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Black Narcissus (1947)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama  |  December 1947 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 14,808 users  
Reviews: 127 user | 105 critic

After opening a convent in the Himalayas, five nuns encounter conflict and tension - both with the natives and also within their own group - as they attempt to adapt to their remote, exotic surroundings.


(adapted from the novel by), , 1 more credit »
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Complete credited cast:
Jenny Laird ...
Judith Furse ...
The Old General
The Young General
Mr. Dean
May Hallatt ...
Angu Ayah
Eddie Whaley Jr. ...
Joseph Anthony
Shaun Noble ...
Nancy Roberts ...
Mother Dorothea
Ley On ...


Sister Clodah is dispatched with four other nuns to establish a new convent far in the Himalayas. It's a difficult journey and their new house is a ramshackle old building on the edge of a cliff that had been abandoned by a religious Brotherhood many years before. They soon establish a school and an infirmary though the local General's agent, Mr. Dean, warns them against treating the deathly ill as they would no doubt be blamed if the patient doesn't recover. The location, the culture and the mountain air all begin to have a strange effect on the Sisters. Sister Clodagh, who is also on her first assignment as Sister Superior, begins to remember a romance she had as a young woman before entering the sisterhood. Another however, becomes obsessed with Mr. Dean, which leads to tragedy. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

nun | convent | cliff | doubt | mountain | See All (206) »


A Story to Storm Your Heart! Drama at the top of the world ... where winds of the exotic past sweep men and women to strange and fascinating adventure... See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

December 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Narciso negro  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


£280,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The Legion of Decency still held great sway on filmgoing habits in America, and a Condemned film would eliminate a huge number of ticket sales. The film had already opened in New York and Los Angeles, but the ban interfered with scheduled openings in other cities, such as Detroit and Memphis. Rank was in a bad position. Parliament had just imposed a 75 percent duty on American films imported to England, and Hollywood was temporarily boycotting the British market. The few British films that could play well in America were encouraged as a goodwill gesture, so Rank was anxious that the film play in as many American cities as possible. The only option they saw was to make cuts to the film to satisfy the Legion of Decency. So, the film was edited by 900 feet or so - ten cuts in all. All of Sister Clodagh's memories of Ireland were cut, accounting for most of the offending footage. The close-up of Sister Ruth applying lipstick also fell victim to censorship, and a few lines of suggestive dialogue were also eliminated, for example Mr. Dean's line to Sister Briony, "You will be doing me a great favour when you educate the local girls." Finally, the wording of the foreword was changed so that there would be no mistaking that the order of nuns might be Catholic; now it said that "a group of Protestant nuns in mysterious India find adventure, sacrifice, and tragedy." Now satisfied, the ban was removed and the film was released with an A2 classification from the Legion. See more »


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Angu Ayah: [Referring to Sister Briony, whose name Ayah does not yet know] Please come and help the fat lady who has questions!
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User Reviews

A Hypnotic and Dazzling Film
24 April 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This spellbinding movie from that spellbinding film-making team (Powell and Pressburger) is another entry in the long line of literary and film stories that revolve around British restraint and repression unraveling under the force of mysterious foreign cultures (usually Eastern and frequently Indian), and it's one of the best.

A group of nuns travel to the Himalayas to do missionary work among the natives, but instead find themselves coming under the mystical spell of the place and people around them. Deborah Kerr is stunning as the head nun, who's determined to maintain order and British civility at all costs. I still can't decide whether this or "The Innocents" (1961) gave her her best role. At the other extreme is Kathleen Byron's Sister Ruth, who renounces her vows, paints her lips bright red, and engages in a fierce battle of wills with Kerr. What follows is a film that is surprisingly sexual, erotic and wild.

Powell and Pressburger are experts at using color. Instead of employing their Technicolor to simply make their film look pretty, the color almost becomes a character in itself, creating a feverish, hyper-realistic glow to the film. Legendary cameraman Jack Cardiff is responsible for the sterling and Oscar-winning cinematography. Equally stunning is the art direction, which created very realistic mountains out of papier-mache.

A simply sensational film, one that holds up completely and could be watched again and again. This and "Out of the Past" vie in my esteem for best film released in 1947.

Grade: A+

33 of 37 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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