DVD Review: “Don’t Look Now,” Roeg’s du Maurier adaptation, is still chilling 40 years later

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After the one-two punch of “Walkabout” and “Performance,” cinematographer-turned-director Nicolas Roeg turned to the work of Daphne du Maurier for his third feature. Very few pieces of fiction have been so totally improved in adaptation. The original novelette was clever but thin; the 1973 film is one of the greatest real horror films ever made.

Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie star as a loving couple who go to Venice to recover from the shock of their 5-year-old daughter’s death by drowning. There they are approached by a creepy blind psychic who claims to be in touch with the dead child.

There are a very few of the usual shock or suspense moments here (and those few are brilliantly executed). But there is an underlying sense of danger throughout, which is all the more effective because Sutherland and Christie make us really care about these people. On repeat viewings, the film becomes increasingly effective and moving; we watch these two eminently sympathetic characters heading toward the inevitable, unpleasant conclusion. We are left, not with fear as much as with sadness.

The new Criterion Blu-ray looks great, which is even more important than usual, since “Don’t Look Now” uses the color red almost as a character. There is a lot of supplementary material provided, some of it from the old DVD, and some new. Among the best is a 2006 interview with composer Pino Donaggio, who composed his first film score for “Don’t Look Now.” Also good are the two shorts (totaling slightly under an hour), composed of interview clips with key creative personnel, including Christie and Sutherland. Finally, there is a new 15-minute homage, in which Stephen Soderbergh and Danny Boyle explain how much Roeg’s work influenced their own.

Don’t Look Now (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, $39.95; DVD, two discs, $29.95)


ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on “FilmWeek” on KPCC-FM (89.3).