“Always, everywhere, some are believed by all.”
In 1977, Dario Argento’s Suspiria exploded onto the screens worldwide. The R-rated horror film was the first in his Three Mothers Trilogy. Co-written by Daria Nicolodi, the movie became an instant cult film classic. The 2018 remake is still in theaters; however, before seeing the latest, experience the original.
An American ballerina (Jessica Harper) enrolls in the Tanz dance academy in Germany unaware that a coven of witches operates the school during the day and communes with Helena Markos, the supreme deifier of God, at night.
According to urban legends, Nicolodi’s grandmother, Yvonne, inspired the film by retelling stories of her experience at an arts school where she claimed to experience black magic. Argento dismissed the story by stating inspiration sprung from the fantastical English collection of short stories Suspiria de Profundis (1845) written by Thomas De Quincey. Regardless, this film merges fantasy with horror.
The cast is an international ensemble, which causes the strange yet satisfying dialog. The actors spoke their native tongue, which was dubbed over in English in post-production. Carefully watch the exchange between Jessica Harper’s character “Suzy Bannion” and Udo Kier’s “Dr. Frank Mandel.” While it is obvious that Jessica is speaking English, it is unclear what language Udo is speaking. (Spoiler: It’s German. A crew member fed Udo his lines off-camera) It’s practically bewitching to watch.
This would be iconic screen legend Joan Bennett’s (1910-1990) final full-length feature film appearance. She exudes sophistication and glamour as Madame Blanc, head of the Tanz academy.
The set design is equally captivating. Argento based the color scheme off Disney’s 1937 classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Each scene is purposefully and beautifully designed.
The creepy music performed by Goblin, an Italian progressive rock band, enhances the horror experience and can be called hypnotic. Over the years several well-known bands have covered Goblin’s music. Listen to the film’s soundtrack here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkZ2rdbDHM4. (Note: Do you hear Harry Potter when listening like I do?)
The art-house horror movie appears on numerous Top Horror Film lists including #28 Cinema Blend, #18 Thrillist, #6 The Guardian, and #5 Mental Floss. It certainly is a top 5 on mine!
Suspiria is streaming for free with limited commercial breaks on Tubi.