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Deborah Kerr Collection [6 Discs] [DVD]
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Overview

Synopsis

From Here to Eternity
The scene is Schofield Army Barracks in Honolulu, in the languid days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, where James Jones' acclaimed war novel From Here to Eternity brought the aspirations and frustrations of several people sharply into focus. Sergeant Milt Warden (Burt Lancaster) enters into an affair with Karen (Deborah Kerr), the wife of his commanding officer. Private Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) is a loner who lives by his own code of ethics and communicates better with his bugle than he does with words. Prew's best friend is wisecracking Maggio (Frank Sinatra, in an Oscar-winning performance that revived his flagging career), who has been targeted for persecution by sadistic stockade sergeant Fatso Judson (Ernest Borgnine). Rounding out the principals is Alma Lorene (Donna Reed), a "hostess" at the euphemistically named whorehouse The New Congress Club. All these melodramatic joys and sufferings are swept away by the Japanese attack on the morning of December 7. No words could do justice to the film's most famous scene: the nocturnal romantic rendezvous on the beach, with Burt Lancaster's and Deborah Kerr's bodies intertwining as the waves crash over them. If you're able to take your eyes off the principals for a moment or two, keep an eye out for George Reeves; his supporting role was shaved down when, during previews, audiences yelled "There's Superman!" and began to laugh. From Here to Eternity won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and supporting awards to Sinatra and Reed. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Black Narcissus
British filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger once again deliberately courted controversy and censorship with their 1947 adaptation of Rumer Godden's novel. Deborah Kerr and Kathleen Byron play the head nuns at an Anglican hospital/school high in the Himalayas. The nuns' well-ordered existence is disturbed by the presence of a handsome British government agent (David Farrar), whose attractiveness gives certain sisters the wrong ideas. Meanwhile, an Indian girl (Jean Simmons) is lured down the road to perdition by a sensuous general (Sabu). While Kerr would seem most susceptible to fall from grace --we are given hints of her earlier love life in a long flashback--she proves to have more stamina than Byron, who delivers one of moviedom's classic interpretations of all-stops-out, sex-starved insanity. The aforementioned flashback was removed from the US release version of Black Narcissus so as not to offend the Catholic Legion of Decency. While the dramatic content of the film hasn't stood the test of time all that well, the individual performances, production values, and especially the Oscar-winning Technicolor photography of Jack Cardiff are still as impressive as ever. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Bonjour Tristesse
Francoise Sagan's bittersweet novel Bonjour Tristesse is given a sumptuous Riviera-filmed screen treatment. David Niven plays a wealthy playboy, the father of teenaged libertine-in-the-making Jean Seberg. Seberg tolerates most of her father's mistresses, but doesn't know what to make of the prudish Deborah Kerr, who will not cohabit with Niven until after they're married. Feeling that her own relation with her father will be disrupted by Kerr's presence, Seberg does her malicious best to break up the relationship--only to be beaten to the punch by Niven, who despite his promises of fidelity to Kerr cannot give up his hedonistic lifestyle. The combination of the daughter's disdain and the father's rakishness drive Kerr to suicide. Niven and Seberg continue pursuing their lavish but empty lifestyle, though both realize that their lack of moral fibre has destroyed a life. The incestuous undertones of the original Sagan novel are only slightly downplayed in the film version; the "tristesse" (sadness) is visually conveyed by filming the Deborah Kerr flashback scenes in color and the opening and closing of the film in bleak black and white. Bonjour Tristesse was codirected by Otto Preminger, who'd previously discovered Jean Seberg for his benighted 1957 filmization of Saint Joan. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Julius Caesar
Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed this exquisite version of William Shakespeare's play. Louis Calhern is Julius Caesar, whose conquests have enabled him to rise to the status of Roman dictator. But his ascent to almost God-like status has given pause to influential members of the Roman Senate. Chief among them is Cassius (John Gielgud), who is troubled by Caesar's popularity and dictatorial status. Convinced that Caesar's assassination would be the best thing for Rome, he conspires with Casca (Edmond O'Brien) and the influential Brutus (James Mason) to plot Caesar's murder. Despite dark omens, Caesar walks confidently into the Roman Senate, where he is stabbed to death by the conspirators. His companion Marc Antony (Marlon Brando) is shocked and runs to the corpse of his beloved friend. He agrees to support Brutus while an unruly mob gathers in front of the Senate doors, having heard rumors of Caesar's assassination. Brutus convinces the mob that Caesar's death was for the good of Rome, preventing him from forming a monarchy. Then Antony appears, determined to destroy the conspirators; he delivers a speech that subtly damns the assassins. With the mob against them, the conspirators are forced to flee Rome and Antony organizes an army against them. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

