1977 Directed by Dario Argento
International Classics' "SUSPIRIA" is a film which challenges the innermost reaches of the imagination, invading the realm of the macabre to an extent seldom dared.
The result is a singular experience captured for the screen by Dario Argento, a writer-director who has rapidly become the acknowledged master of terror.
Aficionados of the genre are familiar with the high level of shock Argento created in Bird with the Crystal Plumage" and Deep Red." With "SUSPIRIA," he pushes the farthest boundaries of suspense into new worlds of heart-stopping fear, riveting audiences with scenes of incredible power through his use of the building blocks of film - sound, music, decor, lighting and special effects as well as extracting exceptional performances from a talented cast which includes Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Joan Bennett and Alida Valli.
In his middle years, Dario Argento is a fascinating personality, his physical demeanor evocative of the film's mood of which he is a master. There is something faintly cadaverous in the elongated
bony body and an eager, almost boyish charm can be
replaced by an expression that is broodingly sinister.
Indeed Argento is the first to say that his films have their birth deep in his own psyche and that they are filled with subconscious symbols of the terror to which his own imagination is prey.
Although many articles and reviews refer to him as a disciple of Hitchcock, Argento himself traces his origins to the "Poe" films of Roger Corman and is also quick to acknowledge the inspiration to be found in the early films of Fritz Lang where one sees the nightmarishly surreal quality in which our so-called modernity has mired us.
In "SUSPIRIA" the sound track makes a major contribution to creating an atmosphere of almost unendurable terror and suspense. Usually relegated to the background, the sound of breathing or a pounding heart are here magnified in the foreground of the sound track, wedded instrumentally with a weirdly modernistic form of music provided by a group called "The Goblins." Argento is credited with a hand in the creation of the score and it indeed brings the visual moments of the film to a new high water mark in terror.
Using Satanism and witchcraft to explore transgression of the soul as well as the body, Argento has made a breakthrough to a new level of cinematic sensation.
More than a movie to see, "SUSPIRIA" is a film to experience and for lovers of cinematic suspense and shock, "SUSPIRIA" may prove the most harrowing shocker ever filmed.
"SUSPIRIA" a film by Dario Argento starring Jessica Harper and Stefania Casini, is an International Classics release of a Salvatore Argento presentation. Also starring are Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bose, Barbara Magnolfi, Susanna Javicoli, Eva Axen, Rudolf Schundler and Udo Kier with Alida VaIII in the role of "Tanner" and with Joan Bennett. The film, produced by Claudio Argento, was written and directed by Dario Argento.
Susan Banyon (Jessica Harper) flies to Freiburg, Germany, from New York to attend the Tanz Akademie. On her arrival, she has to take a cab in a blinding rainstorm through a dense forest to get to the remote Akademie. She is aware of a commotion as she tries to gain entrance. One of the students, a girl named Pat, (Eva Axen) seems to be leaving the Akademie under questionable circumstances muttering strange words.
Susy is denied entrance to the school and must return to town. Meanwhile, Pat takes refuge at the home of her friend Sonia (Susanna Javicoli). There she is brutally assaulted by someone who stabs her and then throws her down from the skylight while Sonia vainly asks her neighbors for help; she, too, is killed.
The next morning Susy goes back to the Akademie where she gets to know the teachers Tanner (Alida Valli) and Blank (Joan Bennett), while the police investigate the mysterious deaths of Pat and Sonia. Susy gets to know Sara with whom she strikes up a real friendship. Later on Susy is taken ill and faints during the course of the first dancing examination. The next day thousands of worms invade the bedrooms so that all of the teachers and pupils have to spend the night in the ballroom which is hastily partitioned off by sheets. Here Sara recognizes the blood-curdling breathing of the mysterious headmistress.
On the following day the dog belonging to Daniel (Flavio Bucci), the school's blind pianist, bites Blank's nephew and then Daniel gets chased and, in the end, inexplicably killed by his own dog. In the meantime Sara sets out during the night to explore the corridors of the Akademie after leaving a series of notes for Susy before being savagely murdered: the official version is that she has left the school.
However, Susy is not convinced and goes to consult a psychiatrist friend of Sara's. She learns about the schools strange origin and about its founder, Elena Markos, who died, it appears, in 1905. At night Susy calls to mind Pat's words when she first came to the school: 'secret," "iris" ... and Sara's intuitive guesses about the mysterious footsteps in the series of notes. She follows the directions and reaches Miss Blank's office where an iris painted on the wall gives her the clue to the opening of a door leading into a hall where the teachers, who are modern witches, are intent on their evil rites.
She comes across the corpse of Sara and then the terrifying personage of Elena Markos, the witch who never died and whose evil power she must fight . . . to the death.