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Black Narcissus


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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, DVD-Video, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Paradox
  • Release Date: Oct. 1 2002
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004XQN4
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #76,744 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

Product Description

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.

Amazon.ca

Appropriately enough for a picture named for a flower, Black Narcissus exists in a color-drenched, hothouse atmosphere. The setting is a nunnery in the Himalayas, where sister Deborah Kerr has her hands full with an envious nun (the remarkable Kathleen Byron) and a sardonic Englishman (David Farrar). Director Michael Powell and screenwriter Emeric Pressburger, the team responsible for the mid-forties masterpieces A Stairway to Heaven and The Red Shoes, decided to shoot Black Narcissus entirely in the studio, so they could create their own controlled, slightly unreal world. The choice paid off, as both art director Alfred Junge and cinematographer Jack Cardiff won Oscars for their blazing Technicolor work. The climactic sequence--a murder attempt on the cliffs of the cloister--bears special attention, as Powell "set" the sequence to a preexisting musical track, staging it as though it were a piece of visual choreography. Adding a bit of behind-the-scenes tension to the production was the fact that Kerr was the director's ex-mistress, and Byron his current one. "It was a situation not uncommon in show business, I was told," he later wrote, "but it was new to me." --Robert Horton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

By A Customer on Sept. 7 2005
Format: DVD
One day, while I was washing the dishes, I turned on the TV and started flipping through channels, landing on "Black Narcissus", which was just ending. I had tuned in to the big climax, so I, of course, didn't fully understand what was going on, but after seeing the ending I thought, "I have to see this movie!!!" I was mesmerized by the images, the music, the acting, everything! Luckily, the same channel was rerunning the film later that night, so I was able to tape it and watch it the next day.
"Black Narcissus" is truly a cinematic classic. It won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and it is no wonder. The recreation of Mopu Palace on the mountain with its incredible drop are amazing and very realistic, especially for the 1940s. There are so many scenes that I love, but I don't want to give away the plot. The climactic ending is incredible, as is the "lipstick" scene between Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron)and Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr). I also love Sister Clodagh's flashback scenes, especially the one where Sister Clodagh's face is superimposed on the face of the character as a young woman, before she became a nun, telling the man she loves "I want to stay like this the rest of my life". A poignant moment when we realize that she became a nun to escape the shame of a failed love affair.
The movie can be rather strange at times; I found May Hallatt's character to be overdone in certain scenes, but at other times she is brilliant. Kathleen Byron as Sister Ruth is unforgettable, and Deborah Kerr is excellent, as usual. All the actors are quite good in their roles.
I wouldn't say that this movie is for everyone, but if you like good cinema, then give it a try.
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Format: DVD
The Criterion DVD edition of "Black Narcissus" brings out the most brilliant aspects of the film, a brightness and splendor that makes the drab Order of Mary nuns re-think a few things. The magnificent & exotic locale, high in the Himalayas, as well as clashing cultures trying to meld, make this a most absorbing experience. Okay, the nuns take a castle in the mountains to teach the locals. That's all I'll tell of the plot. The psychological experiences of each nun are vividly portrayed, as well as the intrusion of a local girl and an Indian prince. A very mystic atmosphere pervades, and the nuns start thinking mundane thoughts. Ah! The mystery of the mountains! It's a bit of a downer to find out that you're not seeing the Himalayas in their splendor; rather, all was filmed on a stage in England. The Oscar-winning art direction and cinematography are totally responsible for creating this wonderfully mysterious place. The Criterion version preserves the phenomenal photography, with colors clashing against each other, creating a visual display of the confusion those poor nuns were facing. Indeed, they all changed, in one way or another. Clear and crisp, you can see every facial wrinkle and every minute detail of costumes and jewelry. A fine achievement. Shadows against sunlight, and brilliant color...quite lovely. It's fun to see a post-adolescent Sabu, though here he plays a fancy young guy and looks uncomfortable, considering his greatest fame came wearing a much more comfortable loincloth. The rest of the acting is excellent, without exception. Deborah Kerr, in one of her first big roles, is commanding, as well as Kathleen Byron, Flora Robson, David Farrar, and an amazing performance by a 17-year old Jean Simmons, as a little Indian tart.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
Being a huge fan of the artistic team's Stairway to Heaven (AKA A Matter of Life and Death) and The Red Shoes, and after reading the glowing reviews in regards to this film, my expectations were very high going in. Unfortunately, I felt that I had been let down. Sure, the cinematography is brilliant. A technicolor wonderland, lush and vivid. But beyond the visual feast lies a story that, by today's standards, is just a tad Pythonesque.
Hot house nuns with barely suppressed libidos, cloistered in a Himalayan potentate's former love palace, with appropriately erotic artwork festooned upon every wall. A British agent, Mr. Dean (David Farrar) showing up in short shorts and sometimes bare chested, never mind the fact that the convent/school is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas at 8000 ft. with the wind constantly ripping through the windows (which no one seems able to close). A subplot involving a young Jean Simmons made up to like a tartish Bengali dancing girl thrown into the mix to provide a bit more sexual tension (a screenwriter's rip off of Bessy Watty from The Corn is Green, produced a year previous to this film and still fresh in viewers' minds). Add to this the fact that, when habited, Kathleen Byron looks remarkably similar to Paul Rubens (Pee Wee Herman), and you have the makings of a camp classic.
In all honesty, if you want a film with an interesting script as well as sexually frustrated nuns, I would highly recommend that you purchase a copy of Ken Russell's The Devils. That film has held up well over time and has a much better pedigree (adapted from Aldous Huxley's The Devils of Loudon)to back it up. Despite the rave reviews you may hear about this Archer production, it's really just 100 minutes of silliness.
BEK
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