The casual perception of the British film industry is that it's a mere shadow of its American counterpart, especially where dramas and adventure films are concerned. That was doubly true during World War II, when even the best directors in England were hampered by low production values. The writer-producer-director team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger -- known corporately as "The Archers" -- did their best to change that perception, and nowhere did they challenge it more forcefully than with Black Narcissus. The 1947 film, based on a novel by Rumer Godden, was so startlingly beautiful, intense yet quietly dramatic and fiercely sexual, that it managed to get censored at the behest of the Catholic Legion of Decency and, yet, even in that censored form, earned a brace of Academy Awards. The film was startlingly unusual for 1947: its plot centers around a group of Anglican nuns who, due to their own psychological and sexual shortcomings, fail to found a convent at the foot of the Himalayas. Over the decades, Black Narcissus has managed to hold its audience and find new admirers -- in the 1980s, 13 minutes that had been censored from the American version finally came to light in a new print of the film.
by Bruce Eder review