On 5 February 1941, during gale force winds, the SS Politician ran aground off the Island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides. The hold contained 25,000 cases of blended Scotch which the islanders were determined would not go down with the ship. It was rescued and hidden from the authorities. This incident formed the basis for the 1947 novel Whisky Galore by Compton McKenzie and the classic 1949 Ealing film of the same name. Now 70 years after the novel, the film has been remade, and while it may not be the same vintage as the original, it’s still a fine brew.
Despite being spared from the ravages of World War II the isle of Todday has suffered a horrible misfortune, due to severe rationing it has just run out of whiskey, news that causes at least one resident to keel over dead. However as if a gift from heaven the SS Cabinet Minister runs up on the rocks off the island with a cargo full of the precious fluid. The islanders, led by postmaster Macroon (Gregor Fisher) intend on savaging it’s cargo, but this being a Sunday, the local minster (James Cosmo) expects them all to be in church and respecting the sabbath. There’s also the matter of the Home Guard, led by the bumbling and full of himself Captain Wagget (Eddie Izzard) who’s determined to recover the plundered spirits and romantic subplots involving Macroons daughters Catriona (Ellie Kendrick) and Peggy (Naomi Battrick) and you have the makings of a delightfully old school comedy.
And that’s really what Whiskey Galore is, and old fashioned, family friendly comedy. When I read the producers saying it wasn’t so much a remake as a modern re-interpretation I was worried that it would be turned into a raunchy booze soaked comedy. And while there’s nothing wrong with raunchy booze soaked comedies wouldn’t have been right for this project. Thankfully they have captured the spirit of the original quite nicely.
With a nice collection of odd characters and increasingly silly and convoluted cat and mouse games to keep the whiskey hidden along with the romantic subplots, Whiskey Galore is perfect for a lazy afternoon’s entertainment.
Appropriately, the film is being released by Arrow Films, best known for their restoration and reissues of classic films. It opened in Scotland May 5th with the rest of the UK getting it two weeks later. In the US is sees limited release in Beverly Hills CA and NYC on the 12th of May.