Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr) is sent, with a small group of her sisterhood, to establish a new convent in the Himalayas. The building they have been allocated is perched on the edge of a cliff and it transpires that it has been used in the past as a place for the General's father to keep his wives but lately has been used for more religious purposes as the General looks to educate the local people.
They are warned by the General's aide, Mr. Dean (David Farrar), of the dangers of giving the locals medical treatment - if any of them die they are likely to blame the convent if the patient doesn't recover.
As the sisterhood are led further into temptation by their new environment, Sister Clodagh must try to keep to keep control while trying to supress her own desires.
At times, Black Narcissus feels like an exploration of the seven deadly sins as the sisters try to fight back their previous dormant feelings. Sister Ruth begins to lust after Mr. Dean leading her to feel envy of her other sisters – and eventually wrath. As Black Narcissus is revealed to be an exotic frangrance from the West, half of the sisters are entralled by it and are consumed by greed and gluttony. Sloth is displayed as the sisters begin to be distracted – and Sister Honey displays pride as she removes the vegetable patch and installs herself a flower bed.
In places the story feels lacking but is redeemed somewhat by the intermittent flashbacks that display Sister Clodagh's growing inner emotional turmoil. Combining this with the fantastic camera- and art-work, Black Narcissus rescues itself from a story that really should fail.