Something In The Air
A semi-autobiographical drama from director Olivier Assayas set in 1970s Paris
Basil Radford and Joan Greenwood star in this classic Ealing comedy about a bunch of Scottish Islanders determined to hold on to a cargo of shipwrecked whisky, whatever the cost
Rereleased in a new digital restoration in July 2011 by Optimum.
On 5 February 1941, the SS Politician, en route to Jamaica, sank during bad weather off the coast of Eriskay, in the Outer Hebrides. It was carrying 250,000 bottles of whisky, which the locals gleefully looted before authorities arrived. Bottles still surface to this day, carried in by the tides to the beach. It must be a wonderful place to live.
Whisky Galore!, an adaptation of the novel based on the true incident by Compton Mackenzie, uses the same premise, but - importantly - the interlopers (or "meddling colonialists"), in the shape of Basil Radford's Captain Waggett and his Home Guard, are already in place. On the Island of Todday whisky is everything - the "water of life" binding the community together. When wartime rationing spells its depletion, the locals are only too delighted to relieve the "SS Cabinet Minister" of its cargo. Confrontation between the wily Islanders battling (literally) for survival, the pompous, uncomprehending Captain (a forerunner to Dad's Army's Captain Mainwaring), and the Gestapo-like Customs and Excise men is a foregone conclusion.
To Ealing head Michael Balcon's consternation, the movie was produced by a novice (Ealing's publicist Monja Danischewsky) and helmed by first-time director Alexander Mackendrick, emerging over-budget, due to (coincidentally enough) bad weather. Mackendrick, a strict Scottish Calvinist, also deliberately imposed a moralistic comeuppance-style ending. But Balcon shouldn't have worried. Scarily similar to The Wicker Man in places, this wonderful movie is a joy to watch from start to finish, with Basil Radford, in particular, in his element.
A reminder, if one were needed, that classic British cinema doesn't begin and end South of the border, this one - like whisky - will bring a warm glow to your cheeks.
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