Having recently viewed Kind Hearts and Coronets, I was extremely surprised to learn that Whisky Galore (1949) was from the same studio: Ealing. While the first of these is a meticulously detail-oriented and sophisticated black comedy, Whisky Galore seems to have been filmed by a crew who’d imbibed liberally in the titular beverage.
‘Romp’ is the perfect word to describe it. This is not an understated film. Every situation is taken to the extreme, and the production teeters on the edge of disaster the whole way through. It’s a testament to the writers, directors (at least two) and actors that this never quite happens. The post-shoot editing of this film is reported to have been a fraught affair, and one can see why: getting this one right has to have been a difficult endeavor.
As for how the audience receives it, I don’t recall many of the films on the 1001 movies list to be quite this fun. Insanity, if held barely in check, is a surefire way of generating effective comedy, and it proves to be the case this time around.
Another thing that makes this one work is that the butt of most of the jokes are hidebound people who obey the rules at all costs, even when the rules are stupid or unenforceable. In this film, they are represented by an English commander of a Home Guard unit during WWII, but he stands for everyone who upholds boring convention, especially health and safety.
Anyone who’s been reading this blog for any appreciable time knows that health and safety freaks are not my favorite people, so I took wicked delight in watching authority get it in the shorts.
I don’t really have a critical evaluation of this one. It is one to enjoy without overanalyzing it. So that’s what I’ll do here. Just get a copy of it, but be careful–there’s a remake from 2016, and one which I’d be leery of. Much of the comedy in this film is the kind of stuff modern filmmakers are afraid of (you don’t want to fall afoul of the politically correct thought police), so the remake might be a watered-down monstrosity (I hope not, but as I haven’t seen it, I need to issue the warning).
Anyhow, watch this movie.
Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose debut collection Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places holds a number of slapstick stories in among the spaceship tales. You can check it out here.