Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Maggie

Over the weekend I watched The Maggie off my DVR. It's a British movie that, when it was released in the US, was retitled High and Dry for no particularly good reason since the title refers to the name of a boat and not as far as I can tell any British cultural reference Americans wouldn't get. Anyhow, the movie is available on DVD from the TCM Shop so I'm comfortable doing a full-length post on it.

MacTaggart (Alex Mackenzie) is the skipper of the Maggie, a boat known as a puffer that is in a very parlous state. So much so that when it pulls into harbor in Glasgow, the harbor master declares it not seaworthy. MacTaggart is going to need £300 to repair it, a princely sum in early 1950s Scotland.

However, he's in a bit of luck. A wealthy American businessman is on the phone with one of the shipping companies saying that he needs to get a bunch of stuff shipped from Glasgow to his new house on one of the islands off the coast. All of the other boats are booked solid, and where is the guy going to get a boat at this short notice? It just so happens that MacTaggart has his boat, even if it shouldn't be sailing. The inspector inspects the wrong boat and MacTaggart doesn't stop him, and soon enough MacTaggart is going to be on his way.

Of course, the businessman, airline executive Calvin Marshall (Paul Douglas) soon finds out about the ship that is transporting his goods, and he's none too happy, demanding that his stuff get taken off the boat, and sending his representative Pusey (Hubert Gregg) after the boat. However, MacTaggart is a crafty man, constantly outwitting the dull Pusey.

Eventually, Marshall himself starts going after the Maggie, finally coming to the conclusion that the only way he's going to make certain his stuff remains safe is to get on the boat himself. Even then, however, MacTaggart isn't going to make the journey an easy one for Marshall...

The Maggie is a movie that has a really good idea but one that I found was fairly substantially hampered by the execution. The big problem for me is that MacTaggart in his dishonesty becomes an increasinly unappealing character. At one point, Marshall gets the brilliant idea to buy the boat out from under him, although it's actually MacTaggart's sister who owns the boat and she refuses to sell. Still, I would have been happy with Marshall gaining ownership and throwing MacTaggart into the ocean. There is a story to be had about a boat owner who needs a job to save himself financially (I'm reminded of Beyond the Poseidon Adventure as an example) combined with the adventure of The African Queen in getting from point A to point B. Indeed, a story could have been fashioned to have Marshall become sympathetic to MacTaggart and the two working together. But that's not what we get in the movie.

And then, with all that having been done, the movie turns around and comes up with an ending that to me made no sense in one of the main characters' motivations. Oh, and there's an obnoxious kid, too.

Still, Paul Douglas puts in another good turn as the brusque American in a strange land. I suppose Mackenzie is good at what he's being asked to do, although I still find the character extremely irritating. There's also one wonderful sequence when the boat stops at one of the islands and winds up at a former fisherman's 100th birthday party. You get the feeling there's a fair amount of authenticity in this, especially with the Scots Gaelic (I think; I didn't understand the speech) being used.

I think I'd be more likely to pick this up if it were part of a box set of Ealing comedies rather than as a standalone. But your mileage may vary; as always feel free to judge for yourself.

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