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Black Narcissus (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

143 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This explosive work about the conflict between the spirit and the flesh is the epitome of the sensuous style of filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (I Know Where I’m Going!, The Red Shoes). A group of nuns—played by some of Britain’s best actresses, including Deborah Kerr (From Here to Eternity, An Affair to Remember), Flora Robson (The Rise of Catherine the Great, Wuthering Heights), and Jean Simmons (Great Expectations, Hamlet)—struggles to establish a convent in the snowcapped Himalayas; isolation, extreme weather, altitude, and culture clashes all conspire to drive the well-intentioned missionaries mad. A darkly grand film that won Oscars for its set design and for its cinematography by Jack Cardiff (The Red Shoes, The African Queen), Black Narcissus is one of the greatest achievements by two of cinema’s true visionaries.

Additional Features

The Criterion Collection takes its second go at the Powell-Pressburger classic Black Narcissus, first issued by the company as title no. 93 in 2001. This 2010 disc retains some extras from the first issue, including a commentary track with Michael Powell and Martin Scorsese, and a 25-minute documentary called "Painting with Light," focusing on the work of cinematographer Jack Cardiff. The new extras, some incorporated from recent international DVD releases, include a warm 9-minute introduction by filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier (accompanied by various production stills); an 18-minute featurette called "The Audacious Adventurer," again with Tavernier as guide through the film; and "Profile of Black Narcissus," a 25-minute behind-the-scenes piece that includes comments from Cardiff, actress Kathleen Byron, and critic Ian Christie. All of these are affectionate and useful, if somewhat repetitive taken together. The most important reason for the Criterion reissue is improved technical quality for the film itself, as the previous release was deemed problematic compared to other international versions. Those improvements having been made, this version can only be called a wow. --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Video introduction by French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier
  • Audio commentary featuring Michael Powell and filmmaker Martin Scorsese
  • The Audacious Adventurer, a 2006 video piece
  • Profile of Black Narcissus (2000), a twenty-five-minute documentary
  • Painting with Light, a twenty-seven-minute documentary
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Kent Jones

  • Product Details

    • Actors: Deborah Kerr, Flora Robson, Jean Simmons
    • Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
    • Language: English
    • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Number of discs: 1
    • Rated: Unrated
    • Studio: Criterion Collection
    • DVD Release Date: July 20, 2010
    • Run Time: 154 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B003ICZW78
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,724 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
    • Learn more about "Black Narcissus (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]" on IMDb

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    82 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Bobby Underwood VINE VOICE on October 15, 2005
    Format: VHS Tape
    This stunning and atmospheric film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, who were the team behind Archer Productions, is an engrossing and moody masterpiece one might term, religious noir. It was shot in lush colors by Jack Cardiff with a score by Brian Easdale performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. It is the story and the atmosphere created by Powell and Pressburger that gives this adaptation of a novel by Rumer Gooden its noirish feel, however, and it would easily be just as good in black and white.

    Deborah Kerr is Sister Clodagh, fullfilling her duties at the Servants of Mary in Calcutta. She is assigned to helm St. Faith, high in the Himalayas, and is given the charge of Mother Superior in order to do so. She will be the youngest ever to hold such a position, and it is one her Mother Superior believes she is not ready for. Once she reaches the lonely place over nine thousand feet from the earth, with her small group of Sisters, she will discover that while they may be in closer proximity to the heavens, they will be much further from God.

    The isolation, the drums, and the wind, will have an effect on each of the Sisters, including Sister Clodagh. She is strict and demanding, but becomes concious of the danger here when she herself begins to drift and dream of her past in Ireland before joining the Servants of Mary. Kerr has a graceful Irish beauty that is almost stunning in these flashback scenes. She was young and happy, and in love. She was from a small area and did not want to be shamed when the one she had given her love to decided to move on without her. Her decision was born out of her desire to avoid humiliation.
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    77 of 82 people found the following review helpful By brian0918 on September 21, 2005
    Format: DVD
    I am not sure why the poster believes the film is missing a scene. I have the Criterion edition, and I have just watched the scene. It starts about 43 minutes into the film, and it involves the beggar girl looking at wall art, dancing, and trying to seduce the young General. In the commentary, Michael Powell says, in reference to the girl's dance: "When Larry Olivier saw this... he couldn't believe it. His Ophelia [from 'Hamlet' in 1948] changed into this..." I've posted snapshots from the film of this scene in the Criterion version.

