The opening takes its tempo from American screwball comedies, with Wendy Hiller’s willful heroine barreling through like Roz Russell late for an interview. Her train ride to Glasgow -- wedding vows answered by the locomotive’s whistle, the stovepipe hat belching smoke, the maquette of tartan-covered mountains -- is a downright Vigoesque torrent of gags which culminates in the magical first view of the Western Isles. Thick fog and thicker storms keep Hiller from reaching her industrialist fiancé, the brief sojourn at a tiny coastal village brings her in contact with a courtly naval officer (Roger Livesey), Scottish folklore, and The Archers’ inimitable brand of pantheism. Expanding The Edge of the World and A Canterbury Tale, Powell and Pressburger fill the landscape with ritual and incongruity, legend and gadgetry, young couples gravitating together and aged ones celebrating anniversaries. The phone booth by the waterfall ("It was a dry summer when they put it here") is as much a spiritual part of this world as Pamela Brown’s benevolent sorceress, or the feisty Colonel (C.W.R. Knight) whose falcon undergoes its own offscreen rite of passage. "A little odd, isn’t he," asks the city gal; Livesey’s wry response ("Who isn’t?") embodies the Powell-Pressburger sense of openness and curiosity toward people and places and visions. Myths both local and distant (in one such tale, a Norwegian prince battles the sea with a rope woven from the tresses of maidens) abound in this glowing comedy of "Highland economics," where a "fortune hunter" and a Gaelic man-eagle find romance in the eye of a literal maelstrom. (The whirlpool swallows the heroine’s wedding dress, "a mermaid will marry in it.") A work of prayers answered and thresholds crossed, recalled by Visconti (La Terra Trema) and Forsyth (Local Hero) and suspended between 1945, just before the end of the war, and the timelessness of a fable. Cinematography by Erwin Hillier. With Finlay Currie, George Carney, Nancy Price, Jean Cadell, Valentine Dyall, Catherine Lacey, John Laurie, Margot Fitzsimmons, Murdo Morrison, and Petula Clark. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce