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Suspiria – Two-Disc Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Holding on as one of the most long-demanded films to come to Blu-ray in the United States, in celebration of its 40th anniversary and with just days left on the calendar, the long awaited Suspiria release from Synapse Films made its debut. A labor of love, said Blu-ray as well as nationwide revival screenings set the film world on fire with this new 4K restoration that took years to develop. With the original limited Steelbook edition sold out, Synapse is giving you another shot at owning Dario Argento’s masterpiece. There’s a film only edition and a two disc edition that comes with the bonus features in the limited edition release. They are both currently available now, and any serious film fan or Blu-ray collector should be owning this historic restoration.

Film 

Suzy travels to Germany to attend ballet school. When she arrives, late on a stormy night, no one lets her in, and she sees Pat, another student, fleeing from the school. When Pat reaches her apartment, she is murdered. The next day, Suzy is admitted to her new school, but has a difficult time settling in. She hears noises, and often feels ill. As more people die, Suzy uncovers the terrifying secret history of the place.

For all intents and purposes, this is a Blu-ray review, so a little personal home video history with the film shouldn’t be too out of place. I’m a nut for a lot of Italian horror and schlock thanks to the advent of Blu-ray in a way I never was before. Suspiria was always one that impressed, but many others I tried and would be left scratching my head. Blu-ray has actually helped me find what I was missing out on, understand and see what the big deal and appreciation was for so many of these films. They all had Pan and Scan VHS releases, crappy DVD transfers and a lot of the times were some incorrect or censored cut of the film. Now, with these restorations and seeing the film as they were intended to look and sound and close to what they were on the big screen, its easy to see what it was. These films are an “experience” of sight and sound. Something lesser formats had kneecapped these films in their effectiveness for all these years. But no matter what, none of them will probably ever be as beautiful or eye popping as the crown jewel of Italian horror; Suspiria.

No one is actually ever going to truly capture a nightmare on film, but damn if Dario Argento hasn’t come close. Suspiria is the living embodiment of terror. And not just for the characters in the movie, as an audience member, you’re almost a participant in the proceedings as you feel the tension and horror of the dancers discovering the dark secrets of their academy. Argento puts together a fine collaboration with Goblin, whom he frequently uses, to add another layer to the terror. Italian horror scores are a thing among themselves usually, but Goblin’s work here is almost a character of itself. Its as unsettling as it is hynpotic and beautiful, while also bring a sting and jumping insanity to it all. And within just a few minutes of the film starting, it has earned its place as one of the best and most memorable scores of all time.

One of the best aspects of Suspiria is the shot compositions all throughout. Every piece of costume, color choice and every set is designed so perfectly as to create a well balanced and gorgeous frame.  While my favorite sequence in any Argento movie would come in his next film Inferno (And said sequence was advised by legend Mario Bava apparently), pick anything here in this movie and you’ll be just amazed. Its hard to not just be dumbfounded in appreciation of the visuals here even if its just a certain wallpaper. From the opening 15 minutes, Argento has announced exactly everything this movie is to be and just delivers such a hook. As one spends years and studies the film you’ll also notice and discover the tiniest of details, like the door handles being higher up on the doors, so as to have the girls always subtly being the idea of children in a fairy tale without you realizing it. With that and other things, its a lifelong rewarding experience to constantly return to the film.

Suspiria is a film that I really feel is timeless if the viewers are willing to give themselves to it. Its a measure in style, deep thematic, visuals, sound and a complete experience. These are things modern audiences tend to lend themselves to, but one with a good understanding of film should have no trouble appreciating it. Some of the most horrifying moments, amazing sets, usage of color, music and beautiful overall composition ever captured on celluloid are right here in Dario Argento’s film. At 41 years of age, Suspiria still works as well as it did upon its debut back in 1977.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: I almost just want to write the word “Perfection” and move on. Synapse Films not only did a 4K transfer from an original uncensored negative, but also meticulously went frame by frame to restore the film as best it could be to a pristine experience harkening back to its 1977 brand new appearance. And boy oh boy is this damn thing a freakin’ marvel to look at. You can easily just zone out looking in wonder at the film. The color work is absolutely stunning and the detail of every bit of texture is genius. Synapse Films has done some of the finest work we’ve ever seen, ESPECIALLY from a very very independent company. We waited years and years to see this and it was ABSOLUTELY worth every year and did not disappoint one bit. There were very high expectations for this film’s transfer and it blew past even those.

