Imagine living in the days when Ealing was producing its comedies. Heady times when you could visit the cinema this week for Kind Hearts, next week for Passport to Pimlico or The Man in the White Suit. Everyone in the country must have been in the cinema. Those wonderful times of course have passed. Or have they? New this week (in Scotland – a little later for those down south) is an Ealing reboot – Whisky Galore! from Gillies MacKinnon starring Gregor Fisher and Eddie Izzard.
Whisky Galore! is set in a time of wartime rationing, and one of the things that is rationed is whisky. When the island of Todday runs out of whisky the inhabitants are hard hit, wondering what could be worse than a whisky drought. Of course lots of things are worse than a whisky drought, but let’s suspend disbelief and join with the villagers in their excitement when a ship carrying thousands of cases of whisky runs aground near the island. The locals see it as a providential source of much-needed fire-water. The story is simple, classic Ealing, pitting a small community against dastardly officialdom trying to stop their looting, with a romantic subplot or two thrown in for good measure.
The film has a real Ealing sense of community with lots of characters, although a stand out is played by Sean Biggerstaff who gives his intelligent sergeant a waspish humour, pulling the wool over the eyes of Izzard’s Captain Wagget. The captain is a self-important character, providing a butt for the islanders’ anger and humour. He’s in charge of a rag-tag selection of men, none of whom share his sense of duty and actively help to upend his plans.
The weather is shockingly good all the time, except for when the plot requires it to be foggy. The crew of the ship-wrecked ship are rowed to shore and never seen again, but let’s not worry about the plot as a warm all-in-it-together ambience sustains the film. The narrator’s accent can be hard to understand and the laughs are only occasional but the whole confection is light and fluffy, and the ensemble enthusiasm lifts the slight story.
Whisky Galore! showcases the beautiful Portsoy scenery and the small village in Aberdeenshire had better prepare for more tourists seduced by the photography in this remake.