Since it was released onto cinema screens in 1973 the beautifully shot chilling creepy classic Don’t Look Now has had a massive impact, imitated and evoked throughout cinema across all genre’s and countries right up to the present day – with recent examples including German time traveling thriller The Door and Hammer’s pagan countryside scarer Wake Wood.
Timeless in its story of loss, grief and the random uncontrollability of life and stunning in its style and cinematography, Nic Roeg’s horror masterpiece has finally been given the restoration it deserves under Roeg’s personal supervision giving us this brilliant Blu-Ray packed with extras.
Based on the short story by Daphne du Maurier Don’t Look Now opens with the horrible tragic accidental death of John and Laura Baxter’s young daughter – an event which affects the couple in very different ways. Some time later, still distraught and grieving the loss of their child the pair travel to Venice where John is overseeing the restoration of an old church.
It is in Venice that they encounter two sisters, one of which is blind and claims to have psychic powers. While Laura is fascinated by the idea of being able to communicate with her lost child John rejects it, pushing his wife and her beliefs aside as preposterous and damaging to her already fragile mental state.
John’s refusal to see what is not only beyond his sight but also right before his eyes prevents him from heeding the ominous signs around him and as murders mount up in the city on the water and terrible accidents occur around him it appears John could be heading towards a terrible fate that neither he nor his loving wife is capable of preventing.
Daphne du Maurier’s work has been translated to the large and small screen many times over the years, since her writing and the legendary Alfred Hitchcock adapted her work three times making The Birds, Jamaica Inn and Rebecca all from du Maurier’s stories.
The short story of Don’t Look Now was the perfect source material for writers Allan Scott and Chris Bryant, who crafted the script perfectly fleshing out the characters of John and Laura Baxter, played by the amazing Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. Most interestingly they added in the death of their daughter as the opening scene – something which is missing from the original story.
This immensely emotional opening which sets not only the eerie tragic tone of the film but brings fourth some of the major recurring themes and motifs including water, breaking glass and the colour red, is also one of the most memorable moments and it has been paid tribute to throughout many horror movies since. Likewise with the central plot device of the loss of a child opening up a portal for the parents into a world of paranormal peril and pain – which although not original to this movie has not been done better before or after Don’t Look Now .
Roeg who started as a cinematographer has an expert eye not only for shot composition but for editing, and the avant-garde cross cutting is excellent adding deeper meaning to moments you may miss. Venice with its labyrinthine and shadowy streets is as much a character as a location literally decaying around the characters as their lives slide into chaos.
Controversial at the time of its release for a particularly explicit sex scene which happens early on, the scene in question physically encapsulates the closeness, intimacy, tenderness and reality that is found in Sutherland and Christie’s performances – all of which probably contributed to the rumours of it being real and not simulated at all (although this has been subsequently denied). Both actors are totally believable inhabiting their roles and witnessing their relationship and its doomed path is touching and heart breaking.
From its disturbing and distressing opening to its shocking and scary end, Don’t Look Now is not only a classic of horror cinema but of British cinema and this Blu-Ray edition lets a whole new audience see a great film restored like John’s derelict church – to its deserved former glory.
Illuminating, frightening and full of imagery that will stay in your mind long after its done, Don’t Look Now needs to be watched now by everyone as an essay in filmmaking and fear.