When I was growing up in the UK, I avidly watched anything which was set in Venice. I remember my mother regularly shouting up the stairs, ‘Venice is on TV!’ and rushing to the living room to catch a glimpse of the Canal Grande, or Judith Chalmers sipping coffee in Caffè Florian wishing we were there.
When video machines were invented, I would scour the shelves of Blockbuster’s looking for any movies filmed or set there, and I think I watched them all. Ironically, this is also how I came to appreciate horror movies, when I discovered Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 classic, ‘Don’t Look Now’.
Starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, it tells the story of a married couple mourning a young daughter, who move to Venice to work on a church restoration. While there, they encounter a couple of psychic sisters, and begin to have visions of their dead daughter wearing a red coat in the back calli of Venice.
Based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier, the film is a masterpiece of suspense, and to my mind it must have influenced Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’. The famously labyrinthine backstreets and canals of Venice turn into a menacing maze of claustrophobic tension.
The film was actually a joint British-Italian production and is known in Italy under the unlikely Italianish title: ‘A Venezia … un dicembre rosso shocking!’ Shockingly bad, if you ask me.
Venice is actually one of the safest cities in Europe and it’s possible to wander the alleys at night quite without fear or incident. But if you see a flash of red, … run in the opposite direction and ‘don’t look now!’