Suspiria - 40th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray) (1977)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Due Out for Sale 6-Dec-2017

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Interviews-Crew-Suspiria told by Dario Argento (2017) (27:14)
Featurette-25th Anniversary Suspiria Documentary (51:49)
Interviews-Crew-Exclusive Interview with Dario Argento (2004) (21:15)
Featurette-Fear at 400 Degrees: The Cine-Excess of Suspiria (34:56)
Featurette-An Eye for Horror (56:57)
Featurette-Dario Argento’s World of Horror (70:48)
Theatrical Trailer-International Theatrical Trailer (2:03)
Theatrical Trailer-US Theatrical Trailer (1:12)
TV Spots-TV Spot (0:30)
More…-Radio Spots x 3
Trailer-Dario Argento Trailer Reel (1970 – 2009) (41:14)
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 99:05
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Dario Argento
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Jessica Harper
Stefania Casini
Flavio Bucci
Miguel Bosé
Barbara Magnolfi
Susanna Javicoli
Eva Axén
Rudolf Schündler
Udo Kier
Alida Valli
Joan Bennett
Margherita Horowitz
Jacopo Mariani
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Goblin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Italian DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Italian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Young ballet student Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) flies from New York to Freiburg, Germany to hone her skills at a prestigious dance academy. She arrives at the academy at night in a thunderstorm and sees a distressed young woman run out of the building into the storm. Later that night that young woman is brutally murdered. Next morning Suzy meets the academy vice-director Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) and head instructor Miss Tanner (Alida Valli), fellow students Sara (Stefania Casini) and Olga (Barbara Magnolfi), the blind pianist Daniel (Flavio Bucci) and misshapen servant Pavlo (Giuseppe Transocchi). It is not long, however, before a series of bizarre incidents, and more deaths, convince Suzy that the academy is sheltering a coven of witches. However, discovering the truth may well cost Suzy her life.

     The plot of Suspiria is really quite simple, the execution anything but. For Suspiria is not intended to be realistic; indeed the opening narration is very suggestive of a fairy tale, albeit a very black fairy tale. Instead with its vibrant, luminous colours, the obvious camera movement and the pulsating music, Suspiria is pure, fantasy cinema.

     Writer / director Dario Argento first came to notice with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, a film which almost singlehandedly created the giallo genre and influenced generations of filmmakers. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage displayed a number of things that would became Argento staples, such as the use of brilliant colours and contrasting shadows, quick editing and a score that drives the action. Argento has stated that when he came to make Suspiria he wanted to move away from giallo into horror, and did he ever, as Suspiria is a fabulous film, an undoubted masterpiece of European horror and, arguably, Argento’s best film.

     Suspiria is awash with colour. Cinematographer Luciano Tovoli and Argento used super-low ASA (30-40 ASA) Kodak film, coloured gels and cloths while shooting and the film was processed using the 3 strip Technicolor process. The result is some of the most vibrant, and luminous, reds, blues, greens, yellows and golds you are ever likely to see. The bright red corridors of the academy corridor, contrasted with black doors and the white costumes is stunning, and red and blue colours frequently play across the faces of the actresses during simple dialogue scenes to provide a sense of unreality and tension. But Argento can also use an absence of colour to create tension, such as the sequence where the blind Daniel is in the Munich square, the square colourless and the temple like structures on the sides of the square lit with white light.

     If the colours of Suspiria draw attention to themselves, the same can be said of the camera of cinematographer Luciano Tovoli which is always flowing, producing unusual angles and zooming into the faces of the characters, especially those being killed! But perhaps even more unusual than the colours and the cinematography is the film’s score by Italian prog group Goblin. Using percussion, including chimes, a bouzouki, guitars, keyboards, distorted voices and creature like howls, the score grabs you by the throat and never lets go, frequently building up to a crescendo before sometimes suddenly stopping at moments where a scare could be due, so one can never be sure what is going to happen.

