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Film / Whisky Galore!

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Whisky Galore! is a 1949 film directed by Alexander Mackendrick.

The setting is Todday, a fictional island in the Scottish Outer Hebrides, During the War. (The film was shot on the Outer Hebrides island of Barra). Life is grim in Todday, because there is no whiskey due to wartime rationing and shortages, and to the people of Todday, life is not worth living if there's no whiskey to drink.

There's romance going on, at least. Catriona Macroon has gotten engaged to meek schoolteacher George Campbell, although George's domineering mother refuses to sanction the marriage. Catriona's sister Peggy Macroon, the telephone operator (Joan Greenwood), has also gotten engaged to Sgt. Odd, an islander who has just gotten back on leave after fighting the Germans in North Africa. Still, the only person on the island who seems to be having a good time is Captain Waggett, commander of the local Home Guard militia, who takes his job of guarding a barren, windswept island far too seriously.


The tedium of wartime life in Todday is suddenly interrupted when a cargo ship, the SS Cabinet Minister, runs aground offshore. The cargo ship, it so happens, was carrying fifty thousand cases of whiskey. The citizens of Todday immediately mobilize to loot the whiskey before the ship sinks—but they have to overcome the opposition of Captain Waggett, who takes it upon himself to prevent looting at all costs.



  • Adaptation Name Change: The SS Politician was renamed Cabinet Minister in the film.
  • Age-Gap Romance: Sgt. Odd is rather embarrassed when Peggy calls him old and then specifically notes that he's 17 years older than he is. She marries him anyway.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Early in the film Waggett shows what an oaf he is by building a barricade on the island's only road. Late in the film that barricade is used to delay Waggett and the revenue police, while the islanders abscond with the whiskey.
    • Waggett is shown in his first appearance arguing with a ship captain, trying to get the captain to take away his .303 caliber ammunition; it's the wrong caliber for his rifles. Later, one of his boxes is used to hide some whiskey, which gets Waggett in trouble when he does ship out the ammunition.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The plot underwent some modification and condensation from the novel, a lot of the background being removed; in particular, much of the religious aspect of the novel was left out, the novel's Protestant Great Todday and Roman Catholic Little Todday being merged into the single island of Todday.
  • Creator Cameo: It had been Compton Mackenzie's ambition to appear in a film, and he was given the role of Captain Buncher.
  • Curse Cut Short: Fortified by Liquid Courage, George says to his mother, "I've told you my terms, and if you don't like them, you can go to—you can go to Glasgow!" (Earlier his mom had threatened to go to Glasgow to live with her sister.)
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: When Ma Campbell won't stop carping about his impending marriage to Peggy, George finally shuts her up by playing bagpipes right in her face.
  • Excited Show Title!: Whisky Galore!
  • Home Guard: The British Home Guard, a vaguely silly citizen militia. George, second in command of the unit, can't go out to the ship because he's grounded. Another militiaman's mom uses his helmet to feed chickens. Captain Waggett is the sort of fellow who will put up roadblocks on the island just to look busy, despite the fact that the only road on the island is a circle and German invaders could land anywhere. Waggett takes his job so seriously that he decides to guard the wrecked ship even though it isn't really his business.
  • Liquid Courage: George can't face his mother and tell her that he's marrying Peggy whether mom likes it or not—that is, until he's had five shots of the whiskey liberated from the cargo ship.
  • My Beloved Smother: George's overbearing, domineering mother. She refuses to permit his marriage to Peggy. She locks him in his room.
  • Narrator: A narrator sets the scene in Todday, and closes the story by explaining how the village eventually ran out of whiskey and was unhappy.
  • Serious Business: The islanders are very, very upset that they can't get whiskey anymore thanks to the war.
  • Sleeping Single: Capt. Waggett and his wife sleep in separate beds. In this instance it sort of fits Waggett's starchy, fussy personality.
  • Stock Footage: The clip used for the sinking of the SS Cabinet Minister is the same as that used for the sinking of the Jervis Bay in San Demetrio London.
  • Styrofoam Rocks: The way the islanders handle the crates, and the way they pile the crates high in their tiny rowboats, makes it clear that they're really empty boxes.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: The closing narration talks about how the island had plenty of whiskey, but that eventually they drank it all up, and whiskey got too rare and expensive for anyone to afford, and "they all lived unhappily ever after." That is, except for Peggy and Sgt. Odd, who weren't whiskey drinkers.
  • Talent Double: One local, who was adept at Scottish dancing, stood in as the body double for Joan Greenwood in the rèiteach scene; Greenwood, a talented ballet dancer, could not master the steps of the reel, and the feet of one of the islanders were filmed.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • A sailor aboard the Cabinet Minister worries that they're too close to land. The captain barks "I tell you we're nowhere near any island!" Immediately after he utters these words the ship runs aground.
    • The revenue man says that Waggett's barricade wouldn't be very useful against Germans. Waggett says "If we were Germans, there would be snipers!" Cue people in the rocks sniping at them. (They're shooting blanks.)
  • Title Drop: The closing narration says that the islanders had "whiskey galore!"
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Inspired by the true story of the SS Politician, a ship that ran aground offshore of the Hebrides in February 1941, carrying 22,000 cases of malt whiskey (and millions of pounds in cash, something this film omits).