...where distraction is the main attraction.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Nominee for the greatest title EVER

But in 1943, disaster overwhelmed this little island.  Not famine nor pestilence.  Nor Hitler's bombs.  Or the hordes of an invading army.  Something far... far... worse.
There is no whisky!

In the middle of WWII, the small Isle of Toddy (100 miles from mainland Scotland) runs out of whisky.  Panic, woe, and melancholy consumes the populace.  Prayers are issued to the heavens for more whisky.  The answer arrives in the form of an English cargo ship that crashes on their shores.  Overhearing that the ship contains 50,000 cases of whisky, all of the men in the town sneak out to rescue the whisky cases before the boat sinks into the sea.  Joy instantly returns to the island.  Amidst the revelry, the locals must keep the whisky bottles hidden from the English military who are trying to bring the whisky back to the UK market so that government can collect tax on the sales.

I'm not sure how funny this 1949 film would be to anyone who doesn't find bliss in a brand new bottle of Scotch.  But for whisky lovers, this film is devine.  We are its demographic and it panders shamelessly to us.

"Four whiskies and the man is a giant?!" exclaims a woman about her young fiancee.

The local doctor replies, "It's a well known fact that some men are born two drinks below par."  Amen.

There's a lovely singing montage as the whisky cases are opened and thoroughly enjoyed.  Looking carefully, I saw bottles of Ballantine's, Black & White, Cutty Sark, Johnnie Walker, Islay Mist, Lang's, and Mackinlay.  And when the montage ends, the narrator slurs through his voiceover.

The great Alexander Mackendrick (The Ladykillers, Sweet Smell of Success), directing his first feature, does a solid job keeping the story hauling along.  His visuals are crisp and smart; especially the depiction of the English military detectives as a faceless shadowed mass of hats.  (There's a clear Scottish versus English undercurrent running throughout the film.)  The editing is great.  The end chase sequence works well and has a very appropriate emergency conclusion.

There's a last minute awkward shift at the end of the film that allows the picture to conform to the British Board's morality standards of the time, though upon second viewing this addition seems to be parodying the censorship.

Ultimately, there's very little deep or profound about this film other than its love of the uisge beatha.  Sláinte Mhath! to that.