"The longest unsponsored advertisement ever to reach cinema screens", reckoned producer Monja Danischewski. Maybe so, but Alexander Mackendrick's debut feature is much more than that. This comic account of a real-life event pitches a priggish English army captain against the remorseless guile of an islandful of thirsty Scots defending a cache of shipwrecked whisky, and helped make ‘Ealing Comedy’ one of British cinema’s most enduring brands. It's a film of boundless mischief, and it marked Mackendrick from the start as the most complex and subtle of Ealing's directors.
The SS Politician, whose real-life shipwreck (while carrying nearly 30,000 cases of finest malt) inspired Compton Bennett's source novel, went down off the coast of Eriskay in the Hebrides. The film itself was shot on Barra - a short but sometimes treacherous boat journey away - with many islanders among the extras.