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Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Suspiria: 2-Disc Special Edition

Suspiria: 2-Disc Special Edition
1977 (2007) - Blue Underground

By 1977, Dario Argento had established a reputation as one of the most exciting new horror filmmakers to emerge in years. He'd begun to leave behind the giallo formula of his earliest films with 1975's Profondo Rosso (a.k.a. Deep Red). But it was with 1977's Suspiria that Argento would really come into his own, creating a surreal and stylish horror movie that may arguably be his masterpiece.

Jessica Harper stars as Suzy Bannion, an American dance student newly enrolled in an exclusive German ballet academy. She arrives in a torrential downpour just as another student is making an abrupt exit, running terrified into the woods. Later that night, the girl is murdered at her friend's apartment. Suzy is befriended by the dead girl's closest confidante (Stefania Casini) who reveals that they had begun to suspect that the school is actually being run by a coven of witches.


That's the general plot of Suspiria but it doesn't begin to do justice to what Argento's movie achieves. It may be the most beautiful horror movie ever filmed. Argento and cinematographer Luciano Tovoli drench the screen in vibrant primary colors, with scenes dominated by great pools of reds, blues, yellows and greens. There are very few horror movies that look quite like Suspiria and if all the movie had going for it was its look, it'd still be considered a minor classic. Fortunately, there's more to it. Argento's skill at staging grisly, horrific deaths is at its peak here, from the astonishing death of the girl who escapes the academy to a blind man attacked by his own dog. Every one of these sequences is bizarre, frightening and almost completely unexpected.

Admittedly, plot is not one of Suspiria's strong points. In some ways, this works in the movie's favor, lending it a dreamlike atmosphere that ratchets up the feeling that anything can happen. Jessica Harper was an inspired choice for the lead with her porcelain doll looks and eyes like saucers. She appears very fragile and vulnerable but her voice and attitude reveal her underlying strength. Finally, the memorable and effective score by Goblin completes the unsettling tone.

Anchor Bay released two versions of Suspiria about five years ago, a single disc edition and a three-disc limited set. Blue Underground has now reissued the special edition, dropping the third disc, which was a CD soundtrack of Goblin's score. Good news for anyone who missed out on that now out-of-print disc. The set carries the THX stamp of approval and for good reason. The movie looks absolutely phenomenal and the sound, which comes in everything from 6.1 DTS-ES on down to Dolby Surround 2.0, is nearly as good. The first disc includes a THX Optimizer, a couple trailers, the TV and radio spots, a poster and still gallery, bios for Argento, co-writer Daria Nicolodi and Jessica Harper and a really silly music video by Daemonia, composer Claudio Simonetti's post-Goblin band. Disc two is devoted to Suspiria: 25th Anniversary, a comprehensive 52-minute documentary featuring interviews with virtually everyone you'd want, including Argento, Harper, all the members of Goblin, and even Udo Kier, who's in the movie for all of ten minutes tops.

If you only ever watch one Dario Argento movie, it should be Suspiria. It's an inspired fever dream of a horror movie. Anchor Bay's release was top-notch five years ago and it holds up now that it's at Blue Underground, thankfully without the "limited edition" tag to unnecessarily mark up the price. If you love horror, you should have Suspiria in your collection.

Film Rating: A
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A-/B+


Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com


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