Thursday, 21 May 2009

No. 134 : Whisky Galore!

Here’s another 'always on on a wet afternoon but I’ve never seen it before' ‘W’ classic. You’ll be familiar with the plot which sees a bunch of drunken Scotsmen try to outwit the forces of the excise office.

Set on the fictitious island of Todday in the Outer Hebrides during the second world war the film opens with the islanders learning that their whisky has run out. As you’d expect this is a disaster with people fainting and sobering up all over the place. Fortune smiles however when a cargo ship runs aground with its cargo of 50,000 cases of whisky. The locals have to leave it be for the Sabbath but despite their Christian leanings they are not against a bit of theft as they begin to clear the ship the following day.

The ships sinks in dramatic model endangering action the soon afterwards but local busybody, and proto-Captain Mainwaring, Captain Waggett seeks to upset the party and reports his suspicions to the excise department. Meanwhile Gordon Jackson (off the Fine Fare ads) is being smothered by his overbearing mother and an off duty soldier tries to woo the girl of his dreams.

With Captain Waggett retuning with a posse of spoilsport duty men it’s up to the locals to hide the whisky lest it be confiscated and returned to its rightful owners. Can the drunken Scotsmen stay drunk? And can the war be won with this bunch of shiftless yokels manning the home front?

As you can probably gather I’m not too impressed at the moral ambiguity going on here. Yes they are all loveable rogues but the idea that a whole Scottish community lives or dies by its whisky intake is patently ridiculous. We do see the occasional drunk asleep on the beach but no one dying of liver disease, beating their wives or spewing up all over the place.

Although the film is 80 minutes long even that is only achieved with some lengthy padding. The ship doesn’t sink until half an hour in and the real crux of the story only really gets under way with twenty minutes to go. Of course with a paper thin plot you do have to have some good characters to win the audience over and this has a few but not enough. Gordon Jackson is a bit wishy washy although his harridan mother is great. Basil Radford as the lead is poor but has little to work with as his role is basically the English twit foil for the canny Scots.

I did laugh a couple of times but more at the dated sense of values on show and at the general bad behaviour - at one point with the customs at the door one man frantically guzzles two bottles of Scotch. Dead in a week guaranteed. The film does end with a moral and the suggestion that craving whisky, as has been shown for the entire film, might not be a good way to go after all. Well, duh!

The film is generally a gentle good humoured romp with a smattering of stereotypes and mild laughs. Nothing great and morally dubious but a decent distraction and cultural oddity.

Best Bit : Stashing the Scotch
‘W’ Rating 13/23

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