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Black Narcissus (The Criterion Collection)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Deborah Kerr, David Farrar, Flora Robson, Jenny Laird, Judith Furse
  • Directors: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell
  • Writers: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell, Rumer Godden
  • Producers: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell, George R. Busby
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: January 30, 2001
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004XQN4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,588 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Black Narcissus (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Breathtaking new digital transfer, created with the participation of cinematographer Jack Cardiff
  • Audio commentary by late director Michael Powell and Martin Scorcese
  • Painting with Light, a new video documentary on Jack Cardiff and Black Narcissus by Craig McCall, produced exclusively for this release
  • A collection of rare behind-the-scenes production stills

Editorial Reviews

Plagued by uncertainties and worldly desires, five Protestant missionary nuns, led by Deborah Kerr's Sister Clodagh, struggle to establish a school in the desolate Himalayas. All the elements of cinematic arts are perfectly fused in Powell and Pressburger's fascinating study of the age-old conflict between the spirit and the flesh, set against the grandeur of the snowcapped peaks of Kanchenjunga. Criterion is proud to present Black Narcissus in a new Special Edition.

Customer Reviews

Powell, Pressburger and Cardiff made some of the most unique films ever, and this is one of the best.
Dr. Morbius
Sister Clodagh will come to terms with the fact that we are all human, even herself, and will begin to learn humility.
Bobby Underwood
Within all this, as I mentioned above, every shot in this film is beautiful for its color or presentation of nature.
Elvin Ortiz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 80 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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75 of 79 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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49 of 53 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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21 of 22 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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By "lexo-2x" on April 27, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
When we think of British films of the 1940s we usually think of either terribly stiff-upper-lipped gents on warships being stoical (while Richard Attenborough panics in the boiler room) or disappointingly unfunny comedies starring Alec Guinness. Powell and Pressburger were different, though.
For a start, they favoured lurid technicolor over sober black and white, plus nearly all their films have an alarming cosmopolitanism. Their attitude to Britain and British life is a mixture of affection and sharp satire, and emotions tend not to be repressed, they bubble over with startling violence. Powell, who was English in a fairly weird way, did most of the directing, Pressburger, who was Hungarian, most of the writing, and they were co-producers. The result is an exhilarating blend of almost Elizabethan exuberance and East European intelligence.
Black Narcissus is about a bunch of English nuns trying to bring Christianity to India. Gradually they start to go native; the heat, the heathenism and the sexy local administrator conspire to send the steam up their wimples. The whole ensemble cast is wondeful, and Deborah Kerr is on fine form as the mother superior, but the really startling performance is Kathleen Byron's. Byron is amazing as the sickly, irritable nun who goes totally loo-lah from sexual repression and ends up chucking in her habit for a low-cut dress. Her beautifully observed shift from tight-lipped anger to sweaty lust to hollow-eyed psychosis is easily one of the most brilliant performances in any film made before, oh, 1970 or so. It's a tragedy that Byron (one of the best, not to mention one of the most beautiful actresses of her generation) never got work as good as this again.
A weird, sexy, alarming film. Scorsese is a huge Powell fan; there's a little bit of Kathleen Byron in Travis Bickle. Wonderful stuff.
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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
Black Narcissus. Be the first to reply
Scotland ? What ? Be the first to reply
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