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Michael Crichton
Albert Finney, James Coburn, Susan Dey, Leigh Taylor-Young, Dorian Harewood, Tim Rossovich, Darryl Hickman, Kathryn Witt, Terri Welles
Writing Credits:
Michael Crichton

If Looks Could Kill ...

Plastic surgeon Larry Roberts performs a series of minor alterations on a group of models who are seeking perfection. The operations are a resounding success. But when someone starts killing his beautiful patients, Dr. Roberts becomes suspicious and starts investigating. What he uncovers are the mysterious -- and perhaps murderous - activities of a high-tech computer company called Digital Matrix.

Rated PG

Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 1/30/2007

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Michael Crichton
• Introduction with Michael Crichton
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Looker (1981)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 19, 2007)

For a somewhat early effort from science fiction giant Michael Crichton, we visit 1981ís Looker. We meet hotshot plastic surgeon Dr. Larry Roberts (Albert Finney). He works on the rich and mighty as well as insanely insecure actresses who desire absolute physical perfection. In the latter category comes Lisa Convey (Terri Welles), a blonde bombshell who comes in with a list of miniscule modifications. While she waits for a date, some mysterious creep (Tim Rossovich) comes into her apartment and creates a situation that causes her to plummet off of her balcony.

When another patient of Robertsí also ends up deceased, police Lt. Masters (Dorian Harewood) comes to chat with the doctor. He implies the cops suspect Roberts, and we quickly surmise someoneís attempting to frame the doctor. Matters get even weirder when patients start to worry that theyíre too physically perfect and thatís whatís getting these women killed, and Roberts finds himself implicated in another murder.

In an attempt to dig into connections among the dead women, Roberts pursues another of his clients: Cindy Fairmont (Susan Dey). Sheís been involved with a group called Digital Matrix, and they seem suspicious to Roberts. The rest of the movie follows their pairing and attempts to solve the mystery while the also stay alive.

Back in 1981, Looker was a movie on the technological edge, as its science fiction seemed far-fetched. It proved surprisingly prescient, however, as many of its seemingly ludicrous concepts have become fact in the last 25-plus years. We can see a lot of modern concepts on display in this effort.

This means that the film appears dated and appropriate all at once. To my surprise, the technology displayed doesnít age the movie as much as Iíd expect. Sure, the computer material looks quaint, but itís not the distraction Iíd anticipate. The general early Eighties feel of the flick is a different matter, though, as it can create some distance between the viewer and the story; it just becomes hard to accept such technical sophistication in a world like this.

Nonetheless, Looker deserves credit as a film that anticipated trends in computer visuals as well as plastic surgery. Does that mean it soars as a film? No, for while it entertains in a rudimentary way, it remains more memorable as a piece of scientific prediction than as an actual movie.

Many of the problems stem from the coherence of the story. To say the least, the tale doesnít flow particularly well. It jumps around with some abandon and never manages to mesh together in a concise manner. Some devices feel tacked on and pointless, while others appear with too much convenience to make sense.

The general ambition of the story never coalesces either. The film hints at very sinister motives for the computer technology but never delivers on them. It canít decide if it wants to turn into a scary thriller or if it prefers to be a basic mystery tale. These elements balance awkwardly and donít come together in a satisfactory way.

This means we just wait until the inevitable ending. Without question, Looker comes with a predictable conclusion, and it doesnít make the ride to get there especially memorable. The film offers a moderately intriguing tale with just enough panache to keep us occupied. It canít do more than that, unfortunately.

Trivia note: if you look closely, youíll find Vanna White in the flick as an extra.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

Looker appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie featured a perfectly adequate transfer.

Sharpness seemed fine but unexceptional. Parts of the movie came across as somewhat soft and ill-defined, but those were in the minority. Most of the flick appeared reasonably concise and accurate. I noticed no jagged edges, but some shimmering occurred, and I also witnessed light edge haloes. Source flaws stayed minor. The movie showed occasional specks but nothing serious.

Colors were erratic. Most of the hues seemed fairly lively and distinctive, but a few scenes were moderately runny and messy. Those didn't cause serious distractions, though. Blacks were reasonably dark and dense, while shadows showed decent delineation. Though the flick showed its age, the image usually worked fine.

Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Looker. Not a lot of ambition came from the soundfield. The movie opened up ambience and music to a reasonable degree and gave us good spread across the front. Not much of distinction cropped up, though, an the surrounds played a minor role. They contributed minor reinforcement at best.

Audio quality seemed good for its age. Speech showed no edginess or other problems as the lines remained natural and crisp. Music was smooth and bright, while effects appeared acceptably concise. A little distortion crept into some louder bits but most of the material stayed clean. While the audio never excelled, it seemed fine for the flick.

A few elements flesh out the set. The DVD includes an optional introduction by writer/director Michael Crichton. In this four-minute and 40-second clip, he provides a little background about the flick and its creation. This acts as a nice little opener to the experience.

In addition to trailers for Looker and The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning, we get an audio commentary with Crichton. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. He gets into the projectís origins and its development, cast and performances, sets and locations, visual effects, reactions to the film, and technical topics.

While Crichton never makes this a fascinating commentary, he does his job. He gives us a pretty solid review of the appropriate issues and avoids the standard pitfalls like too much dead air or praise. Crichton digs into his movie with reasonable depth and turns this into an enjoyable chat.

More than 25 years after its initial release, Looker seems remarkably prescient in the way it predicted various trends. However, as a film it never seems remarkable in the least. Instead, it offers an uninspired thriller with little to spark the imagination. The DVD presents decent picture and audio along with an interesting audio commentary. Fans should be pleased with this perfectly acceptable release, but I canít say the flick does anything for me.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.6428 Stars Number of Votes: 14
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