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Paramount Studios presents
Don't Look Now (1973)

"Nothing is what it seems."
- John Baxter (Donald Sutherland)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: October 13, 2002

Stars: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland
Other Stars: Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania, Massmo Serato, Renato Scarpa, Bruno Cattaneo
Director: Nicolas Roeg

MPAA Rating: R for (violence, sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:50m:03s
Release Date: September 03, 2002
UPC: 097360870442
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+BB- D+

DVD Review

The haunting works of English author Daphne du Maurier were borrowed by Alfred Hitchcock for a couple of his most memorable and disparate films (Rebecca, The Birds), and Nicolas Roeg (The Man Who Fell to Earth) successfully brought another du Maurier piece to the big screen in 1973 with the thriller, Don't Look Now. Working with atmospheric cinematographer, Anthony Richmond (Candyman), and composer Pino Donaggio (who would later score a number of films for Hitchcock emulator Brian De Palma), Don't Look Now has the visual and auditory elements of Hitchcock, to say nothing of the shocking Italian giallo style that was so prevalent in the early 1970s.

After the drowning death of their young daughter, John (Donald Sutherland) and Laura (Julie Christie) Baxter head to Venice, where John is supervising the restoration of an old church. Still recovering from her grief, Laura encounters a strange pair of elderly sisters, one of whom claims to be psychic. The psychic, Melanie (Hilary Mason), is also blind, and states that she has seen a vision of Laura's dead daughter, and that she appears to be happy. Laura's new found acceptance of all things psychic, which helps put her grieving behind her, begins to cause stress on her relationship with John, who wants no part of Melanie's claims of psychic visions. To make matters worse, as if a dead child and blind seers weren't enough, a serial killer is also at work in Venice.

The story is much like a snake eating its tail, and it wraps around itself a number of times as it eventually unfolds. With its psychics, ESP and murders, there are plenty of unexpected twists and turns in the script. The whole film has a dreary, somber feel to it, and I don't think Venice has ever looked so foreboding or ominous. The opening sequence, during which the Baxters' daughter dies, is a mesmerizing series of shots of a young girl in a shiny red raincoat, intercut with staid, almost mundane scenes of John and Laura, that features not only clever foreshadowing, but a blend of beautifully surreal images.

Sutherland is usually a competent actor, and in the 1970s he had really hit his stride with a number of memorable performances (M*A*S*H, Klute, 1900), and his stern portrayal of John Baxter is another fine example. Though Sutherland is really the film's logical anchor, Julie Christie contributes a strong turn as a woman desperate to believe in proof of the afterlife, and she conveys a gentle sense of misplaced longing.

Roeg goes the giallo route by throwing a fairly explicit (and lengthy) sex scene between Donald Sutherland (I really didn't need to see that) and the radiant Julie Christie (ok, there's the trade off, I guess). Not to sound prudish, but the scene is just gratutious, and plays like filler that seems out of place and unnecessary in the development of their relationship of the two leads.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Paramount's release of Don't Look Now in a sharp 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer belies its age, and was apparently struck from a very clean master print. Image detail is fairly sharp, with colors that are more resplendent than most films from 1973, though the dramatic tone set by the cinematography of Anthony Richmond keeps much of the film from being too bright. Fleshtones are reproduced well, and retain a natural look at all times. One glaring negative is a fair amount of edge enhancement and shimmer, especially on some of the hip, trendy 1970s fashions.

Aside from a few edge enhancement issues, this a nice transfer for an older film.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: Dolby Digital mono, in English, is the primary option here, and its flatness sadly dates the film in a way that the image transfer does not. Dialogue is largely clear, with just a small amount of audible hiss in spots. Luckily, the Pino Donaggio score sounds remarkably full, with all of his wonderfully hypnotic Bernard Herrmann-isms firmly in place.

A French language mono track is also provided.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Paramount won't be accused of over doing the extras section, unlike the British DVD release of this film, as the only supplement here is a theatrical trailer for the feature.

The disc is divided into 15 chapters, with optional English subtitles.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Nearly thirty years old, this film is still supremely eerie and chilling. Roeg and celebrated D.P. Anthony Richmond have created a dark, disturbing thriller that mixes a few genres together with a lot of foreshadowing, all built around a story based on the often used, creepy writings of Daphne du Maurier. Not a film the Venice Office of Tourism might endorse, but a spooky good time for the rest of us.



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