Don't Look Now on Blu-ray

Sunday, 03 July 2011 11:14

We are at a time when Blu-ray is coming of age – classic films, and even the occasional stand-out TV series, are being redefined thanks to their upgrade to this new format. “Don’t Look Now” is the latest of these iconic titles to make the transition. I have to admit to having not seen the film since early adolescence, when the promise of an explicit sex scene saw it become essential late night television viewing, rather than any for any exposure of near-unique directorial abilities.

Even at the time, despite the billing, the sex scene featuring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as the tragic married couple felt a little incongruous, almost there to provide a little titillation to provide a lure to other potential audiences. You are in essence watching various elements of a jigsaw puzzle – in isolation seemingly disconnected from each other, then gradually coming together as a whole when you are exposed to the equivalent of the ‘box lid’.

Don't Look Now comes to Blu-rayReleased in 1973, written by Allan Scott and Chris Bryant, and based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier, the plot follows the characters John and Laura Baxter. We witness them being subjected to the tragic accidental death of their daughter, her demise coming as she wears what has since become an iconic hooded red ‘mac’. They travel to Venice, where John (Sutherland) is overseeing the restoration of an old church. It is not long before Laura (Christie) encounters a pair of elderly sisters; one of them is a blind psychic who claims to be in direct communication with the couple’s deceased child.

Whilst Laura is intrigued and convinced of this sooth-saying, John is far more sceptical, despite the possibility that he is having his own visions that point towards his life being in danger. The signs and portents are there, but John refuses to leave the city. The film concludes with the introduction of a new character, in a showdown that helped as much as anything else to define the movie’s pedigree.

This is the film that finally elevated director Nic Roeg to iconic auteur status, cementing his reputation following his previous directorial escapades with “Performance” (1970) and “Walkabout” (1971). He would go on to helm the likes of “The Man Who Fell To Earth” (1976), “Bad Timing” (1980), “Insignificance” (1985), and “Castaway” (1986).

The news release of this title makes note that there has been a new picture and audio restoration for the Blu-ray release, all supervised and approved by Nic Roeg. You would think that this would mean a pristine print, positively jumping out of your HD TV screen, and most other reviews out there would give you that impression. 

So, I had to check that I had the final version - as the Blu-ray review copy I had received has several places in the film where the picture quality is not all it ought to be, with blacks not being solid, and other areas being a little muddy.  Checking the news release again, I saw the following statement: “While every effort has been made to secure the best source material, imperfections commensurate with the age of materials may be evident, despite full digital restoration”. In some respects this was a relief, as I thought I was going mad, or needed my eyes testing, or my equipment checked.  However, it’s a reminder that any Blu-ray release can only work with the material that’s available to it, and it appears that even with taking great care, sometimes archive footage can’t be interrogated successfully by new formats.

That said, “Don’t Look Now” still looks far better than it has ever done for a domestic format release. The photography is unusual and full of meaning, much of which becomes more poignant, as the story strands finally mesh. That’s the job of any good director – bringing more to the feature than what has been written down in the script – and this is why Roeg can count this film as a massive victory on that front.

The Blu-ray extras on this release include:

  • Nic Roeg commentary
  • “Looking Back” – ‘Making of’ Documentary
  • Interview with composer Pino Donaggio
  • Intro by Alan Jones
  • Compressed version of “Don’t Look Now” made by Danny Boyle for BAFTA tribute
  • Interview with Danny Boyle
  • Interview with Allan Scott
  • Interview with Tony Richmond
  • Interview with Donald Sutherland
  • Excerpt from documentary “Nothing as it Seems”

The company who brought us this release of “Don’t Look Now”, Optimum Home Entertainment, are looking to release further classics on Blu-ray during the rest of 2011, including “The Lavender Hill Mob” (1 August 2011), “Whisky Galore!” (8 August 2011), “Quatermass and The Pit” (5 September 2011), and “Kind Hearts and Coronets” (also 5 September 2011). These releases are part of a commitment from Optimum to preserving and restoring their vast library of classic titles that are held on behalf of Studio Canal ain a new state-of-the-art cold storage facility at Pinewood Studios.

“Don’t Look Now” is out now on Blu-ray, courtesy of Optimum Home Entertainment. It has a ‘15’ certificate, is defined as Region B, and has a running time of 111 mins approx. The Feature Audio is Mono 2.0 (no 5.1 DTS unfortunately), and has a RRP of £22.99, or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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