Whisky Galore! (2016 film)

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Whisky Galore!
Whisky Galore! poster.jpg
Directed byGillies MacKinnon
Produced by
Screenplay byPeter McDougall
Whisky Galore Film
Release date
Running time
98 minutes[3]
CountryUnited Kingdom

Whisky Galore! is a 2016 British film, a remake of the 1949 Ealing Comedy of the same name. It was directed by Gillies MacKinnon and stars Gregor Fisher, Eddie Izzard, Sean Biggerstaff and Naomi Battrick. The film premiered at the 2016 Edinburgh Film Festival and went on general release in Scotland from 5 May 2017[4] and the rest of the UK, Ireland and the US from 19 May 2017. The principal film location was Portsoy, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.


Set in the Second World War when whisky rationing is in effect, Scottish islanders on the Isle of Todday, try to plunder cases of whisky from a ship that is stranded on rocks just offshore. The SS Cabinet Minister was carrying 50,000 cases of Scotch whisky to America when she ran aground affording the islanders the opportunity to get their hands on the "water of life". There are problems though; the local minister (a strict Sabbatarian) who will not allow work to take place on a Sunday and Captain Waggett, the Home Guard officer who wants to stop any looting and Farquharson the customs officer who also searches for the whisky in the islanders' homes afterwards.[3]


In 1943, on the small remote island of Todday (pronounced "toddy"), 100 miles to the west of Scotland in the Hebrides, World War II largely passes by the small population that barely notices the effects of rationing until Mr Bain, the barman at the only pub, announces "There is no more whisky. [clap of thunder] The island is dry." It is too much for one elderly man who dies after downing the last whisky in his glass; at his funeral, with there being no whisky, his friends can only bid him farewell with a cup of tea.

The next day, the supply ship captain brings no whisky and says the islanders' quotas are cancelled. The islanders are dejected. Only Mrs Campbell is unmoved by the whisky drought - a fierce and domineering Bible-basher who strictly controls and constantly berates her adult son George (the schoolmaster), regularly locking him in his room with only a Bible and bread and cheese. She disapproves of his courtship of Catriona, daughter of widower Joseph Macroon who is the postmaster. The supply ship's captain unloads a case of ammunition which Captain Cyril Waggett, who leads the handful of men forming the island's Home Guard, says is the wrong kind for his soldiers' rifles. Waggett is obliged to hold onto the case, which he has stored in the island post office (which encompasses the telephone exchange and shop). Mr Brown, a mainlander, ostensibly a tweed salesman, also arrives on the supply ship; he encounters local distrust (asking for directions to the public phone box, he is told he'll surely come to it if he turns left, or right).

Macroon's other daughter, Peggy, operates the telephone exchange. She is delighted when her boyfriend Sergeant Donald Odd returns on the supply ship, on leave from the War, having recently fought with the army in the Battle of El Alamein in North Africa. Macroon, however, sadly realises that when his daughters marry soon, they will leave his house and the island, leaving him alone.

The islanders endure two weeks of whisky "drought" during which "morale is very very low". During a stormy night, the freighter S.S. Cabinet Minister runs aground on the rocks of Skerry Dhu near Todday and starts to sink. Biffer and Sammy row out to investigate and learn from its departing crew, commanded by Captain Buncher, that the cargo consists of various items bound for the United States but all the two islanders focus on is it's 50,000 cases of whisky ("12 bottles in each case!" Biffer notes before thanking God). They house the stricken ship's crew in Ma McPhee's Boarding House (the crew later leaves for the mainland) then the islanders prepare to row out to fetch ashore the whisky. But as the church clock starts to toll midnight, the church minister, Macalister, loudly reminds them that the Sabbath has begun. As no work is allowed on the holy Sabbath, everyone despondently goes home.

During the day, a number of islanders stand on the harbour and nearby cliffs looking out at the sinking ship. Waggett is concerned to uphold the law and prevent thievery, so he orders Sergeant Odd, his next-in-command, to keep watch on the ship from ashore. Macroon tells Odd that there can be no wedding between Odd and Peggy without a rèiteach (betrothal ceremony) beforehand, and a reiteach requires whisky - no whisky, no reiteach, no wedding. Three of the Home Guard recruits try to sneak up on Odd to incapacitate him; Odd colludes with them and is left tied up and gagged, obviously unable to stop anyone from boarding the ship. Macroon learns from an overheard telephone call that the cargo includes a valuable red leather document case.

