Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 27th, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1977
Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi
Cast: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bosé, Barbara Magnolfi, Susanna Javicoli, Eva Axén, Rudolf Schündler, Udo Kier, Alida Valli, Joan Bennett
BluRay released: December 19th, 2017
Approximate running times: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD 4.0 Surround English, DTS-HD 5.1 Italian
Subtitles: English SDH, English (Italian Language)
BluRay Release: Synapse Films
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $49.99
This film’s most underappreciated asset, is the simplicity of its narrative. Where far too many films get bogged down by unnecessary exposition. With the bulk of the relevant information to further this film’s narrative is told during the opening voice-over. With that being said, it is this vagueness that ultimately makes the events that unfold all the more potent.
Structurally this is a film of extreme highs and lows. With an emphasis on the former. And nowhere is this more evident, then when in regards to this film’s murder set pieces. With this film’s opening setup featuring one of the most exquisite examples of Grand Guignol.
Without a doubt this film’s greatest asset are its visuals, which are filled with inventive compositions and vibrant colors schemes that leap off the screen. This visuals for this film were inspired by the Technicolor process (it should be noted that the actually film stock used on this film was Kodak) and fairy tale films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The cinematographer on Suspiria was Luciano Tovoli, whose other notable films include, The Passenger, Behind Convent Walls and Tenebrae.
Music once again plays a prominent role and the score was composed by Goblin, who had previous worked with Dario Argentoon Deep Red. And though Goblin or various members of Goblin would go onto to collaborate on other Dario Argento films. With Suspiriathey would create, what is arguably one of cinema’s greatest scores. The score for Suspiria perfectly fuses with the aforementioned visuals and the combination of these two elements forms a fever pitched intensity.
Not to be overlooked, when discussing Suspiria is Jessica Harper’s (Phantom of the Paradise) performance in the role of this film’s protagonist Suzy Bannion. Her performance perfectly captures her characters childlike innocence. Other performance of note include, Stefania Casini (The Climber, Bloodstained Shadow) in the role of Sara, a student who meets a grizzly fate due to her inquisitiveness, Joan Bennett (Scarlet Street, “Dark Shadows”) in the role of Madame Blanc and Alida Valli (The Third Man, Inferno) in the role of Miss Tanner, a domineering instructor at the academy.
Suspiria comes on a 50 GB dual layer (32.7 GB) BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The transfer for this release was sourced from a new 4K restoration of the original uncut, uncensored Italian 35mm camera negative exclusively done by Synapse Films, with color correction supervised and approved by Suspiria Director of Photography, Luciano Tovoli. And the end result is by far and away the best this film has ever looked on home video. At the bottom of this review I have posted screenshots that highlight the differences between Synapse Films restoration and Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray which uses TLE Films restoration. It should be noted that there is an option to view the film’s opening and closing credits in Italian or English.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 4.0 surround mix in English (This sound mix has not been heard since the film’s theatrical release in 1977) and a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Italian. Another area where this release excels, when compared to previous home video releases, it its inclusion of the film’s original 4.0 surround mix. Dialog comes through clearly, the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented and the audio sounds robust, when it needs too, especially Goblin’s score. Needless to say, hearing this audio mix for the first time, will be like experiencing this film for the very first time. The DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Italian sounds, clean, clear and balanced throughout. Included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles for the English language track and English subtitles for the Italian language track.
Extras on the second Blu-ray disc include, five radio spots (three U.S. release radio spots and two U.S. double feature radio spots with Umberto Lenzi’s Eyeball), three T.V. spots, two U.S. theatrical release trailers (1 minute 2 seconds and 1 minute 25 seconds), an International theatrical release trailer for the film (2 minutes 3 seconds) and International Classic’s “Breathing Letters” original U.S. release opening credits (1 minute 40 seconds).
Other extras include, a locations featurette titled Suzy in Nazi Germany (8 minute 1 seconds), an visually essay titled Do You Know Anything About Witches? (30 minutes 6 seconds), an interview with actress Barbara Magnolfi titled Olga’s Story (17 minutes 14 seconds), a featurette tilted A Sigh from the Depths: 40 Years of Suspiria (27 minutes 7 seconds) and two audio commentaries – the first audio commentary is with Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films and the second audio commentary is with Argento scholar and author, Derek Botelho and film historian, journalist and radio / television commentator, David Del Valle.
Topics discussed in the extra titled Do You Know Anything About Witches?, include background information about Dario Argento, Suspiria and the other films that are part of The Three Mothers trilogy (Inferno and Mother of Tears).
Topics discussed in the interview with Barbara Magnolfi include, her origins as an actress, the Italian film industry in the 1970’s, Dario Argento, Suspiria, her character Olga, Jessica Harper, Alida Valli, Joan Bennett and her thoughts about the film.
Film historians and critics discuss, Suspiria and its legacy in the extra titled A Sigh from the Depths: 40 Years of Suspiria.
Topics discussed in the audio commentaries include, the opening credits / narration, Goblin / the score, locations, the cast, the visuals and their thoughts about Suspiria. Other topics discussed include, Dario Argento and information about various other films that he directed.
Rounding out the extras is a CD remaster of Goblin’s Suspiria motion picture soundtrack, containing additional tracks not included on the original 1977 soundtrack release, collector’s o-card sleeve and a twenty-page booklet with a foreword written by cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, liner notes written by Derek Botelho, an American Cinematographer interview with Luciano Tovoli, restoration notes by Vincent Pereira and Don May, Jr. and a track listing for Goblin’s score for the film.
Though the extras included as part of this release are very informative. It is unfortunate that Dario Argento is not involved in any of extras. Overall Suspiria gets a definitive audio / video presentation from Synapse Films, highly recommended.
Note: This limited edition of only 6000 units produced.
Screenshots from Synapse Films Blu-ray
Screenshots from Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray