Don't Look Now (1973)
By: Trist Jones on March 21, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Universal (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 105 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Starring: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason
Screenplay: Alan Scott, Chris Bryant
Country: USA
I remember walking out of Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes and feeling as though my mind had literally snapped trying to comprehend exactly what happened for it to reach the ending it did. There was a murmuring of "What the fuck?!" that hummed through the cinema as the credits began rolling that clearly signified everyone else was as bamboozled as I was. Don't get me wrong, if the film maker's intention is to screw with your heads then that's their thing, but (and I'm probably alone in this boat) at least I didn't feel completely ripped off. To sit back and exclaim "What the fuck?!" after a movie and feel completely ripped off shouldn't happen to anyone (finger well and truly pointed at Aliens Vs Predator… but I digress…), but after sitting through Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, I felt scummed, swindled, perplexed and worst of all, that I'd just sat through those two hours for pretty much nothing. Beware, spoilers may be ahead…

The 70's was arguably the best decade for horror films, but a lot of films danced around the horror label by incorporating supernatural elements and borrowing heavily from the films around at the time. Don't Look Now was one of these. When I picked up the film, I was told it was one of the best horror films of the 70's. If I could remember who told me that, I would fight them. The only thing remotely horrific about this film is watching Donald Sutherland strut about nude for a while before having surprisingly explicit sex with Julie Christie. I've read reviews that compare this film to Kubrick's The Shining, which is blasphemy, straight up blasphemy.

The film tries hard to tell the tale of a married couple who lose their daughter when she drowns in a creek on the family's estate, and then try to get over their grief by moving to Venice for work. It works well… for a little while, but as the film drags itself on like a cat with it's hind legs broken, it loses itself and it's audience amidst poorly edited sequences that bear little to no meaning for the film's plot or direction at all. Donald Sutherland starts glimpsing a mysterious shape, dressed the same as his daughter was when she died, and his wife has become friendly with a blind psychic woman and her sister who claim that the little girl is still with them. Somewhere along the way, wires get crossed and needless little scenes start stabbing in at the main plot, (or plots) creating what gradually becomes a terrible mess. The subplot involving the daughter is switched on and off and the filmmakers can't seem to make up their mind about how to portray the elderly sisters. On top of this, characters are given far too much emphasis in sequences which ultimately result in them not having any bearing on the plot at all. It seems to try to play on the paranoia that Rosemarie's Baby executed perfectly, but fails miserably. I was shocked and bitterly disappointed by the film's baffling conclusion, which I pegged half jokingly about halfway through.

What makes it worse is that after watching the film, I decided to explore the extras, hoping for some sort of explanation. None was found. All I could piece together from the director's ramblings in the behind the scenes doco was that he seemed to love random events, therein implying that nothing in this film happened for any real reason, that everything was just random coincidence. I felt genuinely cheated, and if that was Roeg's intentions, congratulations.
Video
The image quality isn't fantastic. It's definitely above the copy that's probably available on VHS at your local video store (if they still have videos that is…), but it's only just better than a good VHS transfer. Grain and scratches, which other films available on DVD from the same era manage to avoid (The Exorcist is a prime example), are evident. The film is presented 1.85:1 Anamorphic, but the cinematography choices are such that it really wouldn't matter at all if it was Pan & Scan, which is something I usually find deplorable.
Audio
The sound in this film is really odd. There was clearly a lot of post sound done on this film, as some sequences are as out of sync as some Monty Python sketches with sound effects being over emphasised for no reason at all. Also, in Dolby 2.0, it's not exactly blowing anyone's socks off and retains that audible hiss present in older films that lack remastered soundtracks.
Extra Features
The only extras present are a trailer and a retrospective doco, which is basically three key members of the crew, the director, editor and camera operator rambling on about how awesome they are. Any answers you may be hoping to find regarding this films stupendous amount of unanswered questions aren't to be found here. Roeg rambles on and on, trying to justify the choices he made when making this film, the camera operator does the same and makes the filming of the sex scene seem like one of the most lurid experiences in film making history. The editor's explanation for superimposing one of the elderly sister's faces into a particular scene leaves you thinking "Good work, jackass."
The Verdict
A lot of people seem to like this film for some reason; many claim it to be a modern horror masterpiece. I say bullshit. It feels cheap and shoddy and raises far more questions than it answers, and ultimately incites that same "What the fuck?!" response as Burton's Planet of the Apes, only you feel far more ripped off, as though the whole thing was for nothing. The DVD is also such a lacklustre package that the usually decent $20 price tag is still, like the film itself, a huge rip off.
Movie Score
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