    There is one minor error in the Criterion and previous versions of the film that have been released. When Sister Ruth sees red and passes out, the screen goes to blue instead of black. This is most likely the result of some electronic sampler that thought "black" meant "no signal", and as VCRs will do, switched the screen to blue.

    This film is excellent and Jack Cardiff was a genius. It rightly won the Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration in 1947.
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    50 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Bil Antoniou on October 17, 2000
    Format: DVD
    One of the best British films ever made is this pioneering effort by independent filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Shot entirely in Scotland with painted matte backgrounds to recreate the Himalayas (and astonishingly well at that), the film is superbly textured and mature, thematically ahead of any movie made in its period. Deborah Kerr heads a superb group of performers as the Mother Superior of a group of nuns who move to a convent in a remote mountain village in India, only to find that their confidence and strength in their religion is no match for the mystic powers of the East. Sexual frustration over local white man David Farrar, weakening faith, harsh climate and the growing fondness for their homeland soon get to the women and they are forced to leave or die. Interestingly enough, Kerr's flashback scenes of her Scottish youth and teenage sweetheart were cut by American censors upon first release, even though they were completely without sexual content, explicit or implicit; it seems it was too taboo to show a nun who has taken her vows to escape a failed love affair (the scenes have since been restored and are now available on home video). Funny, the nun who throws herself off a mountain because she goes bug-eyed every time she sees Farrar in his shorts didn't even make the Prude Alert blink.
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    22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By "fireballxl5" on March 30, 2000
    Format: VHS Tape
    From the same team that gave us THE RED SHOES this film is a must see for those who appreciate a great story fleshed out by terrific performances in lush settings with phenomenal art direction. Made over fifty years ago BLACK NARCISSUS could be considered significantly ahead of its time in its unique use of narration, and subject. (Hint: What happens when a group of British nuns is sent from their cloistered priory to establish an infirmary/school in a palace formerly inhabited by a sultan's harem located high in the Himalayas? Watch and find out.) Atmospheric and hypnotic (shot in truly glorious technicolor), this is a movie you'll want to watch many times. Definitely one of a kind. Deborah Kerr is outstanding as Head Sister Clodagh. (With Sabu and a very young Jean Simmons in supporting roles.)
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    19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Paulo Leite on January 3, 2002
    Format: DVD Verified Purchase
    Black Narcissus stands as a peak film in the career of Michael Powell and Emerich Pressburger. A flawless script centered on the personal experiences of a group of nuns that live in the Himalayas. The beauty of the place, the beauty of Nature all soon start to have a strange effect on those women. This is a movie about the conflicts between spirit and flesh. And what a film!
    On top of it we have a impecable cast and what I believe to be the best cinematography work I have ever experienced - courtesy of the great Mr. Jack Cardiff. The cinematography IS BREATHTAKING. As breathtaking as nothing I have ever seen on the technicolor days.
    I disagree with one reviewer who complained that Criterion Collection failed to bring us this film just because the aspect ratio was 1.33:1 (instead of a widescreen version). I strongly disagree with that idea and I must recall that Black Narcissus was made in 1947. At that time films had the 1.33:1 ratio. Widescreen only came up in the early 50's. It happeened that later on, some films had a fake-widescreen effect just for re-release purposes. Black Narcissus was filmed using a technicolor process involving 3 negatives and its correct aspect ratio was 1.33:1.
    Criterion's edition of Black Narcissus is a gem. A great buy. You will never see anything like this again!
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    Topic From this Discussion
    The Version is CUT
    If what you say is true, then next time you may want to consider not taking NINE YEARS to clarify what you mean about the movie "missing" a specific scene.
    Aug 12, 2010 by brian0918 |  See all 2 posts
    This version is COMPLETE
    My God!! Don't you know your cinema history at all? Sit in a dark room and repeat over and over to yourself. There were no modern widescreen movies before 1953, there were no modern widescreen movies before 1953 ... Also, check out this website:
    http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/index.htm
    Apr 27, 2008 by Terry Carroll |  See all 6 posts
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    Scotland ? What ? Be the first to reply
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