Don't Look Now (1973) by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

 Warning: total spoilers.

Don't Look Now wasn't a box office success in 1973 but it won some awards and was generally recognized as a capable movie. It isn't. Oh, the cinematography is brilliant, and the acting is very good from the leads, albeit not so good from the supporting players, but the "mystery" is just ludicrous and the pacing is glacial.

Some day, the limits of human endurance will be tested by seeing if anyone can stay awake during a Nick Roeg film festival. Roeg, the director of Don't Look Now, was once a great cinematographer, so his directorial efforts are always beautifully composed and photographed.  Unfortunately, there is more to the motion picture industry than pictures in motion. The man has no idea how to put those images together without creating a snoozefest. The final edits always include several scenes which do nothing to advance the plot and could easily have been cut. The scenes that should be in the films go on way too long, thus sapping the dramatic tension out of every situation. Sometimes, two scenes are intercut for no apparent purpose, instead of just letting them play out logically and separately.

You could take the footage in Don't Look Now and create a solid one-hour episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Unfortunately, Roeg took that hour's worth of entertainment and stretched it out over a much longer time. I fell asleep twice during this film, and I wasn't tired. It is two hours of complete boredom, with scene after scene outlasting its welcome. I held on just because I wanted to see the "mystery" explained.

And then ...

It turns out that the explanation is absolutely ludicrous.


Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland are naked in two scenes: bathing/showering, and then a sex scene. The sex scene is quite explicit. Some have claimed that they were really having sex, but they have denied it.

Throughout the film Donald Sutherland thought that he was experiencing second sight when he saw a vision of his dead daughter running around Venice. This was a fairly logical assumption, since:

  1. He seems to have experienced a legitimate case of second sight in a different instance.
  2. An old lady in town claimed to have "the gift," and to feel the presence of the girl.
  3. The apparition was dressed exactly as his daughter was dressed when she drowned - in a shiny red overcoat.

It was not his daughter. You know what the explanation really was? There was a serial killer wondering around Venice, skulking in and out of the shadows, and that is whom Sutherland mistook for the ghost of his daughter.

"How could that be?", you wonder.

The serial killer was an evil dwarf who looked exactly like a ten year old girl.

Roger Ebert once said there can be no good movie with a hot air balloon, and although I know what he's driving at with that observation, one must offer The Wizard of Oz, Andrei Rublev, and Around the World in 80 days as possible rebuttal evidence. On the other hand, there truly can be no good movie with an evil dwarf. As you may know, evil dwarves are a protected minority in Northern Europe, and certain quotas have to be met in that region. The Universities at Heidelberg and St Petersburg lose all their government funding if they do not admit at least 4% evil dwarves to degree programs each year. Swedish and Russian filmmakers must also comply with these quotas. But it never works in movies. A comic dwarf, or good dwarves? No problem. There's The Wizard of Oz, Foul Play, The Spy Who Shagged Me, and others to make a case for them.

But an evil dwarf? Bad Swedish melodrama and the premise for The Wild Wild West.

The homicidal dwarf in this film might not have been quite so ridiculous if he had not been skulking around Venice in a bright, shiny red overcoat. I know that I'm neither short enough nor evil enough to think like an evil dwarf, but if I were an evil serial-killing dwarf, I'd try to dress a little bit less conspicuously.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen format

With the slow pacing, the heavy-handed aquatic symbolism, and the dreaded evil dwarf, Nick Roeg seems to have had an urge to copy the great Northern European filmmakers, notably Tarkovsky and Bergman. What it really boils down to, however, is that you watch this it for a couple of hours fighting to stay awake because you have to know the explanation, and when you finally see the explanation you laugh out loud, then feel like throwing something at the TV.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three and a half stars. 4/5, BBC 5/5

  • It won a BAFTA award for best cinematography, and was nominated for 5 more.

The People Vote ...


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, it's a C: for arthouse lovers only. It's a beautifully photographed movie, but a snoozefest. It's a slow starter which slows down in the middle, then slows down even more at the end. I think it was actually going in reverse at one point. The only thing that happens in the entire movie involves an evil dwarf who wears a bright red raincoat while committing serial murders in Venice. I actually laughed out loud when I first saw the fearsome mass murderer. It just so happens that the evil dwarf looks and dresses exactly like Donald Sutherland's dead daughter during a time when he was also experiencing "actual" second sight visions.

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