Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977)


This was a part of a double-bill session Gudgeon and I had one Sunday. Can’t remember the other film, but this one was incredibly strange. Interesting fact: Dario Argento, Bertolucci and Sergio Leone wrote the script for ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ – what a partnership that was!

Quick Synopsis

In the rain, Susie Bannon (Jessica Harper) decides to go to a very spooky-looking dance academy in Germany to study. Following many spectacular deaths – including roof-falls and dog-attacks – it turns out it is run by a witches coven and they’ll kill anybody who threatens them. Susie successfully kills the witch and escapes, just, because – as they say – those who kill a witch inherits her powers… has Susie?

What I reckon…

This was released the same year as Star Wars, so its funny to think that the same year that the Skywalker battled Stormtroopers, this obscure badly-dubbed (Italian and American actors cast when many Italian actors couldn’t speak English, they dubbed them into English) horror film is released also and, subsequently gained some type of cult following.

Now I don’t know many B-movie’s and so I don’t think I can be too harsh about this movie as I have no comparison to really discuss with it. I watched ‘The Craft’ when I was younger though. Then again, I have watched ‘The Cabinet of Caligari‘ – the ‘original’ German Expressionist horror movie and the camera angles and expressively-painted sets (Cinematographer was Luciano Tovoli – who was cinematographer on Sandra Bullock-led Hollywood movie ‘Murder by Numbers’ funnily enough) evoke the same atmosphere – even the story about the sinister figure of authority controlling a person (the ‘somnambulist’ in Caligari, the dancers in ‘Suspiria‘) are similar themes -so with his in mind, there is some reason to compare. If I were to be so brash – is it inspired by the Hammer horror series? I have not watched a single ‘Hammer’ horror film so i must be careful, but it feels like they have a similar tone and – obviously with regard to budget – I assume they are both cheaply made. If anyone knows more, message me back about whether I am on the money or simply out of my depth.

Some of the characters too are simply messed-up. The school handyman Pavlo who is ugly as sin – in a school of dancers (as Napoleon would say: ‘Lucky’) and the blind pianist with his dog. There is even this random young school boy, akin to Damien in ‘The Omen’, whereby I feel these very quirky additions, simply add to the unease of the dance school. not to mention the ridiculous deaths – especially the dog-attack. I swear this dog attack was awful – this poor blind man trying to calm his restless dog and then boom, it attacks his neck.

I’m going to finish now because this might be one of those movies to come back to – its a very strange film with a very cheap budget but ti truly has its highlights. The main focus being the freedom to create this world that is rooted in traditional horror – at one point we venture into the city as Susie meets a friend and you feel like somethings gone completely wrong! You have been in the dance school with its archaic decor and strange painted walls, but its the setting and it adds to the uneasiness of the film. The dubbing can be frustrating, but once you get over that, you begin to appreciate the ambition of the director – I don’t want to hark on about ‘Caligari‘ – but I guess its selling point is this: “A technicolour ‘Caligari‘ with gore Robert Wiene would only dream of in 1920!”

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