Beautifully directed by Nicholas Roeg, this story of a husband (Donald Sutherland) and wife (Julie Christie) coming to terms with the drowning death of their daughter gets subtly more and more disturbing as they meet up with a pair of elderly sisters who claim to have seen their daughter’s spirit.
Cue Donald Sutherland stumbling through out-of-season Venice amid the backdrop of a series of brutal murders.
Roeg must have ruined a thousand package holidays, painting Venice as a place of Gothic dread, full of dark alleys, unseen murderers and sinister psychics.
Famous now for the teasing shots of the little girl in a red coat, as well as one of the most memorable (and tasteful) sex scenes in cinema – intertwined with Sutherland and Christie dispassionately dressing for dinner.
The scene was intended to suggest the ease and normality of a married couple’s routine, but rumour spread that Sutherland and Christie got carried away during the shooting of the scene and were, in fact, making love.
The fact that Sutherland and Christie attracted more publicity for removing their pants than for scaring ours off should not overshadow this unsettling study of grief and premonition (but ok . . . it does look like they’re actually doing it).
The finale comes as both a total shock and an inevitable outcome – but watch it at night, on your own, and it becomes unbelievably frightening.
It leaves you stunned and you don’t even realise how insane it is until a few days later when you find yourself wondering “what the hell was that?”
This is undoubtedly one of the finest British horror movies of all time, and a genuine masterpiece.