Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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Submitted by Alan Head
Black Narcissus (1946)
The VCI/Carlton DVD
Review by: Alan Head
Having just had a quick scan through this (watching all my favourite scenes) I thought I'd post my (technical) comments.
On the whole its an average DVD. There are no extras and it has the standard Carlton on-screen menus - a couple of static screens with a scene of the Emperor and Clodagh (why the Emperor? - its actually the Reverend Mother, but I simply can't get the sideways Star Wars reference out of my head when she says at the start "Our plans at Mopu are in place" - with the wrinkled face, veil, and the intonation of her voice she simply is Emperor Palpatine ...)
But I digress. The overall picture quality on this DVD is pretty good - Uncle Alfred's backdrops probably have never looked so good, and Jack's cinematography is a joy to behold - you can see why they won Oscars. The transfer isn't the best ever - there are a lot of scratches, pinholes and general dust and grime, much of which could have been resolved with a new transfer (which no doubt Criterion will have done for their upcoming release). There is also occasionally poor colour balance and wavering contrast/brightness levels but this doesn't detract too much from the overall improvement in picture quality over the various VHS releases of the film. Dark, high contrast scenes are particularly well rendered and there is plenty of detail in the shadows (particularly where Sister Ruth does her best Nosferatu impersonation as she chases Clodagh outside to the bell). The picture is framed at the correct aspect ratio and feels nice and "open" - some 4:3 transfers can feel cramped because they are often cropped all round and blown up slightly in the telecine process. The sound is crisp, clear, and loud, and lip sync is good. Whilst there isn't much you can do wrong with a mono soundtrack at least it is relatively clear of noise.
The question is, however, do I buy this now or wait for the superior Criterion edition in January? I would personally say wait, particularly if you're on a budget - given Criterion's reputation the disc is likely to be first-class. Of most interest to me is the "Marty and Micky Show" commentary track that will be included - I'm really looking forward to hearing my two favourite directors talking about one of my favourite films ...
However, if you can't wait to see BN on DVD and can afford to "waste" £11.99 then go and buy it - you won't be disappointed ...
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