The King and I
The King and I, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's 1951 Broadway musical hit, was based on Margaret Landon's book Anna and the King of Siam. Since 20th-Century-Fox had made a film version of the Landon book in 1946, that studio had first dibs on the movie adaptation of The King and I. Deborah Kerr plays English widow Anna Leonowens, who comes to Siam in the 1860s to tutor the many wives and children of the country's progressive King (Yul Brynner, recreating his Broadway role-and winning an Oscar in the process). The culture clash between Anna and the King is but one aspect of their multilayered relationship. Through Anna, the King learns the refineries and responsibilities of "modern" western civilization; Anna meanwhile comes to realize how important it is for an Oriental ruler to maintain his pride and to uphold the customs of his people. After a successful evening entertaining foreign dignitaries, Anna and the King celebrate with an energetic dance, but this is cut short by a bitter quarrel over the cruel punishment of the King's new Burmese wife Tuptim (Rita Moreno), who has dared to fall in love with someone else. Despite the many rifts between them, Anna and the monarch come to respect and (to a degree) love one another. When the King dies, Anna agrees to stay on to offer help and advice to the new ruler of Siam, young Prince Chulalongkhorn (Patrick Adiarte). In general, The King and I tends to be somewhat stagey, with the notable exception of the matchless "Small House of Uncle Thomas" ballet, which utilizes the Cinemascope 55 format to best advantage (the process also does a nice job of "handling" Deborah Kerr's voluminous hoopskirts). Most of the Broadway version's best songs ("Getting to Know You", "Whistle a Happy Tune", "A Puzzlement", "Shall We Dance" etc.) are retained. None of the omissions are particularly regrettable, save for Anna's solo "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?" This feisty attack on the King's chauvinism was specially written to suit the talents of Gertrude Lawrence, who played Anna in the original production; the song was cut from the film because it made Deborah Kerr seem "too bitchy" (Kerr's singing, incidentally, is dubbed for the most part by the ubiquitous Marni Nixon). When all is said and done, the principal attraction of The King and I is Yul Brynner, in the role that made him a star and with which he will forever be identified. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Quo Vadis?
Originally advertised as "Colossal Quo Vadis," this opulent MGM production is far and away the most elaborate of the many versions of Henryk Sienkiewicz's novel. The plot, as always, concerns the romance between a beautiful early Christian woman (Deborah Kerr) and the initially agnostic Roman soldier Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor). This love story is laid against the larger intrigues of the debauched emperor Nero (Peter Ustinov), who hopes to gain immortality by destroying Rome with a fire and remaking it in his own image. Part of Nero's master plan is the elimination of the Christian "threat," leading to the climactic lion picnics in the arena. In spite of the many more celebrated highlights (the burning of Rome, the rescue of Lygia [Deborah Kerr] from a rampaging bull, the upside-down crucifixion of Simon Peter), the scene that remains most vivid in the memory is the posthumous "final insult" delivered to Nero by his contemptuous former aide Petronius (Leo Genn). Sophia Loren can be briefly spotted as an extra during one of the crowd scenes. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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