Suspiria (1977)
By: David Michael Brown on July 5, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 English DD 5.1. 95 minutes
The Movie
Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Jessica Harper, Udo Kier, Joan Bennett
Screenplay:Dario Argento and Daria Nicoldi
Music: Goblin
Tagline: "The only thing more terrifying than the last 12 minutes of the film… are the first 83."
Country: Italy
Suspiria holds a special place in the hearts of most horror fans. It will be cited by most as the film that introduced them to the work of maestro Dario Argento and the joys of Italian horror films. There isn't much more you can say about the film, the story of Susie Banyon will be familiar to most terroraustralis readers and the film has already been reviewed on this site in one of its previous disc incarnations (here).

The combination of Argento's visual flair, Goblins awesome soundtrack, the ultra vicious murders and Jessica Harpers wide eyed innocence create a grand guignol epic that blows away the conventions of the horror film creating an ethereal experience that is in turn gut wrenching and beautifully visualised. The criticisms often discussed about Argento's work are all present; yes he is more interested in the gothic architecture than he is the characters being murdered in front of it, yes the dialogue and performance often leave a lot to be desired, yes the film loses its momentum in between the set pieces.

The thing is you don't watch a film like Suspiria or its sequel Inferno for any of these reasons. The film is a complete cinematic experience like no other. The films opening sequence as Banyon arrives at the airport is a fine example. The soundtrack hisses "witch" as she enters a strange new world, even the sliding doors seem to have a sinister agenda, her cab ride to the school is a myriad of colours as the rain cascades down the taxi's windows, in Argento's world everyday experiences become sinister happenings, the witch's influence is everywhere, horror surrounds us and a sense of foreboding is created for the rest of the movie. Saying that no film could ever hope to follow the movie's opening double murder and Suspiria doesn't quite manage it and does suffer as a result.

Overall Suspiria is one of the benchmark films of the Italian horror genre. It displays Argento's technical virtuosity to the fore and when it is great it is one of the most astonishing films you are ever likely to see.
The picture is a revelation, the vibrant colour scheme is stable and bright, the picture is sharp and full of detail. It looks glorious compared with any version I have seen before on video or laser disc.
The original film's score was a cacophony of sound that very few cinemas could handle in 1977. After years of dodgy video copies the Anchor Bay disc in the US was the first to try to replicate the experience with its multiple audio tracks: English (THX Surround EX), English (DTS 6.1 ES), Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), and French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround). Umbrella's disc omits the DTS track (as well as the French and Italian options) but does give us 2.0 and 5.1 audio options, although the 5.1 track isn't listed on the slick. Also, you'll have to use the "Audio" button on your remote to listen to it as the stereo track is the default option and there is no audio selection menu anywhere ont he disc. A 5.1 channel easter egg perhaps? Even with these options there is still unrest in the Argento camp to get the film released with its original four track stereo mix intact.
Extra Features
The packaging is very cool, especially the embossed veins on the title. They are a few typos which is unfortunate but Umbrella has supplied a fine selection of extras.

The 25th Anniversary 52 minute documentary is an excellent look at the making of the film, its origins and its influences. Featuring interviews with Argento, Nicoldi, Kier and Harper it's an excellent watch with enough anecdotes to please the most hardened Argentophile. This documentary is also featured on the US disc but we do get a few extras of our own.

An Eye for Horror will have seen by most readers as it has featured on all of Umbrella's Argento titles. An exclusive interview with the director is excellent, he discusses the making of the film, dealing with Fox, his actors and editing the film in 10 days! We also get a selection of photo's set to the music of Goblin, radio and TV spots and a collection of vintage Argento trailers.
The Verdict
The film is an absolute classic; the much-vaunted opening double murder, the soundtrack, the awe-inspiring visuals, Suspiria is still an amazing watch. Yes some of the performances are stilted and the dialogue is frankly awful but the set pieces are astonishing and Argento's eye for the baroque is exquisite. The film looks amazing and this disc does the film a great service. Once again the US disc is a superior more expensive option but for those who want a cheaper locally produced alternative this excellently packaged disc does the job well.
Movie Score
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