As soon as midnight starts tolling (Monday) and once Odd is incapacitated, many of the island's men, accompanied by Peggy, make haste to board the Cabinet Minister. This includes George who, locked in his bedroom by his mother, sneaks out of his bedroom window and jumps down. They bring ashore many but not all the crates of whisky before they have to abandon the ship when it sinks. Macroon sneaks ashore the document case that he found, hidden inside a whisky case. They load the crates onto Biffer and Sammy's lorry, pausing only at Macalister's behest as they praise God for his bounty. They take the crates to a cave at Seal Bay, stash the crates there and take away many bottles for immediate or imminent consumption.

The adult population live it up in the pub as the stolen whisky flows freely, and there is dancing and music. Mr Bain is annoyed that he cannot charge his customers (Sammy assures him he will be robbing them again soon enough), and later Bain informs Waggett that there are 200 cases of looted whisky on the island. On Bain's further information, Waggett goes to Seal Bay and sees the stashed crates for himself.

The documents in the red case comprise love letters written by the Duke of Windsor to his wife (known as Wallis Simpson before they married in 1936). The Duke is considered an embarrassment to the Establishment due to his undisguised admiration for Hitler and Nazism. Macroon, who has realised who or what Mr Brown is, contacts him and gives him the document case on condition that Brown's official report to the government will give a glowing report on the inept Waggett, in the hope that he will not be replaced by someone "more efficient."

At the reiteach, a quaich containing whisky is passed along for everyone to drink, and speeches are made to honour the forthcoming weddings of Odd and Peggy and of Catriona and George. As the whisky flows, Macalister announces (with Constable McPhee beside him) that he will conduct the marriage ceremonies on the solstice. Wild celebrations ensue, with much downing of whisky. George imbibes heavily, and Catriona hopes the alcohol will give him the courage necessary to insist on the wedding to his mother. It does, and George gives his mother an ultimatum - either accept Catriona or "emigrate to Glasgow"; she is appalled that he is drunk on "Satan's drink" but when she tries to chastise him he plays the bagpipes at her.

Waggett rings Peggy at the telephone exchange and asks her to ensure that the case of ordnance is put aboard the next supply ship. Later, knowing that Peggy reports useful news she overhears while connecting phone calls, Waggett gets her to put through his call to his superior officer Woolsey, pretending he will travel to Obaig to meet him to discuss the said ordnance. However, Waggett actually goes to Nobast to fetch Farquharson, a Customs & Excise officer. Farquharson has had run-ins with Macroon before, and his men search his house, with Constable McPhee checking the upper floor. But the Macroons have been warned by a grateful Mr Brown and by a local named Roddy, and Farquharson finds nothing. The whisky has been poured into ingenious hiding places such as the cold water tank (and islanders are busy hiding it in walls, gutters etc), and the ordnance has been secretly removed from the case and replaced by bottles of whisky. Waggett sees the ordnance case and sharply reminds Peggy to at once put it out for the imminent supply ship and Constable McPhee says he will see to it. Farquharson tells Waggett go by car while he sails the customs boat to Seal Bay - he and McPhee will seize the whisky crates and the remaining whisky. Macroon, his daughters, George, Biffer and Sammy realise the destination when Mr Bain admits that he had told Waggett to look at Seal Bay. Macroon's daughters delay Waggett by boxing in his parked car while Angus cycles around telling everyone to rush to Seal Bay. The men, including Macroon, George, Biffer and Sammy, hurry to Seal Bay along the beach in the latter's lorry, which the islanders load with the whisky crates. Farquharson and Waggett find only an empty cave. On the return journey the lorry runs out of fuel and they empty two bottles of whisky into the fuel tank, which enables them to once again put distance between themselves and the pursuing Farquharson. But they leave behind the two used bottles, which Farquharson and Waggett find, proving to Farquharson that Waggett's story is true. Angus stops their car on the road and points his shotgun at them, declaring that the Nazis may have invaded and, countering Waggett's indignation, that someone may be impersonating Waggett. He demands the password, but they do not know it. Farquharson mentions whisky in conversation with Waggett. Angus says "whisky" is the correct password and stands aside. Farquharson soon has the whisky-laden lorry in sight but the narrow road is obstructed by a number of islanders on bicycles (those who moved the whisky from Seal Bay, and led by Peggy and Odd) who decline to make way, and the lorry escapes.

