When their young daughter unexpectedly drowns, Laura and John Baxter (Julie Christie & Donald Sutherland) head off to Venice for some business, some "pleasure" and to forget. Along the way, Laura and John meet up with two mysterious elderly women. One of the women, a clairvoyant seems to have contact with their daughter in the afterlife. It's at this point that nothing is quite as it seems as John in particular is haunted by mysterious visions and it becomes apparent that fate is about to take hold. To say anymore would be criminal, so let's just leave it at that.
Don't Look Now is a solid entry in the arena of British thrillers circa early 70's cinema. Highly stylized, director Nicolas Roeg paints us a true visual nightmare, 70's style. With very little violence until well into the last act of the film, the wait strengthens the impact even more. Warner is set to release a DVD stateside in Sept. supposedly with a toned down version of a steamy love scene between Sutherland and Christie. While not very erotic (it looked to me as if they were playing naked twister, rather unsuccessfully at that) the scene has a sordid history of its own. Rumor has it that the two of them got so carried away while filming that they actually completed the act (if you know what I mean and I think you do). Whether or not they actually did is beyond me, but let me tell you, there is some serious bumping and grinding going on here (crotch to sweaty crotch that is). You be the judge.
Crotch grinding aside, Don't Look Now is a prime example of classic 70's horror. Dealing with issues such as faith and fate, Director Roeg has crafted an effective and beautiful ghost story. Every shot in this film is deliberate and neatly composed. Foreshadowing is essential, and instances of symbolism are abundant. Also extremely important is the films editing style, which was a collaborative effort between Roeg and film Editor Clifford. Mesmerizing from start to finish, Don't Look Now doesn't have to rely on cheap thrills or classic exploitation elements to get the job done. A film like Don't Look Now is what the world of cinematic terrors is all about. Each time I watch a film like this, I am reminded why I started watching horror films to begin with.
Presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer, Don't Look Now looks simply gorgeous. Colors are extremely sharp and vibrant, especially the elusive reds which are oh so important to the visual aesthetics of the story. The print used was obviously in excellent shape as there is barely a hint of print damage. You'll bear witness to the occasional spec, and perhaps a light scratch or two. Keep in mind that hese slight imperfections are not easy to spot, the transfer is essentially near flawless. There are a few instances of artifacting in darker scenes, but once again, this is very slight, and I'm probably just being picky at this point.
Sound is presented in a Dolby Stereo mix and is much less impressive than the image quality. Sound is quite often muffled and difficult to hear, you'll have to crank up the volume a bit. Sound quality shifts from scene to scene as some set pieces fare better than others do. I'd say that this is a joint effort between the original sound recording and a poor audio mastering job. There are scenes in the film that have obvious echoes because of the acoustics where the scene was filmed, and the room acoustics were obviously not taken into account. In this instance I'd say it's a flaw within the original sound recording. Other scenes either outside or in a room that obviously does not have any acoustic problems that contains muffled dialogue, well, there's just no excuse for that. Another issue is the lack of English subtitles. There are a few scenes that contain some Italian dialogue, and it would have been nice to have some translation for those of us who chose to take French in high school, Merci. Audio is extremely lackluster which is a shame. The score by Pino Donnagio (Carrie, Dressed to Kill) would have also sounded better with a bit of clean up, but will have do as it stands now.
Extras include a theatrical trailer, full frame and in decent shape. Also included is a 20 minute featurette entitled Don't Look Now - Looking Back which includes interviews with Director Nicolas Roeg, Director of Photography Anthony Richmond, and film editor Graeme Clifford. The featurette is an excellent addition to the package and nice supplement to the feature itself. Last up is a DVD ROM feature including a PDF of advertising materials.
Audio problems aside, this film looks simply fantastic. It's not the worst audio track for a DVD release, but it's certainly close. You have your options as far as import editions go (German & French), expect to pay more $$ for these and I can't say if the picture quality will match this release either (you'll also miss out on the 20 minute featurette). Don't Look Now is some creepy ass shit. Expertly filmed with pitch perfect timing, this is a true horror film. Unnerving, upsettling, and wholly satisfying, Don't Look Now is essential viewing for fans of horror. It's an experience you're not likely to forget anytime soon, and one that you'll probably want to revisit, often. Keep in mind that this DVD is a Region 2 PAL DVD, therefore if you live in the states, you'll need multi-region and PAL compatibility. Otherwise, you can wait for the Region 1 yet slightly abridged version in September.