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U
K 1947

The story: five Protestant missionary nuns embark on the task of establishing a school/health center and residence for their future convent in the desolate Himalayan mountains. The dwelling is a deserted sultans palace surrounded by the grandeur of the snowcapped peaks of Kanchenjunga. Obstacles confront them at every turn with a community of superstitious natives and a jaded and rugged British intermediary named Mr. Dean (David Farrar). Adding to these hurdles are their own emotional frailties, culture shock and previously unearthed worldly passions with the inherent creeping jealousies and desires. The project proves a daunting test for the ambitious Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), given her first taste of authority and her strong determination to succeed as she counters the continuous roadblocks. 

.

Master cinematographer Jack Cardiff's extravagant visual Technicolor style helps expose the breathtaking landscape into a corollary for the transcendent seduction overtaking the pious strangers to this new world. Settling into this sparse and haunting atmosphere, steeped in firmly entrenched traditions and cultural roots, proves to be an unanswerable challenge. The nuns are from a bleak, simple world of black and whites and are now thrust into the color-infused landscape filled with mysterious native idiosyncrasies. Powell and Pressburger's style never seems to overwhelm with grandiose or flashy fad-like presentations, but they allow the film's gentle essence to sweep over you with a coaxing allure lingering with gratuitous and gentle determination. When you think of I Know Where I'm Going, A Canterbury Tale, Gone to Earth, A Matter of Life and Death etc. etc., it is all about the pure feeling the film evokes. Black Narcissus is another prime example. One of the greatest joys of film experience is to submit to the elegant, glorious and resplendent world of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. This is simply another of their best films!out of

Gary W. Tooze

Posters

Theatrical Release: May 26th, 1947

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Comparison:

Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL vs. ITV DVD REGION FREE Blu-ray vs. Network - Region 2 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

(Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP LEFT vs. Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL TOP RIGHT )

(ITV DVD REGION FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM LEFT vs. Network - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 93 - Region 0 - NTSC Warner Home Vidéo
Region 2 - PAL

ITV DVD
Region FREE Blu-ray
Network
Region 2 - PAL
Criterion
Region 'A' -
Blu-ray
Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 93 - Region 0 - NTSC Warner Home Vidéo
Region 2 - PAL
ITV DVD
Region FREE Blu-ray
Network
Region 2 - PAL
Criterion Collection - Spine # 93 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:40:33 1:36:27 (4% PAL speedup) 1:40:43 1:36:39 (4% PAL speedup) 1:41:08.103
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate:7.67 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio

Average Bitrate: 7.92 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio

Average Bitrate: 6.71 mb/s
1080P - single-layered

 

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio

Average Bitrate: 6.71 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.33:1 - 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,668,686,014 bytes

Feature: 29,829,795,840 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Criterion

 

Bitrate:

 

Warner Home Vidéo

 

Bitrate:

 

Network

 

Bitrate:

 

Criterion Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Dolby)  English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Dolby) 

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles English, None French, None English, None None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary by late director Michael Powell and Martin Scorsese
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

• 6-page liner notes with essay by Dave Kehr

 

DVD Release Date: January 30, 2001
Keep Case
Chapters: 26

Release Information:
Studio:
Warner Home Vidéo (France)

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
Preface by Martin Scorsese in English with optional French subtitles (3:21)

Introduction by Bernard Tavernier (8:26) with English subtitles

Trailers of 3 Powell and Pressburger films

Disc 2

Memories of Michael (11:24) in English with optional French subtitles

Daring with an Aventuer - French with optional English subtitles (17:23)

Profile of Black Narcissus - English with optional French subtitles (23:59)

Painting With Light - English with optional French subtitles (25:37)
This is Color anamorphic short documentary - English with optional French subtitles (13:50)

• 40-page liner notes booklet with Photos and essays (In French only)


DVD Release Date: April 4th, 2006

Three tiered digipak inside slipcase
Chapters: 16

Release Information:
Studio:
ITV DVD (UK)

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
Profile of Black Narcissus (24:02)
Trailer (2:36)


DVD Release Date:
June 23rd, 2008
Standard Blu-ray case
Chapters: 16

 

Release Information:
Studio:
Network

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Commentary With Michael Powell And Martin Scorsese
Painting with Light, a new video documentary on Jack Cardiff and Black Narcissus by Craig McCall
• A Profile of Black Narcissus

• Trailer

• Image Gallery

• 8-page liner notes booklet with essay by Martin Scorsese

DVD Release Date: September 26th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 12

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

 

1.33:1 - 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,668,686,014 bytes

Feature: 29,829,795,840 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:
• Video introduction by filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier (8:43 in French with English subtitles)
• Audio commentary featuring Powell and director Martin Scorsese
• The Audacious Adventurer, a video piece in which Tavernier discusses the film and Powell (17:27)
• Profile of “Black Narcissus,” a documentary featuring members of the Archers’ production team (25:29)
• Painting with Light, a documentary on Cardiff’s Oscar-winning work on Black Narcissus (26:31)
• Original theatrical trailer (2:35)
• 24-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by critic Kent Jones

 

Blu-ray Release Date: July 20th, 2010
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters:
19

 

Comments

NOTE: These Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc and are linked to their 1920X1080 counterpart if you are interested to see.

