‘I Know Where I’m Going’

The most famous film which involves the Corryvreckan is the 1945 black and white movie called ‘I Know Where I’m Going’.

This film was written, produced and directed by Michael Powell, with Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey. Please see Scotland The Movie website for more details.

Some information on Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger [the screenplay writer] can be found at http://www.powell-pressburger.org

For more information about the background to I Know Where I’m Going, you can read an extract here :


The camera position [OS Map 52 GR 073714] used to create the whirlpool sequence in ‘I Know Where I’m Going’ is on Lunga Island.  This location is just to the North of the Gray Dogs [Bealach a’Choin Ghlais] the passage between the islands of Scarba and Lunga.

On the left  you can see a close up of the Gray Dogs that pretty much matches the film sequence. The upper half of the film shot in the centre is real [as demonstrated by the close up below it] and the lower half is the tank model. The film shot was made during the ebb tide, at a time when the water level was slightly higher. The lower shot shows the exact timing of the tide to illustrate this more effectively.

The following information about Emeric Pressburger [the screenplay writer for the film] is from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Emeric Pressburger [December 5, 1902 – February 5, 1988] was a Jewish Hungarian screenwriter and producer, who emigrated to England in the 1930s. He is best known for his series of collaborations with Michael Powell. Born Imre Jazsef Pressburger in Miskolc, Austria-Hungary [now part of Hungary], and educated at the Universities of Prague and Stuttgart, he started out as a journalist.

After working in Hungary and Germany he turned to screenwriting in the late 1920s, working for UFA in Berlin. The rise of the Nazis forced him to flee to Paris, where he again worked as screenwriter, and then to London. He later said, ‘The worst things that happened to me were the political consequences of events beyond my control … the best things were exactly the same.’

In England he found a small community of Hungarian film-makers who had fled the Nazis, including the influential Alexander Korda, owner of London Films, who employed him as a screenwriter. There he met film director Michael Powell, and they worked together on The Spy in Black [1939]. Their partnership would produce some of the finest British films of the period.

In 1938 he married Aga Donaith but they later divorced in 1941. He married again in 1947 to Wendy Orme, and they had a daughter Angela, but this marriage also ended in divorce in 1971. His daughter Angela’s two sons both became successful film-makers: Andrew Macdonald as a producer on films such as Trainspotting [1996], and Kevin Macdonald as an Oscar-winning director. Kevin has written a biography of his grandfather, and a documentary about his life, The Making of an Englishman [1995].

Pressburger was made a Fellow of BAFTA in 1981, and a Fellow of the BFI in 1983. In later years he lived in Suffolk, England. He died 5 February 1988 of bronchial pneumonia while still living in Saxstead, Suffolk, England.

Michael Powell’s Memoirs [A Life In Movies]

Published by Heinemann in 1986, Michael Powell’s Memoirs include the following extract…

The island of Scarba is almost joined to the island of Lunga. In between these two high and rocky islands, there is an arm of the sea, a sort of miniature Corryvreckan, about thirty feet wide. This passage of the sea is called the Pass of the Grey Dogs. In the middle of the passage is an islet which deer use for their astonishing leaps from one island to the other. The passage is easily navigable at slack water, but at the ebb it runs like a millrace.

On Sundays, when the rest of the unit were exploring the island, or taking their ease, Pamela and I and Ian MacKenzie would get John Seaborne to cut us some thick sandwiches and maybe a scone or two with jam, put out the big motorboat, cross the bay and arrive at Scarba at the slack. We would wait until the tide turned and then run the Pass of the Grey Dogs and round the end of Scarba just as Corryvreckan began to boil. We would be only a few hundred yards from the overfall beneath the sea, which was creating the whirlpools and eddies which were popping up all around us.

Ian would creep into the main eddy below the sea cliffs of Scarba, and cruise about there as calmly as if he was on the Serpentine. I had my hand camera, my faithful Eyemo, and as the boat was pitching and tossing and sometimes whirling right round in the force of the current, I would tie myself to the mast, like Prince Breacan, to leave my hands free. This is how I got the shots of the eddies and whirlpools which we used with great effect in the back projection scenes in the studio. But my particular triumph was to snatch with the camera one of those mysterious boils which comes roaring up from unknown depths.

As we cruised to and fro in the eddy from the whirlpool these boils would suddenly rear up like sea monsters and toss the boat about before subsiding again. By now, Corryvreckan would be roaring, and if the wind were against the tide, the minor races would be yelling and screaming and you could hear the din twenty miles out at sea. Deafened but exhilarated by all this clamour and keyed up by the tension of watching the surface of the sea for any surprises, we would spend a couple of hours until the tide slackened, when we would creep back up the Grey Dogs and so home, our cheeks roughened with wind and salt water, and our eyes full of the mysteries we had seen.

On one of these occasions I said to Pamela: ‘Do you realise that we nearly got drowned just then?’

Note: Ian Mackenzie was the owner of the Crinan Hotel