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The Criterion Collection presents
I Know Where I'm Going! (1945)

Mr. Webster: You can't marry Consolidated Chemical Industries.
Joan Webster: Can't I?

- George Carney and Wendy Hiller

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: February 27, 2001

Stars: Wendy Hiller, Roger Livesey
Other Stars: George Carney, Pamela Brown, Captain C.W.R. Knight, Margot Fitzsimmons, Murdo Morrison, Finlay Currie, Ian Sadler, Walter Hudd, Captain Duncan MacKenzie, Petula Clark
Director: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: G
Run Time: 01h:31m:39s
Release Date: February 27, 2001
UPC: 037429154427
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A AA-A- A+

DVD Review

Englishman Michael Powell and Hungarian Emeric Pressburger, collectively known as The Archers, produced a collection of some of Britain's best loved films in the 1940s and early 1950s, including A Canturbury Tale, The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus and The Tales of Hoffmann, and were also responsible for the advancement of many photographic technologies during that time, including location filming and rear projection techniques. Both Powell and Pressburger had a fascination for location photography, especially in Scotland. Powell's 1937 On The Edge Of The World was one of the first British films to be dominated by location shooting, and capturing the atmosphere created by the ever-changing weather of the Hebrides was not only a key feature of I Know Where I'm Going!; it was actually vital to the story.

Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) is a thoroughly modern English woman, and one who knows exactly what she wants—in fact, she always has. The daughter of a bank manager, she is set to marry money, and announces to her father (George Carney) that she has landed Robert Bellinger, a man nearly his age, and one of the wealthiest men in England, owner of a chemical company. They are set to be married as soon as she arrives at the island he lives on, away from "other people". As she boards the train for her trip, her plans are going well—her husband-to-be has set out a detailed itinerary of the many legs of her voyage up to meet him on the island of Kilorin in the Scottish Hebrides. While dreaming of her life in the world of money, she meets all her connections and looks to be getting married the following day until she arrives at Mull, where the last stage of her journey is to take a boat across to the island. However, the fog is thick, the ferryman won't risk the passage, and the boat from the island wouldn't dare to cross in this weather. Here she meets Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), home for a week on leave from the Navy. Dismissing his advice that the boat from Kilorin will not make it through the fog, she waits at bayside, though loses her itinerary to a gust of wind that carries it off into the brine. Once resigned that her plans have gone awry for the day, she joins MacNeil at the home of Catriona Potts (Pamela Brown, who made her film debut in The Archers' One of Our Aircraft is Missing), a fiercly independant local whose husband is off to war, and who proves a sharp contrast to the golddigging Joan. As her carefully scheduled plans for marriage become increasingly disrupted by the uncooperative Scottish weather, it becomes clear that the elements and those in her presence may know more about where she is going than she does.

For casting, Powell & Pressburger found a role for Wendy Hiller (star of Pygmalion), whom they had wanted to use for some time. Roger Livesey had joined The Archers previously in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). Several players from Powell's On the Edge of the World make appearances in I Know Where I'm Going! as does Finlay Currie who plays Ruairidh Mor, and would go on the next year to star as Magwitch in David Lean's Great Expectations. Also look for a young Petula Clark as Cheril, the snooty daughter of Joan Webster's fiancé's aristocratic friends.

