Screengrab: Whisky Galore


Richard Lutz on the movie of the tv week – in this, the festive season of goodwill,  peace on earth and last minute internet deals.

Quick Martha, the remote, there’s something I got to record tonight.

It’s late news indeed but sitting there amid the schedules’ blockbusters, dross and mega-series is a small gem, a tiny black and white jewel, a masterpiece of ‘how they used a make em’ when movies were really movies and not CGI star driven garbage.

And that film is Whisky Galore (Sun,BBC4,19.00).

It is a great little tale to watch tucked up after a nice meal by the fire (or at least the remote controlled radiator), a glass in hand with no big stars and an entrancingly small plot: a post-war freighter filled with 50,000 bottles of whisky is wrecked off the fictiional island of Todday (actually, Barra) and the canny denizens, all half cut anyway, tuck the booze away for another day.

It is an Ealing comedy par excellence and directed, in 1949, by Alexander Mackendrick in his debut. It is based on a novel by Compton Mackenzie (a local).

What makes this film fun is Barra residents were used (at £1 per day) and their hard, wizened buck-toothed faces grin from the screen amid the Brit names of rising star Joan Greenwood, Gordon Jackson and James Robertson Justice.

Ms Greenwood, by the way, was quoted in 1948 as saying: ”My films have all been unhappy ones. I am longing to do a comedy.’

A year later, she did… amid the unending weather, the roaring wind and the Atlantic skies.

Director Mackendrick went on to work with Alec Guiness (The Ladykillers) and Burt Lancaster (Sweet Smell of Success). But it’s Whisky Galore that will stand out- an endearing fable about wily islanders outwitting lugubrious officals in an austere postwar world- and having a drink of the golden nectar to boot.