MacPhail

The Oban Times - - Letters - AN­GUS MACPHAIL an­gus­macphail@ya­hoo.co.uk

I WAS as­tounded by the level of dis­ap­point­ment ex­pe­ri­enced by the drudgery of view­ing the newly re­leased re-make of Whisky Ga­lore.

One of the most fac­tu­ally amaz­ing sto­ries, which in­spired one of the best comic nov­els, which in turn was the seed of one of the finest film come­dies of the 20th cen­tury, has been well and truly torn to bits, mixed up, had the guts of it re­moved, been blindly thrown back to­gether with an end re­sult that is as funny as fill­ing in a tax re­turn with toothache.

Through­out the du­ra­tion of the film, not once did I even crack a smile, far less laugh. My fel­low au­di­ence mem­bers con­curred with only a few ner­vous and short rip­ples of em­bar­rassed chuckle through­out the du­ra­tion from around 200 at­ten­dees.

There is a very fine line when car­i­ca­tur­ing an eth­nic group in com­edy, and Comp­ton MacKen­zie in his book and the mak­ers of the orig­i­nal Eal­ing Studios film hit the bal­ance per­fectly.

The sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief was al­lowed to flow through­out both book and film, and the por­trayal of is­landers, al­beit with es­sen­tial comic ex­ag­ger­a­tion, was au­then­tic.

Not so with the new one. It has lost all sense of au­then­tic­ity of char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion with re­gards the is­landers and what is left is a sneer­ing, snide, ar­ro­gant in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a very clever and able pop­u­la­tion and is, in fact, verg­ing on be­ing racist. Even the po­lice­man, cus­toms of­fi­cials and crew of the SS Politi­cian lack enough re­al­ism to be able to carry the story.

The script was so poor, that I won­der whether the writ­ers ac­tu­ally got the jokes of the orig­i­nal. There were a num­ber of scenes where the story car­ried the gen­eral sit­u­a­tion but the ac­tual punch lines had been re­moved – or worse, put in the wrong place!

For ex­am­ple the look on Joseph MacRoon’s face in the orig­i­nal when Cap­tain Waggett is happy to ac­cept lemon­ade in­stead of a dram, is a clas­sic mo­ment. The script­ing for this scene in the new ver­sion is as if the nu­ances and numer­ous con­tribut­ing parts and sub­tleties of comic ge­nius in the orig­i­nal went to­tally over the heads of the re-mak­ers.

With a bet­ter script Ed­die Iz­zard would have made an ex­cel­lent Cap­tain Waggett and like­wise with Gre­gor Fisher’s por­trayal of the wily post-master Joseph Macroon, but even a cast of good ac­tors could not drag this dull mess into any­thing close to com­edy. The ad­di­tions of weak nar­ra­tive threads as an at­tempt to add drama, brought the end re­sult even fur­ther away from amus­ing. The music, too, was a sorry shadow of the orig­i­nal, with the only high­light, in fact the only high­light of the en­tire film, be­ing when there was a shot of Fergie Mac­Don­ald play­ing the but­ton box.

But not even Fergie was enough to save this film. Mairi MacInnes’s singing was, as al­ways, beau­ti­ful, but the track was just not right for the in­tended pur­pose.

I have watched the orig­i­nal many times and have laughed out loud ev­ery time through­out. It has in­spired some very no­table es­capades, and al­ways puts one in the mood for a good dram! The new one is enough to put me off drink­ing whisky!

As ther­apy I am go­ing to take my ac­cor­dion and go to Castle­bay Bar for a week with Andy and Mìcheal from the Vater­say Boys! In fact, it would be a good move for the mak­ers of this drip­ping wet blan­ket of a film to do the same. They might then get what the orig­i­nal book and the film was about.

If you are go­ing to take the mickey out of is­landers, you should make sure you un­der­stand them and make sure it is funny.

What the mak­ers of this dis­as­trous drudge have done is akin to adding half a pint of Fanta, some tomato ketchup and a bag of marsh­mal­lows to an aged and beau­ti­ful sin­gle malt.

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