Depth:  Suspiria features a great amount of depth of field, with background and foreground feeling separate and with good multidimensional appeal. Movements are fluid, cinematic and smooth. No instances of blurring or jitter happened during rapid movements.

Black Levels: Blacks are quite rich, close to natural and pretty deep. Details hold on strong, able to showcase hair follicles, surface texture and clothing patterns/details even in the more darker sequences. No crushing was witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Here’s your all star. All these primary blues, reds to go with purples and the like just lift right up off the screen and glow. Its absolutely gorgeous and there’s not many quite like this experience. Its stunningly rich and beautiful. In what’s quite impressive is that nothing bleeds at all and its quite well saturated in the heavy filter sequences.

Flesh Tones: Aside from the obvious filters used throughout, in the more naturally lit scenes, skin tones are natural and consistent throughout. Facial features are pretty clear as day in most given distances, showcasing plenty of makeup, wrinkles and lip texture.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): Original 1977 English 4.0 Surround Mix DTS-HD MA, Italian 5.1 Surround Mix DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH (English Version), English (Italian Version)

Dynamics: The anticipation for seeing the visual restorations for the film completely had us forgetting about the soundtrack. Restoration on the score for the film is as big a revelation as the video. Goblin’s score is intricate, loose and insanely captivating. It booms and bounces all around the room. Sound effects are extra crisp with good layered depth. Every little peep and trinket here is well realized and wonderfully blended in this loud and proud balanced 4.0 mix.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Goblin’s bass and drums really boom and hit deep. Glass shattering as well as some loud crashing and such will also resonate in the subwoofer decently.

Surround Sound Presentation: Effects are well placed here and will have you checking over your shoulder and watching around the room as it travels. One of the cooler aspects is how the score would do laps around the room and bounce back and forth.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. Its pretty marvelous how this fully ADR’d track sounds fresh and not dated.

Extras 

Suspiria is a 2 Blu-ray Disc set that has reversible cover art featuring the original theatrical poster. Aside from the commentaries, all bonus materials are on Disc 2.

Disc 1

Audio Commentary

  • With Argento Scholar Troy Howarth
  • With Argento Scholar Derek Botelho and Film Scholar David Del Valle

Disc 2

A Sigh From The Depths: 40 Years Of Suspiria (HD, 27:07) – Many figureheads in the world of of horror journalism and writing play talking heads to talk a bit of the making of Suspiria, Argento and the legacy of one of he most legendary horror films of all time.

Do You Know Anything About Witches? (HD, 30:06) – Written and directed by Michael Mackenzie, this essay starts with his own personal discovery and reaction to Suspiria and then gives Dario Argento’s history up to making the film. What follows is a scene by scene analysis featuring behind the scenes anecdotes, analysis of themes, composition, film historian/critic thoughts and characters.

Suzy In Nazi Germany (HD, 8:01) – A narrator gives us the rundown on the history of the German locales used in the film. Its heavy on footage from the film, but does include some images and footage of what the buildings and such look like in present day.

Olga’s Story (HD, 17:14) – An interview with Barbara Magnolfi.  She gives us a history of her film credentials up to Suspiria. Magnolfi discusses working with Argento, his vision and how he really conveyed to them what he wanted. There’s also talk of a scene she trained for but wound up not getting shot. She wishes her career would have blossomed more (Or she made better choices) following the film, but she’s grateful and overwhelmed for its legacy and her fans and the popularity of the movie.

International Classics “Breathing Letters” (HD, 1:41)  Original US Release Opening Credits.

Original Theatrical Trailers (HD, 4:29) – US Trailer #1, US Trailer #2, International Trailer

Original US Television Spots (HD, 1:46) – US TV Spot #1, US TV Spot #2, US TV Spot #3

Original US Radio Spots (HD, 2:23) – US Radio Spot #1, US Radio Spot #2, US Radio Spot #3, US Double Feature Radio Spot #1, US Double Feature Radio Spot #2

Summary 

Suspiria is one of the most fantastic works of horror and art we’ve ever seen. Its no surprise the film has had such a long and endearing legacy, finding new fans every day. Synapse Films restoration of the film is nothing short of one of the most amazing home video presentations of a classic film we’ve ever witnessed. Its so damn good, I’m struggling to imagine how much better a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray bump would even be. The extras here lack Argento himself, but contain such great observations and love for the film that you’ll feel his spirit and influence there. This release is a must have, there’s no question about it.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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