Tight Little Island / Whisky Galore! (1949)

Tight Little Island / Whisky Galore! (1949)

“Any man who stands between us and the whiskey is an enemy!”

When a cargo ship full of whiskey goes down near a Scottish island, its drink-loving residents rush to rescue what they can — but a by-the-books captain (Basil Radford) is determined to return the loot to its rightful owners.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Comedy
  • Joan Greenwood Films
  • Scottish Films

Scottish-American director Alexander Mackendrick made his (directorial) debut for Ealing Studios with this gentle comedy, set on a remote Scottish island and focusing exclusively on the impact of whisky (or lack thereof, due to wartime rationing) on the local population. It shows a group of people united in their efforts to secure what they want and need:

banding together against Customs and Excise men (as personified by Home Guard C.O. Radford):

… and also the impact that drinking has on a young man (Gordon Jackson) smothered by his overbearing mother (Jean Cadell):

Thanks to a bit of drink, Jackson finally works up the courage to tell Cadell he’s going to marry to his girlfriend (Gabrielle Blunt).

Meanwhile, Blunt’s sister (Joan Greenwood) is romanced by a returning sergeant (Bruce Seton) much older than her:

… and a dying man (James Anderson) is resurrected by the presence of his favorite libation.

Favorite random line: “Mother, where is my helmet? You were using it to feed the hens!”

Note: Film fanatics will likely be tickled to see Catherine Lacey from Michael Reeves’ The Sorcerers (1967) in an earlier role here.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Gerald Gibbs’ cinematography

  • Fine location shooting on the Isle of Barra

  • Several humorous moments

Must See?
No, though it’s recommended.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Tight Little Island / Whisky Galore! (1949)

  1. First viewing (10/14/19). A once-must – just for the fun it brings, and as another good example of Mackendrick’s work. As per my post in ‘The ’40s-’50s in Film’ (fb):

    “Spare the rod–”
    “–You never did.–”
    “~and spoil the child!”

    ‘Whisky Galore’ (1949) Director Alexander Mackendrick ended up with only little more than a handful of credits to his name. The ‘Sword of Damocles’ fell on his career with ‘Sweet Smell of Success’ – which, today, is rightfully recognized as a brilliant classic; but it was a commercial flop on release – and Mackendrick did little work afterword. (He entered academia, accepting a position as Dean of a film department in a Calif. school.) Fans of a few of his earlier films (specifically the very entertaining ‘The Man in the White Suit’ and ‘The Ladykillers’) may find additional enjoyment in ‘Whisky Galore’ (aka ‘Tight Little Island’ in the US), which was his feature debut. It’s a slight tale but an amusing one.

    During WWII, the sleepy Scottish town of Todday has run out of whisky (“the water of life”), leaving the townsfolk largely depressed. Luckily, an English freighter runs aground on their island during a night of fog – and the ship happens to have 50,000 cases of whisky cargo on-board. Quickly, the islanders get wind of this – and the ‘battle’ between them and an English commander begins. The script engages in a fair amount of subtlety (so a second viewing might be of benefit) and its dry wit is fairly typical of productions that came from the Ealing Studio.

    The cast appears to be having quite a bit of fun in this romp.

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