 

ADDITION: Criterion Blu-ray (June 10'):  Criterion's original DVD from 2001 was a digital transfer nightmare. In attempting to replicate the original Technicolor via the SD-DVD format they utilized techniques that created aberrations such as chroma bug with certain colors appearing very un-like the theatrical representations. As it was all that was initially available we were still thrilled at their attempt.

 

ITV did a single-layered Blu-ray in 2008 that was established as the benchmark for the film but Criterion's new Blu-ray with a superior bitrate and the feature film taking up almost 30 Gig advances beyond that 1080P representation. Every single attribute seems to have advanced with the Criterion dual-layered transfer look brighter, with more exuberant colors, to tighter detail and, as expected, a large step up in the contrast level. The Criterion Blu-ray seems to advance the film-like appearance to it's highest digital rendering yet - possibly ever. The final 7 large screen captures below may be the most telling. I don't know that it could ever match the vibrancy of Technicolor but, regardless, this looks just fabulous in my opinion.

 

Audio, as per Criterion's penchant, is original mono in a linear PCM transfer that gives some perceived buoyancy to the track - in many instances the audio is notably impacting in the film presentation from the unforgettable soundtrack to the effect noises - trumpets, rain, bells - all seem improved in the newest lossless track. The Criterion has optional English subtitles and the Blu-ray disc is locked to region 'A'.

 

Supplements contain, from the previous DVD, the audio commentary featuring Powell and director Martin Scorsese as well as the 26-minute Painting with Light documentary on Jack Cardiff’s Oscar-winning work on Black Narcissus. What is new, but previously available on some of the other DVDs is the 9-minute video introduction by filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier (as found on the Warner France DVD - in French with English subtitles) and the 17-minute The Audacious Adventurer (also found on the Warner DVD), a video piece in which Tavernier discusses the film and Powell. Profile of “Black Narcissus,” is a 25-minute documentary, already available on the ITV DVD, featuring members of the Archers’ production team and we also get the original theatrical trailer in HD (as are all video supplements). I should note that the supplements were in PAL on the ITV Blu-ray and most North American machines were not able to access them. Lastly we get a 24-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by critic Kent Jones and color photos from the film. We appear to have lost the Dave Kehr piece. Still an excellent set of supplements with the commentary still shining as golden.

 

What can I say - I've listed Black Narcissus, at various times on various lists, as my favorite film of all time. To have Criterion procure their digital efficiency after almost 10-years hence their original DVD is like a dream come true. This film makes me realize all I love about the film medium and the immaculate Blu-ray has our very highest recommendation. It may very well be my Blu-ray pick of the entire year. Purchase with confidence! 

Gary W. Tooze

 

***

 

ADDITION: ITV Blu-ray (June 08'):  Firstly, the great news - despite rumors to the contrary this release is REGION FREE and will play on Blu-ray players world-wide. Whewwww!

 

NOTE: BUT the 24 minute extra feature, Profile of Black Narcissus (also found on the two PAL releases), does NOT play on my region 'A' Blu-ray player. It appears to be PAL and/or region 2 encoded. I haven't checked but doubt my SD region-free player will be able to pick it up either (being on a Blu-ray disc). It will probably only play on a Region 'B' Blu-ray player.

 

Secondly, equally as good news to the region-free attribute - it looks absolutely marvelous. Colors fully support the restored transfers on both PAL editions, but this runs full theatrical 1:40:43 without 4% speedup. Detail is, of course, improved and had me swooning. At times it looks almost unbelievable it is so tight, clean and clear. Remember all captures are in native resolution but the Blu-ray are reduced in size to fit this webpage. I don't know if the resized image is doing enough justice to the Blu-ray hence our linking to the full-resolution images.  I've also added more linked images at the very bottom to help convey how tremendous this Blu-ray appears. A favorite film, this has vaulted to be one of my most valuable discs and will be the Feature DVD of July 08'.   

 

Audio is 2.0 channel mono (never understood that) but sounds just fine - as good or better than I have heard before (sounded very 'strong' to me - maybe I just mean 'loud'). There are optional English subtitles in a reasonable white font.

 

Now, it could look even better. This is a single-layered Blu-ray disc and the film only takes up 16 Gig. Mathematically it could be further improved but this probably won't be coming along very soon. It does have some infrequent speckles and shows a bit of noise but is far superior to the older SD editions. I can easily assure anyone that this is the best home theatre representation of Powell and Pressburger's immortal classic.

 

Our goal at DVDBeaver is to disseminate knowledge of important films looking the best on DVD. Sometimes we succeed. I am very proud to acknowledge this Blu-ray of Black Narcissus is now one of the most prized discs I own (and I own a lot).  

 

***

 

ADDITION: Warner Home Vidéo (April 06'): For many of us we really did not require this validation that the colors on the Network edition were more accurate than those on the Criterion. The Network colors are much closer to the new Warner Home Vidéo, but the image quality on this new French release is even sharper!

