Determinedly arthouse despite its purely commercial pulp plot, Cooper's The Disappearance - a film that disappeared from distribution for decades itself - isn't particularly good, yet there's still something there that keeps drawing you back every decade or so to see if it's got any better. It hasn't, yet there's still something haunting about this mood piece's chilly atmosphere and alienated emotional landscape. Shot in snowy Canada and England in late fall to take advantage of two sets of tax breaks, Donald Sutherland's the expert hitman too preoccupied with the disappearance of his wife (Sutherland's offscreen partner Francine Racette) to accept a 'shy' from his increasingly impatient bosses, who run their assassination bureau from a smart office like a management consultancy. There's more brooding on where their relationship may have fallen apart than thriller mechanics, with the coldness of the landscape spreading to the interiors and the characters. At times you feel this wants to be a slightly Boormanesque exercise in subverting the genre a la Point Blank, particularly in the opening assassination on an abandoned ship, but the idea's better than the execution.
Still, Cooper assembles a good cast to keep things interesting: David Warner, an unseen voice of authority figures in Cooper's previous film Overlord, appears onscreen this time as a disillusioned assassination executive, a young John Hurt is the too eager assassin's apprentice Sutherland finds himself saddled with, Virginia McKenna is remarkably effective as the wife of the potential target who has long since lost her illusions about her marriage, Peter Bowles does a nice line in corporate slime, Christopher Plummer turns up for one effective confrontation and there's a chance to see co-producer David Hemmings in the days before his eyebrows became large enough to support their own weather system. It's definitely a film whose credits lead you to expect more - it's adapted from a novel by Derek Marlowe, always better at premise than plotting, with a screenplay by two-time Nic Roeg collaborator Paul Mayersberg with crisp, clinical cinematography by Kubrick favorite John Alcott - but while it repeatedly fails to deliver still leaves a few resonant echoes in its wake.
No extras and an acceptable but not outstanding fullframe transfer on the UK PAL DVD.