Unless one has had the fortune to go through the supplements on this disc, there are many important considerations that would be overlooked by the casual viewer, not the least of which is that while much of the film was shot on location, and despite his appearance on screen in many of these locales, the lead male, Roger Livesey, never got within five hundred miles of the shoot due to commitments in a stage play, and all his closeups were done at Pinewood Studios, while location footage was carefully crafted using a double. It should also be noted that this was shot before the advent of light meters, and all of Erwin Hillier's remarkable outdoor and studio photography was done purely by eye. Powell & Pressburger also paint an interesting picture of society near the end of World War II, with the materialistic young woman, played by Hiller, trying to escalate from her lower-middle class roots through marriage while surrounded by traditional upper-middle class land owners impoverished by the war effort. In the end, The Archers have created an entertaining love story demonstrating that even those who know where they are going can discover more than they ever dreamed possible. It is an endearing tale, utilizing the character of the land and the spirit and myth of the Scottish Highlands to weave a story of true love, wherever one might find it.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I Know Where I'm Going is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Image quality varies throughout, as many films from this era do. At best, we get a beautiful black and white image with excellent contrast and midtones. Other shots are oversharpened with aliasing present, or appear soft. There is often ghosting on backlit shots, and there is a fair degree of dust, scratches and occasional frame damage evident, especially around reel changes; most of this is usually unobtrusive. Black levels are fairly consistent throughout, though midshadow detail varies on the shot. Considering its age, it is in very reasonable condition.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Presented in single channel mono, the soundtrack, while easily understood, suffers from oversaturation and tape distortion during loud musical passages, which is a source problem. Some hiss is evident, though not overbearing. Again, considering the age of the film, it is a very adequate presentation.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by film historian Ian Christie
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Two photo essays
  2. Excerpts from On The Edge Of The World, and the 1978 documentary, Return To The Edge Of The World
  3. I Know Where I'm Going! Revisited documentary
  4. Michael Powell's home movies
Extras Review: Once again Criterion shows why they are the kings of the supplemental department on this release. It's not because there are twenty hours of extras, it is because the extras chosen suit the release and give a novice viewer an great appreciation of what they are witnessing on screen.

To accompany the feature, there is a commentary track by film historian Ian Christie, who gives insight into the many challenges of this film, background on its casting and locations, and comparisons to other Powell/Pressburger collaborations as well as to the early drafts of the script. Originally produced for the laserdisc version, the commentary does add a very useful and informative look at the movie, especially for novices, and quickly gets us up to speed on all the things to appreciate about the film. My only criticism of this track are some of the references to other films that do contain major spoilers for those who haven't seen them yet.

First in the independent supplements is a 10-minute photo essay featuring behind-the-scenes stills from the production, narrated by Micheal Powell's widow, Thelma Schoonmaker Powell. We see shots of the locations, comparisons of the live footage and studio shots, with interesting background on how the film was made.

We also get a look at one of Michael Powell's home movies, taken on one of his many walking expeditions, and again narrated by Thelma Schoonmaker Powell. She discusses his love of the Scottish Highlands, and gives the viewer a nice introduction to the man and his philosophies.

Next is an excerpt from Powell's earlier On The Edge Of The World, one of the first to be shot nearly entirely on location, introduced by Powell himself for the 1978 documentary on the film, Return To The Edge Of The World. This feature runs 16 minutes, and features commentary during the later half under the film exhibition from Ian Christie, who also provides the running commentary for the main feature. Christie contrasts the location and casting of this earlier film to I Know Where I'm Going, and provides insight into Powell's motivations on both films. The commentary track is silent for the first couple of minutes during Michael Powell's tour of Pinewood studios.

Marc Cousins' 1993 documentary, I Know Where I'm Going! Revisited centers mostly around film aficianado Nancy Franklin, a New York Times film critic whose love for the film drew her to the Scottish Hebrides and the location of the film's shooting. Again the substance of this feature adds a great deal of appreciation to the production, and serves as far more than a studio fluff promotional piece. We visit many of the locations seen in the film, and hear from Nancy why this film means so much to her. We also see interview clips with the film's star, Wendy Hiller, and Petula Clark, who had a supporting role, relaying her experiences of the making of the film when she was a young girl, along with several crew members and support actors offering their views on the production.

Finally, we have a photo essay by Nancy Franklin, taken during her trips to Scotland. As with the early photo essay, this narrated montage has much more depth added by the insight of the voiceover. This is a style of presentation I hope to see more of, as while the photos are of interest in and of themselves, the background surrounding them gives them much more importance and interest.

Criterion's standard color bars are also included.

The package inset also features an essay by film historian Ian Christie on The Archers, the Powell/Pressburger production team.

Extras Grade: A+


Final Comments

For fans of old-style romantic comedies, I Know Where I'm Going fits the bill perfectly; had it been released as a movie only DVD, I would probably have just accepted it as an enjoyable film, nothing I would find myself revisiting any time soon. However, with the amount of background supplied here, my interest in the film has grown appreciably, and I certainly have a greater understanding of why this is favored by its fans. Criterion has once again packaged a movie with the right additions to make it easy for the first time viewer to dig into the production, and gain respect for what these filmmakers have achieved. They have also piqued my interest in the remainder of the Archer's work, many of which also fall into the Criterion library. Recommended.


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