 

 

All we can say is 'Wow' - this new DVD release, labeled from the 'Collection Institut Lumiere' as are the other new Powell and Pressburger offerings from Warner Home Vidéo in Europe, looks outstanding. The colors are perfect and the slight haziness apparent in the Network is replaced by a crisp image that may have some minor black-level boosting (but nothing compared to the manipulation on the Criterion). The image is the best I have ever seen of this film.

 

The extras in the Warner package are fairly extensive clocking in at almost 2 hours worth - it only seems slighted by the lack of commentary (available on both the Criterion and the Network). I am also a fan of subtitles (optional English) but it seems like a small point when the image quality is this tremendous. The entire package is stunning. After a 2nd viewing of the Warner disc, I can confirm that it is the definitive digital transfer for the film and we strongly recommend!

 

****

ADDITION - NETWORK - Region 2- PAL - October 05'

 

The new transfer is directly off a new interpositive struck directly from the YCMs... which the Criterion isn't. And the colors, for me, are just perfection. (Thanks Bruce!)...

 

Bruce's comments ring true and I think this shows the value of direct frame comparisons as we initially had the Criterion on of our ESSENTIAL DVDs (already changed) but side-by-side against the new NETWORK release we can identify a few flaws. Portions of the Criterion are not progressively transferred, hence we can see 'combing' in two of the screen capture below. The NETWORK is far more filmic looking than the Criterion which has some fluctuating contrast, chroma bug and an appearance of color bleeding. The Criterion looks very thin in comparison and it also has more scratches, dirt and damage. It appears to have been brightened. The NETWORK does not have a subtitle option. In the area of extras, the commentary is the same as is the featurette 'Painting With Light' but the NETWORK brings a few new supplements with the 24 minute 'Profile of Black Narcissus'. Audio appears on a par with the Criterion - and may actually be slightly clearer. 

 

Although the Criterion states 'Created with the participation of cinematographer Jack Cardiff' I suspect transfer methods have improved in the past 4 years and the NETWORK source was obviously superior.

 

DeeF says:

'I've seen Black Narcissus several times in the theater, the last being about the year 1999, at Film Forum in NY.

The Technicolor of a projected film really can't be reproduced properly on a digital video, and I admit to always being disappointed in the Criterion disk.

In addition to odd color problems, the Criterion has audio-synch issues.'

(thanks Dee!)

 

Cliff says:

'Some of the screen shots from the Network disk (e.g., that shot with the golden metal thingie) remind me of Fantoma's DVD of "Tiger of Eschnapur". Technicolor on DVD doesn't get much better.' (thanks Cliff!)

 

The Network edition is a must-own DVD. No question.

 

*****

There are some visible scratches and it can tend to look saturated at times. I understand a "fog filter" was used in filming so some scenes are in intentionally hazier than others. Probably the weakest part of this DVD is the sound, but holding it up to normal standards, it is quite acceptable. Let's remember this film is over 50 years old - almost impossible to believe. Nice Extra feature of the "Painting with Light" short and of course the Powell commentary.

Gary W. Tooze

 


DVD Menus

Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT vs. Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT

 


Disc 2 of the Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL

 


(ITV DVD - REGION FREE Blu-ray LEFT vs. Network - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)


 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920 X 1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Samples

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) ITV (UK) DVD - REGION FREE Blu-ray THIRD

4) Network - Region 2 - PAL - FOURTH

5) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

NOTE: No subtitles on the Network release - and not exact frame.


Screen Captures

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) ITV (UK) DVD - REGION FREE Blu-ray THIRD

4) Network - Region 2 - PAL - FOURTH

5) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) ITV (UK) DVD - REGION FREE Blu-ray THIRD

4) Network - Region 2 - PAL - FOURTH

5) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) ITV (UK) DVD - REGION FREE Blu-ray THIRD

4) Network - Region 2 - PAL - FOURTH

5) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) ITV (UK) DVD - REGION FREE Blu-ray THIRD

4) Network - Region 2 - PAL - FOURTH

5) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) ITV (UK) DVD - REGION FREE Blu-ray THIRD

4) Network - Region 2 - PAL - FOURTH

5) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

NOTE: Combing evident in Criterion 2001 DVD

 

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner Home Vidéo (2-disc) - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) ITV (UK) DVD - REGION FREE Blu-ray THIRD

4) Network - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM

 

 

NOTE: Chroma on the Criterion original DVD...

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


More Criterion Blu-ray captures - click to see full resolution

 

 


 

Associated Reading (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

 

DVD Box Covers

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 93 - Region 0 - NTSC Warner Home Vidéo
Region 2 - PAL

ITV DVD
Region FREE Blu-ray
Network
Region 2 - PAL
Criterion
Region 'A' -
Blu-ray

 


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Criterion Blu-ray

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Criterion Blu-ray

Extras: Criterion Blu-ray
Menus: Criterion Blu-ray





 

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Many Thanks...