the better of by the 'common man'. This all stems from the era they were made in..people were tired and still - 10 years after the war- rationed and struggling against a stultifying post war austerity & burocracy.

    Don't worry, this is a good humoured gentle rebuke reply, and I'm typing this all with a smile, you have most certainly not offended. But you have said something like "(after watching 'It's a wonderful life') I'm going to leave American movies as they are too sickly sweet"!
    (Perhaps you only said those things to prod me into action after neglecting my replies for too long. Or you are just miffed that "The Kings speach" made off with so many Oscars??)

  2. I think my biggest beef with this film is that it was an Ealing comedy and after watching the great "Lavender Hill Mob" and the really good "Ladykillers", I just expected more, I guess. I have nothing against British films or British people (as you probably already knew, or at least I hope you did), I think I just piled on WAY too many classic British films in a row and it got a little tiresome.

    And no, I'm not mad at you or The King's Speech. Although I haven't seen "The King's Speech" yet so the anger MAY come once I see it (that is if I don't like it).

  3. He He... By the way, I've been to the place where the boat 'Politician' was wrecked (That inspired the book, with the boat re-named 'The Cabinet Minister'), and had a photo taken of me holding one of the few remaining bottles of whisky. It's on a rather obscure island off another island well up off the coast of Scotland - quite a treck to get to. The film incidently was filmed on a different island...


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