Suspiria (1977)

NOVEMBER 19, 2019


Despite this being the third time I've gotten a copy of it, and seeing it on the big screen at least three times since I started the site, I've somehow never reviewed Suspiria in any form. Usually I do "non-canon" reviews for such things (i.e. movies I've already seen but are worthy of being written about, i.e. all of the Halloweens and other franchise films I covered over the years), but for whatever reason I somehow never got around to putting pen to paper (finger to keyboard) about Dario Argento's iconic classic. What do I pay you people for if you're not going to point these things out to me?

(And we still need to discuss how I managed to review Killer Nun a few weeks ago without ever once realizing I already reviewed Killer Nun.)

My only guess as to why I kept letting it slide: I have fallen asleep every time I've seen the movie, and thus I probably had some sort of "Let me pull that DVD or Blu-ray out and see what I missed first" plan that fell through when the 90 other things I need to do every day took priority. But I don't want you to take that as me being bored with the film or whatever - on the contrary, the last time I watched it (on the big screen, from the same 4K remaster that was used for this very disc) I finally realized *why* the film always knocked me out cold: the first 15-20 minutes are just too goddamn intense. The storm, Suzy's dread-inducing walk through the airport, her struggles to get inside, the murders... the film doesn't let up for an entire reel (more?), so when it does... well, I know it's crass but it's the only thing I can think of to compare, it's basically the same thing that happens after a good orgasm: I feel "spent" and nod off.

And of course, during a theatrical viewing that just means I miss things, but luckily at home I can rewind and see what I was dozing through. And trust me, on Synapse's long-awaited 4K restoration, you do not want to miss a single frame, as this is one of the best remasters of an older film I've ever been blessed enough to see. For some background; I have a 4K TV (from Sony, if you're wondering) but not because I'm much of a gearhead - my previous TV died and I figured I might as well get the shiniest new toy (albeit one within my budget). And so far most of my 4K disc purchases (or review copies) have been of newer films; my only "I've seen this on Blu-ray and now I'm watching in 4K" experience has been Halloween, which looked good but didn't blow me away or anything. The jump from VHS to DVD, and then DVD to Blu-ray, were like night and day differences to my eyes, but so far Blu-ray to 4K has been more like the difference between 4 and 5 o'clock at best, so upgrading my collection once again isn't anything I plan to do.

The Suspiria restoration made me a believer though. The last time I watched at home was on one of the older Blu-rays, and it looked good, but this was a revelation. Some details just pop more than ever, such as the blue iris behind Suzy as she tells Miss Tanner about how Pat mentioned an iris, or the glowing eyes that appear behind Sara before she falls into the razor wire room. (Oh, and never before has it been more clear that it's razor wire and not barbed wire, so there's something, too.) Yes, this means that the off-color fake blood puddle around Pat's roommate looks even more, well, fake, but for every blemish like that there are a dozen examples (such as the detail in all the stained glass that CAUSES that fake blood puddle) that will have your eyes popping throughout. This took them a few years to complete, and the evidence is right there on the screen.

Oh and the movie is still great. I think this is my first time watching the original since the remake, which I enjoyed parts of but overall found it to be too indulgent and sprawling for my tastes, so it was nice to go back to my preferred take on the "a lady goes to a dance school run by witches" story (which also clocks in at nearly an hour shorter). There are a few pacing issues (like when Udo Kier delivers an info dump, then introduces Karl from Exorcist, who gives yet another info dump), but that's an issue that plagued a lot of Argento's earlier stuff, and given that this was his first foray into the supernatural after a string of gialli, it's easily forgivable. The mystery is engaging, Harper's Suzy is an easy protagonist to care about, and the big scare scenes - like the aforementioned razor wire scene - haven't lost an ounce of their effectiveness, even after multiple viewings.

It's also just nice to go back to a time when Argento had the money and time to make the kind of films he excelled at. Especially in this gorgeous restoration, you can just soak in Giuseppe Bassan's production design and the cinematography by Luciano Tovoli, skilled artists who had four *months* to bring Argento's vision to life. Nowadays he gets as many weeks, with budgets that are probably less even without factoring in the inflation. It's easy to say that he got old/tired and that's what brought about the decline of his work, but then you see things like The Irishman and The Mule and realize that maybe the actual difference is having the resources to still work to the best of their abilities. Hopefully someday he (and Carpenter, De Palma, etc) will find themselves with the same kind of freedom that is still afforded to their fellow '70s cinema gods.

Synapse released a thorough special edition on standard blu-ray last year and has ported over all of the bonus features from that release, so supplements wise there's nothing different here: it's got the commentaries, the retrospective, the video essay (which is quite good), interviews, alternate opening title sequence, etc. The real draw here is the actual 4K disc (as opposed to the 4K restoration on standard blu), so only those who have made the leap to the format need apply with this particular release. But I have to say... if there was a film to sell me on the legitimacy on 4K and perhaps get me thinking about upgrading other older films that have been given actual restorations (Die Hard is a possible option since I hate the existing Blu-ray anyway), this is it. Maybe it's just because I've suffered through a faded film print (noooo) and thus have something "bad" to compare it to, but outside of Criterion's Night of the Living Dead release, it is quite simply the best looking legacy release I've ever seen with my own eyes. Enjoy!

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. The Killer Nun thing happened to me too. I had randomly decided to look back at reviews I'd written in 2012 and was kind of surprised at 3 of them. My review for "Slashers" was almost identical to the one I wrote for it this year (I knew I'd watched the movie, though I didn't know I'd reviewed it and certainly didn't realize I'd made the exact same observations). I had reviewed Moonstalker, a film I was pretty sure I had never seen, and found that I had previously absolutely hated it whereas I actually liked it this time around. But, the most surprising (and the Killer Nun of it all) was that I had reviewed the Vincent Price film "Diary of a Madman" which I not only thought I had never seen, but that when I watched it this year I didn't recognize a single moment from. Seeing I had already reviewed it really shocked me.


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