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Criterion Collection: Black Narcissus [Blu-ray] [1947] [US Import]

Deborah Kerr , David Farrar , Emeric Pressburger , Michael Powell    Blu-ray
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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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: Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: 20 July 2010
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003ICZW78
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 111,004 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



When Bernardo Bertolucci went to the Himalayas to film Little Buddha, so the anecdote runs, he was disappointed by the scenery. Somehow, the real thing didn't quite live up to what he'd been led to expect by Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus. It's not hard to see why he felt let down. Their film is almost ridiculously gorgeous--a procession of saturated Technicolor, Expressionist angles, theatrical lighting and overwrought design. It has a good claim to being the high watermark of lushness in the British cinema (and, incidentally, every original foot of it was actually shot in Britain). No wonder it took the Oscar for colour cinematography (shot by Jack Cardiff) as well as for art direction and set decoration (created by Alfred Junge).

Audiences loved it on its first release, but the critics were cooler: hadn't the story been upstaged by the baroque images? Well, probably, but that's not altogether a bad thing, since the plot--quite faithful to Rumer Godden's popular novel --isn't wholly free of corn. A group of five Anglican nuns, led by Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr) establish a school and hospital in a former harem among the Himalayan peaks. The wind blows, the drums pound, the Old Gods stir, and one by one the celibate sisters succumb to unchaste thoughts, above all Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron, terrific in the role), so consumed by erotic yearning for the one Englishman in sight (David Farraar) she puts on crimson lipstick, wears her wimple-free tresses like an early Goth and takes a downward turn. (Black Narcissus features the greatest scene involving a nun and a high place this side of Hitchcock's Vertigo and Jacques Rivette's La Religieuse.) Silly, to be sure, but also sublime at times and as curiously entertaining as it is picturesque. --Kevin Jackson

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Staggering 29 July 2008
I have previously bought this wonderful film on laserdisc from Criterion and I have loved it and thought the transfer was good, even though colour strips weren't 100% synced. It has become one of my very favourite movies and the partnership of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger one of my all time favourite director/writer team (Life and Death of Coronel Blimp and the Red Shoes are also totally wonderful).

