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Suspiria (1977)

Cult Movies and Horror movie directed by Dario Argento

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4 ½ Stars: Arguably Dario Argento's Best Film: The Opening Chapter to the "Three Mothers" Trilogy...

  • Jul 25, 2009

The Italian maestro of horror, Dario Argento’s first installment of his “Three Mothers” trilogy begins with “SUSPIRIA” (1977); arguably the most beloved of his films in the 1970s. There has always been debate among his fan base whether this film or “Deep Red” is his masterpiece. Some say it should be “Tenebre”. For me, I am still somewhat undecided. I like his psychological “giallos” as much a his occult films. Whatever you prefer, “Susperia” is a dark fairy tale that will forever be remembered in the journals of horror films.
One dark, dank and stormy night, an American ballet dancer named Susie Banyon (Jessica Harper) arrives in a ballet school in Freiburg. This European ballet school is ran by a mysterious woman named Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) and Miss Tanner (Alida Valli). A number of mysterious deaths and horrific crimes begin to occur in the school shortly after her arrival. Apparently, they are linked to the school itself; while the area on which the school stands on has a relation to a certain “Black Queen”, a practitioner of the dark arts of the occult and witchcraft.

The film’s plot is quite light when compared to “Deep Red” or even “Tenebre”, but this fact doesn’t make this film any less eerie or suspenseful. From the opening act the film exudes a dark and moody feel, Argento’s magnificent eye for visuals are at its best. It took me at least two viewings to truly appreciate “Suspiria”. The use of vibrant colors I’ve read became a revolutionary palette for the horror maestro, and to think that he used obsolete Technicolor film rolls to shoot his film.
The first act of the film remains as one of the most memorable sequences in horror. The opening act’s death scene is truly violent and very “artsy“; that it grabs the viewer by the throat just to let him know what he is in for. This is a familiar formula for Dario Argento, as displayed in “Tenebre” and “Deep Red”. Most of his films display a shocking murder and/or death sequence as “shock value“. The director really does know how to get under one’s skin with an unnerving sensation. It is quite curious that Argento (with co-writer Daria Nicolodi) owes his inspiration for “Suspiria” from a Disney animation--”Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. I’ve read that the film was originally intended to use a children’s school as its backdrop but for reasons unknown to me, that idea was abandoned. (perhaps it would generate too much controversy?)
“Suspiria” has a decent share of ominous atmosphere. Argento uses vibrant colors, intimidating and spooky architecture, the use of shadows, combined with Goblin’s ominous music all contribute to the film’s effectively creepy screenplay. The film also applies some lore from witchcraft and the occult as it takes a look at the mythology about witchcraft. Food does spoil a lot faster when it is within the confines of witches, at least according to legend. I do think the director has a certain curiosity about witches that led him to create one, if not the most involving tales about the subject. The scientific definition of the occult is also defined which adds to the film’s credibility. Daria Nicolodi is to be credited for some of the film’s creative inputs as she supposedly told Argento about her grandmother who had a similar experience in a school that practiced black magic. Whether this is fact or a rumor I would not know.

The performances by the cast is quite decent but not entirely flawless. Jessica Harper does give a decent performance but I rather thought that she lacked some chemistry with Stefania Casini. Nonetheless, Argento is able to make this a very minor setback as he bombards the screen with his signature ingenious camerawork along with cinematographer Luciano Tovoli. I was in awe as to how the death of the blind piano player was set up. It was suspenseful and freaky, with great use of pans, reverse zooms, close-ups and moving shadows. Aside from the opening’s death scene, this would be my favorite sequence in the film. Argento is a master of simple visual manipulation. I was a little disappointed that this installment had no nudity but I supposed it fit the film’s pace. There are quite a few gruesome scenes carefully placed in the film’s proceedings. “Suspiria” has definite Giallo influences in its opening marks just before it goes into overdrive.
Dario Argento may have more style in his supernatural films. His Giallos and his occult films are like apples and oranges, they‘re both good but can‘t be compared. Regardless, however you may feel about “Suspiria”, whether this is your first Argento film or you’re a big fan; the creative death sequences, the maggot attack (or shower), the dog mauling are stuff that are truly noteworthy scenes in the film. For a film made in 1977, it is way ahead of its time. The use of colors, manipulation of the senses and very creepy atmosphere make this film one of Dario Argento’s most celebrated works, and it still holds up to this present time.
Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Stars]
The 2-disc 25th Anniversary Dvd by Blue Underground has a THX-Certified re-mastered picture and the sound mix has both 5.1 Dolby Digital and 5.1 DTS. For a film made in 1977, it looks real pretty.
Dvd cover scene scene scene scene

