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Don't Look Now is an Anglo-Italian horror, directed by Nicolas Roeg and released in 1973. It is based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier.

Plot synopsis

Don't Look Now tells the story of a couple, Laura (Julie Christie) and John Baxter (Donald Sutherland) whose young daughter has recently drowned in a tragic accident at home. Their grief puts a sudden pressure on their marriage.

Seeking a change of scenery and an opportunity to work through their loss, they take a "working vacation" to Venicemarker, Italymarker, where John has been contracted to restore an ancient church. While John attends to this project, Laura is befriended by two strange elderly sisters. One of the sisters, Heather (Hilary Mason), is blind and claims to be in psychic contact with the Baxters' dead daughter. Laura is drawn to the sisters, but John finds their influence on her unsettling and suspects them of deceit. The ensuing drama is set against a subplot involving a serial killer who has eluded the police. John catches glimpses of a child-like figure in red raingear who resembles his dead daughter, although the figure vanishes whenever John pursues it. He begins to question his own sanity and that of his wife as Laura appears to be completely under the command of the sisters, who in turn suggest that John shares their gift of a "second sight."

John's fears and Laura's apparent obsession with the sisters lead them into a spiraling vortex of coincidences, recurring themes and motifs (light on water, breaking glass, the colour red), which reaches a dramatic conclusion in an old bell tower. John confronts the mysterious figure in red, realizing too late that his visions were premonitions of a grisly end.

The love scene

The love scene
Don't Look Now has become famous for its sex scene involving Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. The scene was unusually graphic for the time, leading to rumours it was unsimulated, although only nine frames were trimmed for the original American theatrical release in order to avoid an MPAA X rating. The assertion that Sutherland and Christie actually had sex was repeated as recently as 2001 in Patrick Robertson's Film Facts.

The scene was an unscripted last minute improvisation by Roeg who felt that without it there would be too many scenes of the couple arguing. It is edited in an unorthodox but typical Roeg manner with the footage of the act intercut with footage of the couple getting dressed for dinner afterward.

Director Steven Soderbergh paid homage to the scene by including a tamer version in a similar style in his 1998 Elmore Leonard adaptation Out of Sight. A similar scene also appears in the 1981 thriller Ghost Story between Craig Wasson and Alice Krige. Christie and Sutherland reteamed for the 1992 film The Railway Station Man which also included a frank depiction of a sexual act.

Critical reception

This film was #22 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments for its ending. Commentator John Landis, however, broke rank by confessing to find the killer's revelation comical.

The film ranked # 18 on the Times list of Top 100 Films.Christopher, J., 2008. Top 100 Films. The Times, [internet] 26 April. Available at [] [Accessed 11 June 2009] The film was ranked at #8 on a list of the [[BFI Top 100 British films|top 100 British films]] published by the [[British Film Institute]].[[British Film Institute]]. 1999. ''The BFI 100 - A selection of the favourite British films of the 20th century.'' [Online] (Updated 19 Feb 2008) Available at [] [Accessed 11 June 2009]


  • The actor who played the inspector, Renato Scarpa, did not speak English, and simply read the lines he'd been given without understanding them.

  • Writer Allan Scott was pleased to see a bottle of The Macallanmarker (of which company he was the deputy chairman) beside the bed in the controversial sex scene.


The score written by Pino Donaggio (Venice-born, and already known as the composer of the music for Dusty Springfield's 1966 hit song "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me") plays an important role in this film. After this first attempt as a film composer, Donaggio became a regular composer for Brian De Palma films.

References in popular culture

  • The theme of the little red-clad Venetian figure is used in a dream sequence in the "Book Clubbin'" episode of television series Absolutely Fabulous, Series 5.
  • In the feature film Flatliners, Kiefer Sutherland is tormented by a small childlike figure in a red hooded coat in an homage to his father's film.
  • This film heavily influenced Alice, Sweet Alice.
  • This film seems to have influenced "RD", Episode 13 of The Big O. In said episode, Roger investigates a series of murders, and has visions of a woman in a red cloak. At the end of the episode, the killer was revealed to be an android who looked like R. Dorothy.

  • The video to Sophie Ellis-Bextor's single "Catch You" draws heavily on the film's imagery as Bextor runs around Venice in a red evening dress.
  • The Irish feature film Intermission (starring Colm Meaney and Colin Farrell) references the chase of a small figure in a red coat several times.
  • The film is often referenced by cult British television series The League of Gentlemen.
  • Clips from this film appear in the video for Big Audio Dynamite's 1986 hit "E=MC2" which is an homage to the films of the director, Nicholas Roeg. It contains the lyric "met a dwarf who was no good, dressed like Little Red Riding Hood" etc...
  • The Vast video "Pretty When You Cry" has many references to the movie.
  • The drowning scene is referenced by the 2005 film The Dark starring Sean Bean and Maria Bello in which their daughter drowns wearing a bright red sweater.
  • In the 2005 film Hostel, a figure fleetingly glimpsed wearing a red raincoat is pursued through narrow alleyways.
  • The end chase scene is referenced in the 2006 release of Casino Royale where James Bond is pursuing Vesper through Venice while she is wearing a red coat.
  • In the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man, the little girl is seen running around in a red coat. As well, there is a pair of twins, old women, except both of them are blind. The original The Wicker Man was released as a double-bill with Don't Look Now.
  • The animated portion of the Halloween episode of children's program Yo Gabba Gabba features many classic movie monsters. Near the end a small figure in a red slicker appears as an obscure homage.
  • The 2008 film In Bruges has many references to Don't Look Now, including the claim by one character that the film-within-a-film is a pastiche of Don't Look Now.
  • Portions of the film are sampled in the M83 song "America."
  • In an episode of the British television series Spaced, a girl in a red coat is seen whilst Tim is looking for Colin.
  • The film is mentioned in a portion of the graphic novel "Swamp Thing", written by Alan Moore.
  • An episode of the British BBC Television soap "Eastenders" broadcast 5 October 2009, a girl in a red rain coat appears to the bipolar character Stacey Slater played by Lacey Turner.
  • Don't Look Now is one of the inspirations of the Silent Hill series, which also features a protagonist who experiences surreal visions in a mysterious town as he hunts for his lost, ghostly daughter.


Don't Look Now was released as one half of a double bill on its original UK theatrical release. The Wicker Man was its accompanying 'B' feature and also went on to achieve great aclaim. Don't Look Now was given another theatrical release in 2001 as part of an initiative by the British Film Institute to make classic films readily available.

Don't Look Now has had several home video releases, with one UK video edition notoriously including a still of the climactic last scene on the outside of the box. It was first released on DVD in the UK by Warner Bros. in 2002 and included a theatrical trailer and twenty-minute featurette. Many fans were disappointed by the notoriously bad quality of the 2.0 stereo track. Paramount followed this with a Region 1 release. Although featuring much improved sound, the transfer and extras were less impressive.

Optimum announced a special edition UK DVD for November 13, 2006. The press release revealed that the DVD would feature a digitally restored anamorphic widescreen transfer, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Sound, an introduction by Alan Jones, an audio commentary by director Nicolas Roeg, and the previous DVD's featurette. Many were confused, as the artwork's banner 'Double-Disc Special Edition' suggested that surely there would be more extras. However, recent revised artwork removes the 'Double-Disc', denying rumours that only the Disc 1 extras were revealed in the press release. Days later, the complete extras details were announced, which were the above, a lengthy interview with the composer, and the theatrical trailer.


  • Patrick Robertson: Film Facts, 2001, Billboard Books, ISBN 0-8230-7943-0

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