Before I saw this movie again on this Blu-ray I had no idea that it could as awazing as it did on this release. Not only were the colours even more vibrant than ever, but the detail in the picture was staggering. I can now see all the detail in the walls, costumes and props. Alfred Junge got the Oscar for production design on this movie and it is understandable now more than ever. Everything looked totally breathtaking and I could now, more than ever, understand the distraction and beauty that make the nuns forget what they were doing. This is also thanks to the wonderful photography of Jack Cardiff, who won the Oscar for it. His use of colors and the lighting are nothing short of brilliant. When viewing the film it is hard to believe that everything was shot at Pinewood studios, save for some shots from the English countryside. It is a lesson to filmmakers nowadays that you can make a believable movie totally in the studio.
The documentary "The profile of Black Narcissus" is included and is quite informative and interesting, featuring interviews with several of the people who made it, including Jack Cardiff and Kathleen Byron. Is is presented in 576p, so some people with a TV that doesn't support this resolution may have problems viewing it. The Blu-ray is also region free.
If you haven't seen the movie before and are interested in the old way of moviemaking then I totally recommend this magnificent picture.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Visually stunning 14 Aug 2000
Format:VHS Tape
The film covers the time that a small group of nuns occupy an old house at the top of a chasm in the "east" (I'd guess Tibet). The new convent is to be called "St Faith". The rarified air and stupendous views cause crises for many of the nuns (you knew it would, really) and the film covers their conflicts, internal and external.
Powell & Pressburger have made every image a photograph worth printing - they won an oscar for best Cinematography. The view from the convent is as stunning for us viewers as it for Sister Clodagh (et al). The crises aren't stock ones - they vary from madness (chillingly portrayed) to the gardening nun planting flowers, instead of vegetables.
My favourite scene would be the flashbacks of Sister Clodagh, reliving her life with her fiancé prior to the order. One scene has her calling out his name as she leaves the house and stepping into absolute blackness...
Come back, Powell & Pressburger! We need you
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb but very human movie 5 Jan 2002
Deberah Kerr is placed in charge of a crumbling abbey and a handful of difficult nuns on a terribly remote mountain in India. Staunch Christianity and Eastern Mysticism smack reverberatingly against each other, as these supposedly pious and pure nuns struggle against human desires and the pegan seductivesness around them. Deberah Kerr is magnificent and watch for the small supporting role by jean simmons who sparkles as a fallen but temptingly beautiful waif they take in.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just order this, you won't be disappointed! 7 May 2010
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
This Blu-Ray version of BLACK NARCISSUS is truly fantastic. There have been DVD releases in the past in Australia, but they were from ordinary (probably ex TV) masters, so the full vibrancy and colours of this outstanding film were lost. But not now. The added bonus of this release is the terrific 'making of' documentary, which seems to have been made in the last 10 years, bringing back some of the stars and anecdotes of the filming. Great fun which provides an insight into the film-making processes of the time.
If you are interested in film, great story-telling and especially great transfer's of Technicolor productions, just order it, you won't be disappointed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exellent Blu-ray version 4 Aug 2014
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
A film like this deserves a good Blu-ray transfer & it got it with this version. The picture is sharp & the colours are vivid. Its hard to believe this was shot at Pinewood studios & not in the Himalayas. I won't say much about film as it has been well covered already. This version is well worth adding to any collection.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Reason why you bought a blu ray player. 10 Oct 2010
This is a superb technicolor film, showing just how well a film can be restored onto blu-ray. The colours, and clarity are perfect and make it the film to own if you want a great story, and a beautiful film to show off your shiny new blu-ray player. There is very little if any grain, and the skin tones are perfect.
Buy this film!
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars DVD let down by the transfer 16 Mar 2002
By A Customer
This movie deserves it's high reputation, but the film is badly let down by the quality of the transfer. It appears to have been made from a copy which predates the BFI/NFTA restoration of the mid-eighties - which did the film full justice - the colour often looks washed out and the image appears less sharp than one would expect. Best to wait for a new edition, or a Television screening.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Who Needs the Himalayas When You've Got Pinewood.
I have long admired the "Black Narcissus" with it's almost choking atmosphere of high emotions and ethereal beauty. Read more
Published on 31 May 2011 by Bob Salter
5.0 out of 5 stars Ideal restoration
This 2010 Criterion edition NTSC Region 1 DVD is from a restored high definition transfer. Both the picture and the sound are superb. The picture is pristine. Read more
Published on 10 Mar 2011 by Julian Hughes
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Blu-ray
The Blu-ray is very colourful and clear and is region free. This is one of Powell/Pressburger's best pictures.
Published on 1 Jan 2010 by R. BUKOWSKI
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
It is an enjoyable film that I can watch with your family. This is not a masterpiece of cinema, but compared to movies of violence today, it is advised.
Published on 28 Nov 2009 by allecco
5.0 out of 5 stars superb blu-ray of Technicolor classic
One of the most beautiful Technicolor films ever made in its best presentation on home video - awesome blu-ray - highly recommended -
if you own a player you owe it to... Read more
Published on 28 Feb 2009 by Philip R. Jaeger
4.0 out of 5 stars "He Seems A Difficult Man...You Won't Get Much Help From Him..."
As the muscle-bound-creep whacks the iconic "J. Arthur Rank" gong in the opening credits of "Black Narcissus" - your heart sinks. The print is truly awful. Read more
Published on 19 Feb 2009 by Mark Barry
5.0 out of 5 stars Visually Stunning
I recall an interview with Deborah Kerr shortly before she died when the interviewer put to her that Black Narcissus was "an erotic film". "Do you think so?", she said. Read more
Published on 13 Feb 2006 by "keefmc"
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