Two of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's mid-career masterpieces, Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948) hit Blu-Ray on Tuesday for the first time, thanks, once again, to the Criterion Collection (I pre-purchased mine, both already in hand). If you're not familiar with one or both films, then you should make every effort in the next few days (assuming you're not in San Diego Comic-Con) to rent or buy both titles. They're both among my favorites, though my favorite Powell film (and No. 6 on my all-time list), A Matter of Life and Death, a romantic fantasy starring David Niven and Kim Hunter, hasn't yet made the transition from DVD to Blu-Ray. Hopefully someone, preferably someone in a decision-making capacity with the Criterion Collection, will obtain the rights to release A Matter of Life andDeath on Blu-Ray in the near future.
As for Black Narcissus, it's best described as a Himalayas-set psychological melodrama. A group of Anglican nuns have traveled from England to a remote village in the Himalayas to live and work among the native population. They hope to convert the native population to Christianity, but prolonged cultural contact releases deeply suppressed romantic (and other) yearnings in the nuns. Powell filmed Black Narcissus in England (filming in the actual locations would have been prohibitively expensive), using then-state-of-art visual effects (e.g., matte paintings, painted backdrops, miniatures) and Jack Cardiff's superlative color cinematography to craft a deeply absorbing film. Cardiff won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Alfred Junge also won an Academy Award for Best Set Design.