Movie Review: Don’t Look Now (1973) – Criterion Collection 4K/Blu-ray

February 25, 2024

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

After the tragic drowning death of their daughter, John Baxter (Donald Sutherland) and his wife Laura (Julie Christie) head to Venice from their home in England as John has been hired to restore an ages-old church to it’s former glory.

I’m sure all that water in Venice will help them forget the soggy misery of the past…

Even if a change of location would help them, the psychic visions of blind Heather (Hilary Mason… a familiar face to fans of Charles Band’s pre-Full Moon outfit Empire Pictures for her appearances in Stuart Gordon’s Robot Jox and Dolls) will bring those memories right back as she claims she can see their daughter, whom she describes with chilling accuracy.

This begins taking a toll on Laura, which isn’t really helped by the continued presence of Heather and her sister Wendy (Clelia Matania) who hold a séance to help Laura communicate with her daughter beyond the veil.

Soon Laura is shipped back to England and John is left to his own devices… except he soon sees Laura back in Venice accompanied by the sisters, though she doesn’t respond to him in any way… which sends him on an investigation fraught with sightings of what looks like his deceased daughter (the red raincoat is a solid match), and a trail of bodies that appears to be the work of a serial killer on the loose!

With Don’t Look Now, Nicolas Roeg (The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Witches) presents this adaptation of the 1971 short story penned by Daphne Du Maurier (with a screenplay provided by Allan Scott and Chris Bryant) in a way that  weaves a spell on the viewer by telling an emotional family drama in unconventional ways while keeping the more occult elements of the piece omnipresent but strangely believable as well.

Speaking of those occult elements, they are made even more effective by an omnipresent cold and dreary atmosphere evident in both the downright Gothic vision of Venice on display with it’s ancient churches and crumbling architecture standing on shadow-laden streets. As with any great film, the location becomes a character integral to the telling of the narrative.

The film also benefits from the amazing cast present, with Sutherland and Christie delivering believable, if at times heartbreaking performances… with Sutherland really selling his characters seeming descent into uncertainty and possible insanity… and Mason & Matania coming off both creepy and endearing in equal measure!

However, the real star of the show is the film’s editing (provided by Graeme Clifford) which features breathless, at times purposefully jarring transitions which often feature journeys forward and backward in time (for example the film’s lengthy sex sequence is intercut with shots of Sutherland and Christie dressing for a night out on the time post-coitus) that show how seemingly disparate occurrences can inter-relate while simultaneously revealing clues to the mystery at hand.

All of the above looks absolutely stunning thanks to the transfer utilized by Criterion for this 4K/Blu-ray release. Look, I’m no tech expert but I know what looks good, and this picture looks fantastic with tons of detail, vibrant colors (those reds!), and deep, rich blacks.

Speaking of Criterion, they’ve assembled a solid selection of bonus material here (located on the included Blu-ray edition of the film) including an archival “making-of” doc featuring interviews with Roeg, Clifford, and cinematographer Anthony Richmond, an archival interview with the film’s composer, Pino Donagio (The Howling), a discussion of Roeg and the fim’s production assembled from interviews with Scott, Richmond, Christie, and Sutherland, an appreciation of the film and it’s influence on their careers from filmmakers Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Trainspotting) and Steven Soderbergh (the Ocean’s Eleven’s films, Traffic), an archival featurette in which film historian Bobbie O’Steen talks with Clifford about editing Don’t Look Now, an archival Q&A with Roeg, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

Also included are a reversible insert and a folded mini-poster with liner notes on it’s opposite side.

An absolute masterpiece of the bizarre, Don’t Look Now is a thrilling supernatural suspense shocker that belongs on the sinister shelves of Euro-horror aficionados everywhere!

Share This Article

You May Also Like…