     Suspiria is not really an actor’s picture, few of Argento’s films are. The visuals and soundtrack dominate, however Jessica Harper is naïve and innocent enough and Stefania Casini is fine. Suspiria has atmosphere to burn, is intense and operatic, there are well staged scares and the murders are suitably tense and gory. Suspiria was a commercial and critical success all around the world and the techniques used by Argento ensure that Suspiria influenced, and continues to influence, filmmakers. Forty years after being made, Suspiria remains at 93% approval on rottentomatoes. In this case, the approval rating does not lie; it is a genuine horror masterpiece, and still very special.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

     Suspiria is presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p, using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     Suspiria is a film made for HD and the restored print does it full justice. Detail is always strong – in the sequence at the start when Suzy is in the taxi in the storm every drop of rain can be seen. Occasionally this is not an advantage; in the scene where the dog is ripping at the man’s throat, it is so easily seen to be model jaws! As noted in the review, the colours are awesome, with rich, vivid and luminous reds, blues, greens, yellows and gold. Quite simply, they are absolutely beautiful. Blacks are inky and solid, shadow detail superb. Brightness and contrast are consistent. Grain is not present, so if anything the restoration has removed it, but this is being picky. I did not notice any marks or artefacts.

     The Blu-ray cover indicates there are no subtitles. However, both English and Italian subtitles in a clear white font are available via the remote.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There is no audio menu on the disc but there are three audio tracks accessible via the remote. The default is English DTS-HD MA 5.1, the second another English DTS-HD MA 5.1 recorded at a lower level. The third track, although designated as English, is in fact the Italian DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio, which the Blu-ray cover does not mention.

     Dialogue is always clear. Sudden effects, such as breaking glass, were loud. The surrounds and rears were used frequently for rain and thunder, voices, footsteps across wooden floors, doors closing, or water swirling down a drain. However, the prominent use of all speakers is the score by Goblin; the main theme was simple and haunting and they add percussion, a bouzouki, guitars, keyboards, distorted voices and creature like howls to provide an unsettling and sometimes unnerving experience. In this film, music is not ancillary to the visuals, but an integral part of them, and the music is stunning in lossless audio. The subwoofer added appropriate depth to thunder, the crash of furniture and the like, and the score.

     There was no hiss or crackle. The moments of silence were absolute.

     On set some of the cast spoke English, some German, some Italian during scenes so ADR was later used for all dialogue. I listened mostly to the English audio, the principal actress being American and speaking English, and in this audio, except for some minor characters, the lip synchronisation was good.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There are decent extras included on this Blu-ray, with input from many of the people involved. Some of the extras have been on previous DVD releases, others are new. The interviews with Dario Argento were filmed at various times between 2000 and 2017; he is very consistent in what he says about aspects of the film so there is a fair bit of information that is repeated.

Suspiria told by Dario Argento (27:14)

     Made in 2017, Dario Argento is interviewed by Variety journalist Nick Vivarelli on Suspiria’s 40th anniversary. This is a straight interview, without film clips; Vivarelli asks questions in English, Argento responds in Italian (with clear white subtitles). The questions cover the inspiration of the film Suspiria de Profundis by Thomas de Quincey, searching for witches in Europe, working with DP Luciano Tovoli and how they achieved the colours in the film, the Munich scene, the original intension to cast 11, 12 or 13 year old actresses, raising the door handles, the music and the reception of the film.

25th Anniversary Suspiria Documentary (51:49)

     Made in 2001, this has been on other releases of the film but is still an excellent documentary, and well worth watching. It utilises film footage, still photography, captions and extensive interviews (not sound bites) with many of the people involved including Dario Argento, co-writer Daria Nicolodi, cast members Jessica Harper, Stepfania Casini and Udo Kier, director of photography Luciano Tovoli and Goblin band members Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli, Massino Morante and Agostino Marangolo. Topics include how the script came about, meeting and working with Argento, the stars, the score, the style of the film including the colours, camera moves, influences including Snow White, favourite scenes, anecdotes from the set and the influence of the film.

Exclusive Interview with Dario Argento (2004) (21:15)

     Dario Argento sits in a movie theatre and talks as scenes from Suspiria play on the screen behind him. Among other things he talks about witches and his intentions for the film, the relationship between dance and magic, the look of the film and the Technicolor process, meeting and casting Jessica Harper and Joan Bennett in America, the soundtrack, editing and reactions to the film in Italy and other places.

