10/11/12

13 Reasons I Love Suspiria


Hey, folks. As the Halloween train continues to roll, I thought I would share a few reasons that I love the horror classic Suspiria. As many of you know I am a big fan of Italian film, and Suspiria has always been one of my favorites. Why? Well if I told you why you wouldn't have to hit the jump to see my thirteen reasons. So  come alone with me, and tomorrow I'll be back with another review of another horror gem. 

1. Dario Argento - I don't know how Dario couldn't be the first thing on this list. Susperia found him at peak of his powers with an exciting new idea and vision to put on the screen. To be sure he was influenced by those who came before him such as Mario Bava, but with his seventh film, he shot something so different and dynamic that it alone makes the case for his inclusion in the pantheon of horror. 


2. Daria Nicolodi - At the time she was Dario's other half, but she was also the other half of his writing duties. Some have given Dario credit for the supernatural tone of the film, but no matter which part she had a hand in working on, it wouldn't have been the same if Dario had written it on his own. 


3. Goblin -  How iconic is that soundtrack? I think if I was playing Name that Tune and the category was Goblin, I could name any of their pieces from this film in three notes or less. From the opening piece and it's many variations throughout the film to the fevered pieces in the climax, Goblin, like Dario, found a permanent place in this horrorhound's heart. 


4. Luciano Tovoli - Tovoli was a working cinematographer doing everything from Westerns to drama when he hooked up with Dario for Suspiria and later Tenebre. Awash with color and difficult camera setups, Susperia couldn't have been an easy film to make, but Argento and Tovoli make it look easy. Tovali would go on to work on Hollywood films like Single White Female and Kiss of Death, but he's back this year with Dario for Dracula 3D so think of that what you will, but it will look amazing. 


5. Technicolor- Young folks will have no idea what I am on about, but Susperia was one of the last movies to be rendered in Technicolor using the same inhibition printing style which was used to make films like Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind pop with color. The effect is stunning, and it is too bad these methods are not used anymore. I know now you can digitally scale all your colors and filters, but it doesn't have the same organic feel as the old stuff used to. (Also, you kids, get off my lawn!)



6. Jessica Harper - Let me say right up front that Harper is not my physical type, I find her very beautiful, but she needs to eat a sandwich. That being said, there have been very few damsels in distress the likes of her character Suzy Bannion. I would put Suzy right there with Laurie Strode, Nancy Thompson, and Alice Hardy as the most kickass women in modern horror. Harper is all innocence and demurring as the film opens, but by the time the film hits the climax, I wouldn't want to cross her. Plus, later she did Phantom of the Paradise which makes everyone cooler for it having been made. 



7. Barbara Magolfi - Where every school has to have a sweet innocent like Suzy, there also has to be a mean girl, and Barbara Mangofi's Olga certainly fits the bill. Now only is she ravishing (You didn't think in a movie with all girls there wouldn't be one I like?), she is the meanest of mean girls. I mean she takes poor Suzy home to live with her after demanding rent up front, and she still kicks her out. I forgive her though. I mean I bet under that mean facade she's probably a nice girl right? Ok, maybe she's a bitch, but a hot one. 


8. The Hidden Secrets -- No matter if these moments are hidden secrets of happy mistakes, they make for another layer to view the film upon. My pal Andre Dumas at The Horror Digest  wrote them up best, but in a nutshell, there are four moments in the film which are simply odd. I'll only mention two of them for brevity sake and head over to Horror Digest for the rest. The first happens when Suzy is in the cab at the beginning of the film. Lightning crashes, and there a woman's screaming face can be seen which looks an awful lot like one of the posters for the film. It's a hard to catch but eerie moment. Secondly, when Pat falls to her death, blood is splattered everywhere, but some of it looks pointedly like the shape of a witch on a broom. Mistakes? Possibly, but it could be Dario slyly hinting about the two other witches which bring us to....


9. The Three Mothers-- What an incredible piece of storytelling the legend of the three mothers is. Beginning literary life as part of the prose poem "Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow" from the book Susperia de Profundis by Thomas de Quincy, the story of three witches probably goes back to as long as people have had stories. de Quincy gives each mother a name even, and Dario ran with the ball to create his Three Mothers Trilogy (Susperia, Mater Suspiriorum, The Mother of Signs presiding over hopelessness and broken dreams, Inferno, Mater Tenebraum, The Mother of Darkness who reigns over madness and depression, and  The Mother of Tears, Mater Lachrymarum, The Mother of Tears responsible for all human misery.) While all three films don't stack up to Susperia, I do find it interesting his use of these mythic and symbolic figures in his work which preside over the tone of each of their films. (What? Mother of Tears doesn't make you sad?)


10. The Glass Floor Death - Barely a half an hour into the film we get one of my favorite grisly scenes of all time, after being menaced by someone with hairy hands and a straight razor, one of the girls is placed on a noose and then slammed though the glass floor into the lobby below. Not only is this scene of horror, but of impeccable art as well. The colors flash, the blood flies, and after a cavalcade of splashy imagery the audience is left to deal with a young girl, hanging silently,  blood running down her leg while her friend lies below impaled by a piece of the structure that has fallen on her. While there are many great scenes in Suspiria, this one combines darkness and beauty in such a way that I can't hardly wrap my mind around it. 


11. The Cast- Apart from Harper and Mangolfi, everyone in the cast is wonderful. I  have to mention a few specific performers that stand out every time. Joan Bennett makes for a devilish headmaster, and she could have easily been the heavy for the film, but Argento left her a red herring in the form of actress Alida Vali as the stern Miss Tanner. Dario throws in a passel of what could be gialli suspects such as the blind pianist and the mongoloid butler. I also have to mention the great Udo Kier who delivers the legend of The Three Mothers with a style that makes the tale seem more than believable.


12. The Climax- All the pieces of the puzzle come together here. The music, the sound. the acting, all to make a final scene that is one of the best in horror history. I won't say much about it because I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't seen it, but it is easily one of my favorite endings anywhere. 



13. Suspiria - Yep the 13th thing I love about Susperia is Susperia. Taken as a sum of its parts, it doesn't get much better in Italian horror. Argento perfectly melded the art film and the horror film into a single entity here which is as much about the visual and auditory tone than it is about the story itself. While some love Deep Red or Tenebre more, there's almost no other movie in my collection that I always feel like turning on like Susperia. 

2 comments:

  1. totally, but i loved 14 and i am not going to tell you what it is...

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  2. I think Daria says in Spaghetti Nightmares that it is pretty much all her- the idea and the story and so on are (supposedly) based on a true story. It was one of her family that at attended a school that just happened to be a coven of witches (yeah, right!). Indeed, I believe that she suggests that much of Dario's interest in the supernatural was down to her. I suppose she may well have a point because if I was to make an association with Dario Argento it would not immediately be the supernatural but pseudo-science and pop psychology. Whatever, Argento is still visually one of the most interesting directors out there. Even if a "return to form" is unlikely to be on the cards anytime soon there is still Tenebre, Profondo rosso, Suspiria etc... On a personal note I would always, in the battle of the Italian horror giants, favour Fulci. There has always been a tendency, especially of those who are new to Italian horror, to judge Lucio on his later horror films without recognising that the Gates of Hell movies were in effect the end of something rather than a beginning. In my personal view Don't Torture a Duckling is as fine as any Argento giallo and that is the film to which I return over and over. That is my bias though and your tribute to Dario is a fine one.

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