Colonials I

film 3 of 6

Whisky Galore!

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Jun 3, 2015

Though Compton Mackenzie’s source novel is brief, its pace & plotting are both actually very leisurely: it’s fascinating to see how ruthlessly the novelist’s own film script pares the story to the bone, compressing romantic trajectories, eliminating two year courtships, placing both heroines in the same family, having the liquor-laden ship sink the very next morning, throwing out atmospheric but inessential secondary characters & plotlines;

Two really pleasing, impressive things result: first is how breathless & efficient a concoction Alexander Mackendrick’s film version turns out to be, with its marvelous, artfully foreground/backgrounded  pictorial compositions (very typical of Ealing Studio product of the time), its superbly imagined and executed montages—when the whole town imbibes, when the whole town hides what it’s imbibing, when everyone outwits the officious & yet affectingly sympathetic English Home Guardsman;

Second, how very lyrical & moving this efficient little product still turns out to be: as in the lovely Gaelic folk round that gives rhythm to that 1st drinking sequence; & the engagement party, with the ever-enchanting Joan Greenwood featured in the most amazing circular tracking shot, which is partly amazing in the way it goes beyond virtuosity to say something deep & true about love between men & women; & the plying of the pipes that is so much more than just picturesquely Scottish, & that somehow brings tears starting to the eyes; & how all of that adds up to a testament to the antiquity & ever-viability of Caledonian collectivity;

Is all that mere conceit, or wish-fulfilling idealization? Maybe, a bit—more than that, though, it’s