Fear at 400 Degrees: The Cine-Excess of Suspiria (34:56)

     Made in 2009, this is an excellent featurette hosted by Xavier Mendik, director of Cine-Excess. Using film footage and comments by film critic Kim Newman, academic Dr Patricia MacCormack, director Norman J Warren, composer Claudio Simonetti and Dario Argento himself this covers the creative and controversial aspects of Suspiria, such as Argento’s use of colour, camera moves and music and the depiction of women in his films, but it also discusses the social upheaval in Italy in the 1970’s, Argento’s earlier films and the Italian giallo cinema, the impact of Suspiria and the pending remake. The name of this featurette was taken from a comment by Argento: Fear is a 370 degree centigrade body temperature. With Suspiria I wanted 400 degrees.

An Eye for Horror (56:57)

     Made in 2000 and narrated by Mark Kermode, this is an interesting, slickly made documentary which is both a biography of Argento and a retrospective of his films and style. It utilises footage from his films, black and white photographs and “testimonials” and reminiscences from other directors (John Carpenter, William Lustig, George Romero, Luigi Cozzi), actors (Michael Brandon, Jessica Harper, Piper Laurie), actress, screenwriter and former partner Daria Nicolodi, actresses and daughters Asia Agento, Fiore Argento, authors (Alan Jones, Maitland McDonagh), musicians (Alice Cooper, Claudio Simonetti, Keith Emerson, special effects artist Tom Savini and producer Claudio Argento. Dario Argento also talks about his inspirations and the influences on his filmmaking style and the documentary finishes with footage of Argento working on the set of his latest film which is not identified. The footage for Suspiria used in this documentary shows just how fabulous the restored colours on this Blu-ray look!!

Dario Argento’s World of Horror (70:48)

     This is the oldest of the extras on this Blu-ray. The documentary does not indicate when it was made, but the audio has some hiss, the video is soft and with artefacts. The last film of Argento it mentions is Phenomena, which was released in 1984, so I would guess this was made shortly after.

     It is a strange and uneven documentary. It is more about Argento himself, his personality, his insecurities and his intentions as a filmmaker, which is interesting, but it includes long sequences taken from his films which don’t seem to link in with what is being discussed plus as long sequences from films he had some involvement with but did not direct, such as Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Demons (1985). Other times individuals who speak, such as cinematographer Luciano Tovali, are not identified. Where this documentary is at its best, however, is the extensive on-set and behind the scenes footage showing how they obtained particular shots using dollies, cranes or flying-foxes or how they achieved some of the effects including the scenes involving insects.

Image Gallery

     Almost 100 film posters, stills, programs, press books and promotional materials. The gallery is silent, use the remote to move to the next image.

International Theatrical Trailer (2:03)

US Theatrical Trailer (1:12)

TV Spot (0:30)

Radio Spots

     Three radio spots running 0:30 each.

Dario Argento Trailer Reel (1970 – 2009) (41:14)

     Theatrical trailers for Argento’s films over 40 years. Mostly they are the US English language trailers, although some are the Italian trailers and the Suspiria one is the German trailer. A treasure trove of Argento films! The trailers are:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There have been a number of Blu-ray releases of Suspiria with various extras. This restored 40th anniversary is also available in a few regions, including a German release. There is also a 4K version just released in Region B UK which includes an audio commentary by Kim Newman and Alan Jones and restoration featurettes, but misses out on a number of the extras on our release. If you have 4K capacity, for this film especially that would obviously be the way to go, but if not our Suspiria is close to the definitive release of this marvellous film.

Summary

     Suspiria is Dario Argento’s masterwork, a European horror classic with incredible visuals and colours that have probably not been bettered since and a memorable score. The film is still scary, a gothic, gory masterpiece that remains influential to this day. It is that good.

     The film looks stunning on Blu-ray, the audio is impressive. The extras are extensive and interesting resulting in an exceptional Blu-ray package. Fans of Argento, the horror genre or anyone interested in filmmaking should not hesitate.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, December 06, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Other versions - REPLY POSTED
Italian 4K restoration -