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July 28, 2009
This is one of those movies, I'm told, that's most effective if you watch it after taking a large quantity of drugs. Certainly a unique viewing experience, even if the plot is indiscernible.
July 30, 2009
LOL! It actually took me 2-3 viewings to really like this film. I'm not sure, I wasn't really impressed the first time I saw it but once I decided to really pay attention, I liked it more.
July 30, 2009
I had thought about doing a review for this one, but truthfully, I'm not sure where I would start since attempting either a plot summary or an overview of the general themes is virtually impossible without getting into the film's surrealism and spoiling what little plot there is.
July 25, 2009
I LOVE Argento flicks & this is one of my absolute favorites. Tenebre & Deep Red are also fab-o too though however. I still think his earlier works are perhaps his best endeavors but I will continue to watch anything the man creates. Fantastic review Woo!!
July 25, 2009
whoops! I forgot to round up my 4.5 rating to a 5. I know what you mean, ceno, his earlier works are absolutely the best. Inferno is also very good. I was a bit let down with "Mother of Tears" though (but the gore was real good). I just still can't get over the fact that Dario is able to shoot his daughter Asia in a graphic sex/rape scene...damn. Such things could get him in trouble in the U.S.
July 25, 2009
Yeah, that kinda creeps me out. I have seen a few of his films were Asia was either nude or involved in some rather explicit rape/sex scenes. I don't get that. Mother Of Tears was good & it kept my interest but I still think Suspiria is far better. I never saw Inferno but I will probably pick that one up soon. Thanks!!
July 25, 2009
I was never a really big Argento fan, but I always liked SUSPIRIA. Its an undeniably great flick.
July 25, 2009
This is arguably still his best film. Have you seen his latest "Mother of Tears"? I thought it was a bit of a let down.
July 25, 2009
NO. He's been letting me down for a long time. The last thing I saw that he was even vaguely connected with was THE CHURCH.
July 25, 2009
I haven't seen "The Church" it worth watching, Karen?
July 25, 2009
Well, I thought so, but then it got me interested in the whole Knights Templar thing and that might have been what I saw in it. I think Soavi helped it out a lot.
More Suspiria (1977) reviews
review by . October 07, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****    What is a nightmare but a string of unexplainable, sometimes unrelated events that awaken the most negative of emotions from within us whilst we are not actually, in fact, awake? Nightmares are often scary because they are overwhelming to the senses when we recall them; unexplainable, illogical, and wholly unpredictable. If this is what a nightmare truly is, then Dario Argento's "Suspiria" is a nightmare caught on celluloid. But then again, so were most of …
review by . June 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
It's The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of
It's a shame that I wasn't old enough to sue Dario Argento for infringement as Suspiria looks a lot like something right out of my worst nightmare. Yeah, pretty damned creepy if I do say so myself. Sadly, I was only 3 years old when this film was originally unleashed & I wouldn't be so arrogant to say Argento was invading my dreams as I'm sure legions of people have dreams much like what unfolds in Suspiria.      By now, any true movie fanatic has more than …
review by . October 17, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Watching the American trailer to this made me laugh especially when the background speaker whispers the title to this film. For all I can see this film is not about's about experience. This is the opposite formula of American horror. As a matter of fact, Suspiria pretty much throws out the rules of cinema in favor of the logic of put it bluntly, Suspiria is the definitive cinematic nightmare, a wildly colorful and dazzlingly stylish fun-house of blood and beauty. Take it seriously …
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Outside of devoted cult audiences, many Americans have yet to discover the extremely stylish, relentlessly terrifying Italian horror genre, or the films of its talented virtuoso, Dario Argento.Suspiria, part one of a still-uncompleted trilogy (the luminously emptyInfernowas the second), is considered his masterpiece by Argento devotees but also doubles as a perfect starting point for those unfamiliar with the director or his genre. The convoluted plot follows an American dancer (Jessica Harper) from her arrival at a European ballet school to her discovery that it's actually a witches coven; but, really, don't worry about that too much. Argento makes narrative subservient to technique, preferring instead to assault the senses and nervous system with mood, atmosphere, illusory gore, garish set production, a menacing camera, and perhaps the creepiest score ever created for a movie. It's essentially a series of effectively unsettling set pieces--a raging storm that Harper should have taken for an omen, and a blind man attacked by his own dog are just two examples--strung together on a skeleton structure. But once you've seen it, you'll never forget it.--Dave McCoy
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Director: Dario Argento
DVD Release Date: September 11, 2001
Runtime: 98 minutes
Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
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