Suspiria (Umbrella) (1977)

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Released 17-Jun-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Argento Trailer Collection
Featurette-Suspiria 25th Anniversary Documentary
Interviews-Crew-Dario Argento
Featurette-'Eye For Horror' Documentary
Gallery-Poster And Stills
Theatrical Trailer-International And U.S.
TV Spots
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 94:18
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Dario Argento
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Jessica Harper
Stefania Casini
Flavio Bucci
Miguel Bosé
Barbara Magnolfi
Susanna Javicoli
Eva Axén
Rudolf Schündler
Udo Kier
Alida Valli
Joan Bennett
Margherita Horowitz
Jacopo Mariani
Case Gatefold
RPI $34.95 Music Dario Argento
Agostino Marangolo
Massimo Morante


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, credits rolling over flames

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Suspiria marked a slight shift in genre for the Italian master of the macabre, Dario Argento .While the killers in his previous films were all human, in Suspiria the psychotic menace is one from the supernatural world.

    Argento and cinematographer, Luciano Tovoli's incredible use of colour gives the film a dream-like atmosphere that is truely mesmerizing, while also being very disturbing. The film was shot using standard Eastman Kodak Colour stock and was then printed using the three-strip Technicolor process. The result is an astounding example of how intelligent use of colour can profoundly influence the presence of a film.

    Written by Dario Argento and Daria Nicolodi, Suspiria's screenplay is really quite basic and leaves many elements of the story unexplored. While this would normally be a source of frustration, Suspiria is an alluring, cinematic version of a nightmare and as such, is able to take some liberties in logic.

    Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) arrives in Germany to study ballet at the renowned dance school, Tanzakademie. As she walks through the airport doors into the night, she is confronted with driving rain and a deafening thunderstorm. Taking a taxi, she soon arrives at the doors of the academy. As she approaches the doors, a girl exits in a frantic panic, muttering ambiguous words before running off into the woods. Suzy is denied admission when a voice at the doorway intercom claims to have no knowledge of her enrolment or arrival. The following day Suzy returns to Tanzakademie, this time in bright sunshine. She is warmly welcomed this time around by teacher Miss Tanner (Alida Valli). She puzzles Suzy by telling her they were expecting her last night. The director of the academy, Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett), is being questioned by police about the horrific murder of a student, Pat Hingle (Eva Axén), the night prior. Overhearing the conversation, