Suspiria is a 1977 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento, and co-written by Argento and actress Daria Nicolodi. It stars Jessica Harper, Alida Valli, Udo Kier and Joan Bennett in her final film role.
Nicolodi claims the plot was inspired by an experience of her grandmother's. The setting was originally to be a children's school but was later changed to a dance school for older teenagers.
During a night of rain and thunder, a young American ballet student, Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper), lands in Munich to attend a prestigious dance academy in Freiburg. When she reaches the school, she witnesses another student, Pat Hingle (Eva Axén), fleeing the building in a panic. Unable to gain access herself, Suzy stays in town for the night.
Pat arrives at a friend's apartment where she is attacked and murdered. She is stabbed several times. The killer then winds a cord around her neck that finally hangs her when she crashes through a stained-glass ceiling. On the floor directly below, Pat's friend is also killed when she is hit by falling glass and metal.
On her arrival at the academy the next morning, Suzy is introduced to Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) and Miss Tanner (Alida Valli). In a recurring Argento plot device also used prominently in Profondo Rosso and Tenebrae, Suzy realizes she recalls overhearing something Pat said the night before, but is unable to remember it. Suzy meets Olga (Barbara Magnolfi) and Sarah (Stefania Casini) and learns that she is to board off-campus with Olga. The following morning, Blanc informs her that a dormitory room is now free but Suzy says she would prefer to stay where she is. After a strange encounter with the cook (Franca Scagnetti), Suzy passes out during a lesson and awakens to discover the staff have moved her into a dormitory room against her wishes. Sarah's room is next door, and the two become friends.
As the school prepares for dinner, maggots begin to fall from the ceiling. Tanner discovers crates of spoiled food on the floor above, and the students and staff are forced to sleep in the practice hall overnight. During the evening, Sarah identifies a distinctive whistling snore as that of the school's director, who is not due to return for several weeks. The next morning class is interrupted when Tanner accosts the blind pianist Daniel (Flavio Bucci), telling him that his guide dog has bitten Blanc's young nephew Albert (Jacopo Mariani). Outraged, Daniel proudly resigns immediately. That night, Suzy hears the staff as they leave for the night, but realizes they seem to be heading somewhere inside the building. While discussing this with Sarah, she becomes suddenly drowsy and goes to sleep, leaving Sarah to count the footsteps she hears as they pass. Meanwhile, Daniel the pianist is killed on his way home when his dog becomes spooked and tears his throat out.
Next day, Suzy upsets Sarah by telling Blanc that she heard Pat saying the words "iris" and "secret" the night she died. As the two girls swim, Sarah reveals that she was close to Pat and that Pat had been taking notes and talking strangely for some time. Later, she discovers the notes are gone. Once again, Suzy comes over drowsy and Sarah flees her friend's room just before an unseen person enters. Escaping to the attic, Sarah is attacked and finally murdered after becoming trapped in a room full of razor wire.
Finding Sarah's room empty the following day, Suzy goes to meet her friend's psychologist Dr. Mandel (Udo Kier). Mandel explains that the school was founded by Helena Markos, a Greek émigré, who was believed to be a witch. Markos is also known as Mater Suspiriorum, or the Mother of Sighs. Mandel's colleague Professor Millus tells Suzy that a coven can only survive with their queen.
Back at school, Suzy discovers all the students have gone to the theater. Finally suspicious of her pre count, Suzy finds herself in Blanc's office. Noticing irises painted on the wall she finally recalls what Pat was saying the night she was killed, and finds a door hidden in the wall. Beyond, she discovers a ritual chamber where the coven is gathered, apparently directed by Blanc and comprising most of the rest of the staff. Unseen, Suzy learns she is to be killed, and finds Sarah's corpse. In another room she finds the directress and accidentally wakes her. The directress reveals herself as Helena Markos (also known as Mater Suspiriorum - The Mother of Sighs) and taunts Suzy, calling Sarah's reanimated corpse into the room to attack her. Suzy lunges at the outline of Markos, fatally stabbing her through the neck with the tailfeather from a glass peacock. Suzy then flees out of the school and into the night as the school bursts into flame, destroying the entire coven.
- Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion.
- Stefania Casini as Sara.
- Flavio Bucci as Daniel.
- Miguel Bosé as Mark.
- Alida Valli as Miss Tanner.
- Joan Bennett as Madame Blanc.
- Udo Kier as Doctor Frank Mandel.
- Barbara Magnolfi as Olga.
- Eva Axén as Pat Hingle.
- Rudolf Schündler as Professor Milius.
The title Suspiria and the general concept of the "The Three Mothers" came from Suspiria de Profundis, Thomas De Quincey's sequel to his Confessions of an English Opium Eater. There is a section in Suspiria De Profundis entitled "Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow". The piece asserts that just as there are three Fates and three Graces, there are three Sorrows: "Mater Lacrymarum, Our Lady of Tears," "Mater Suspiriorum, Our Lady of Sighs," and "Mater Tenebrarum, Our Lady of Darkness."
Suspiria is noteworthy for several stylistic flourishes that have become Argento trademarks. The film was made with anamorphic lenses. The production design and cinematography emphasize vivid primary colors, particularly red, creating a deliberately unrealistic, nightmarish setting. This look was emphasized by the use of imbibition Technicolor prints. The imbibition process, used for The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind, is much more vivid in its color rendition than emulsion-based release prints, therefore enhancing the nightmarish quality of the film.
It was rumored that this film contained ghostly images or apparitions in certains scenes within the backgrounds that appeared in glass and lighting that were unexplained. This added to the mystique of the movie.
The film was the final feature film to be processed in Technicolor before the processing plant was closed
The Italian rock music band Goblin composed most of the film's musical score. Goblin also composed music for several other films by Dario Argento. In the film's opening credits, they are incorrectly referred to as "The Goblins". The score for Suspiria is considered a unique masterpiece. It has been reused in multiple Hong Kong films, including Yuen Woo-ping's martial arts film Dance of the Drunk Mantis (1979) and Tsui Hark's horror-comedy We Are Going to Eat You (1980).
Goblin frontman Claudio Simonetti later formed a heavy metal music band, Daemonia, and the 2001 Anchor Bay DVD release contains a video of the band playing a reworking of the Suspiria theme song. This DVD edition also contains the entire original soundtrack as a bonus CD, but long out of print in North America.
Goblin's main title theme for Suspiria was named as one of the best songs released between 1977 and 1979 in The Pitchfork 500: Our Guide to the Greatest Songs from Punk to the Present.
The main theme has been sampled on the Raekwon and Ghostface Killah song, Legal Coke off of the R.A.G.U. mixtape. Also sampled by RJD2 for the song, Weather People off Cage's Album Weather Proof and by Army Of The Pharaohs song Swords Drawn. The main theme and other music from the film was also sampled in television series such as Invader Zim.
Entertainment Weekly rated the film #18 of its top 25 scariest movies of all time, saying it had "the most vicious murder scene ever filmed". A poll among critics at Total Film named it as the 3rd greatest horror film of all-time. It was rated #24 on the cable channel Bravo's list of the "100 Scariest Movie Moments".
Suspiria is the first of a film trilogy Argento refers to as "The Three Mothers", about evil forces attempting to break through to the earth and wreak merciless havoc. Argento's next film, Inferno (1980), was the second in the trilogy, and the third is The Mother of Tears.
By a poll of film critics conducted by the Village Voice, Suspiria was named the 100th greatest film made during the 20th century.
No aspect of Suspiria was as influential as Argento's flamboyant approach to filming the many killings occurring in the story. Argento already had a reputation for brutal violence in his films, such as his preceding feature, Deep Red, and he would later in his career be much criticised for it, including charges of misogyny which he denies. In Suspiria, victims are murdered in extremely elaborate ways; Pat Hingle initially has her face shoved through a window before she is stabbed in the chest repeatedly. She is then tied up, has an electrical cord wound around her body which slips as noose around her neck when she falls, is stabbed through the heart (in close up) and finally dropped through a stained-glass ceiling. A large piece of falling debris then impales another woman below. The camera lingers on Pat's blood-spattered body, suspended from the roof by the cord. This sequence was so greatly edited for Suspiria's original U.S. release that it was almost purged from the film.
Suspiria made Argento famous. Though many of his later films were admired by his fans, Suspiria is generally regarded as his best. Joan Bennett was nominated for a Saturn Award for her performance, missing out on Best Supporting Actress to Susan Tyrrell for Bad.
Two bands, a Norwegian thrash metal band and a pioneering mid-1990s U.K. gothic rock band, have named themselves after the film. Several albums have also used the title, including Suspiria by Darkwell, Suspiria by Miranda Sex Garden, and Suspiria de Profundis by Die Form which can also be regarded as inspired by Thomas De Quincey's work of the same title.
The Smashing Pumpkins used the theme from the film as introductory music on their 2007 tour. The Houston-based Two Star Symphony Orchestra, on their 2004 CD Danse Macabre: Constant Companion, included a track titled "Goblin Attack" that features a strings rendition of the Suspiria theme. The track's title appears to be a reference to the Italian rock band Goblin. The 69 eyes wrote a song 'Suspiria Snow White' on the album Back in Blood.
The movie's music has been imitated by various artists, including Ministry's "Psalm 69" from their album Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs, Cage Kennylz's "Weather People", and Atmosphere's "Bird Sings Why the Caged I Know".
In the 2007 film Juno, the title character mentions Suspiria during a discussion of horror films with character Mark Loring after she finds a SomethingWeird Video copy of The Wizard of Gore.
A remake was expected for a 2005 release according to the Internet Movie Database. This status remained as such into 2006, but the entry was eventually removed. Around the same time, writer Steven Katz stated that the remake "probably will not happen". Some fans believe that Argento was responsible, as he was against the remake, claiming to have seen a script, and saying "it will be shit, but that won't be my fault". But according to the IMDb, the remake has now been announced to be released in 2010.
During June 2006, Japanese studio GONZO reportedly announced the production of an anime remake of Suspiria (サスペリア) is in development, but it has not yet announced a release date for TV broadcast. The anime adaptation will be directed by Yoshimasa Hiraike (Solty Rei).
During March 2008, it was announced on the MTV Movies Blog website that the remake of Suspiria was to be made and released in 2008 with director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) at the helm. The remake is being produced by Italian production company First Sun.
During August, 2008, the Bloody Disgusting website reported that Natalie Portman's and Annette Savitch's Handsome Charlie Films will produce the remake and that Portman will play the lead role, the movie will be produced by Natalie Portman and directed by David Gordon Green.
The American independent supernatural thriller film Finale was inspired by Suspiria, the director John Michael Elfers described his film as Hommage.
The 2018 American film Suspiria is inspired by the 1977 film, it was released on October 26, 2018 with Dakota Johnson as Susie Bannion. The film currently has a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The film has released on VHS by Vestron Video in March 30, 1984. This was released on LaserDisc by International Video Entertainment (IVE) in May 23, 1987. This was released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment in August 21, 2001, limited edition, THX Certified, DTS ES, Dolby Digital 5.1, in two disc limited edition. This was released on DVD by Code Red in October 5, 2009, from 2-disc collector's edition, THX Certified, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1. This was released on Blu-ray by Synapse Films in March 13, 2018.
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA
- 1978 Nominated Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress - Joan Bennett
- 2002 Nominated Saturn Award for Best DVD Classic Film Release