At Waggett's house, his wife Dolly pours tea for Farquharson, Waggett and McPhee. Farquharson phones a report to his superiors. He then informs Waggett, with some relish, that he has been ordered to take Waggett to Obaig for interrogation, because he sent a case there which contained bottles of whisky identified as coming from the S.S. Cabinet Minister. From his personal share of the looted whisky McPhee pours two drams for Waggett and his wife to bid farewell to each other with.

After Farquharson's and Waggett's departure, the joint wedding of the Macroon daughters is held, celebrated by the whole island. The two brides emerge from the marriage ceremony through a guard of honour holding crossed whisky bottles above them. Even Mrs Campbell eventually arrives to signify her belated approval of George's and Catriona's marriage; she is given a whisky dram and surreptitiously drinks it and later on joins in the country dancing. Mr Bain is denied a dance by a woman in return for his informing about the whisky but, forgiven by all, joins in a country dance later. Catriona and Peggy have a moment with their father, assuring him that they love him and that it is him that makes the day.



The production spent ten years in development hell.[5] Producer Iain Maclean had initiated the project in 2004 with writer Bill Bryden attached and producers Stephen Evans, Maggie Montieth and Ed Crozier.[citation needed] He raised £400,000 through private investment to finance the development of the film through the company, Whisky Galore Development Ltd.[citation needed] After firing Bill Bryden, Peter McDougall was brought on board and wrote a script for a planned filming in the summer of 2006.[6] The film never commenced production. Between 2006 and 2010, Stephen Evans and Ed Crozier left the project. In 2012, Iain Maclean, disheartened by the lack of production finance, had to let Whisky Galore Development slip into administration. In 2014 he decided to rekindle the project when he met Irish farmer and businessman Peter Drayne, who agreed to finance the film completely and resurrected the project, as long as the project was started from scratch.[citation needed] It was finally green-lit in 2015[5] and principal photography commenced later in 2015 in Scotland.[7] In the interim Peter McDougall wrote a second screenplay.[5] According to director Gillies MacKinnon, the film is a modern interpretation, not a proper remake: "The style is contemporary, embracing drama, romance and comedy, with an array of colourful characters providing a platform for a wonderful cast."[8]


Whisky Galore! has gained theatrical distribution in UK and US by Arrow and was scheduled to be released in cinemas in the UK on 5 May 2017.

Critical reception[edit]

Kate Muir, writing in The Times, gave the film four stars out of five. She praised the "zippy farce" and in particular, Eddie Izzard's portrayal of Captain Waggett played "with psychotic, obsessive joy and a nod to Dad's Army's Captain Mainwaring". Muir also said that "fans of the original film may find little or no improvement in this remake, but for a new generation this Whisky Galore! will be a pleasure".[3]

Toby Symonds, of The Film Blog, was similarly praising, terming the film "visually and aurally gorgeous".[9]


  1. ^ a b c d "Whisky Galore Movie Ltd". Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  2. ^ Young, Katy (21 April 2016). "'Whisky Galore!' world premiere to close Edinburgh".
  3. ^ a b c Muir, Kate (5 May 2017). "Another? Don't mind if I do". The Times (72215). Times 2. p. 7. ISSN 0140-0460.
  4. ^ "Release date for Whisky Galore remake". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Hannan, Martin (20 June 2015). "Cheers ... work to start on Whisky Galore! remake". The National Scot.
  6. ^ "Remake of Whisky Galore! hits the rocks amid storm over snub to Scots". The Scotsman. 16 July 2006. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  7. ^ Freeth, Becky (22 August 2015). "Suited and booted Eddie Izzard is captured in 1940s costume for the first time as he films Whisky Galore! remake in Scotland". Daily Mail.
  8. ^ "Whisky Galore! remake filmed around Cornalees". Greenock Telegraph. 19 August 2015.
  9. ^ "Whisky Galore! Review". The Film Blog. Retrieved 22 November 2017.

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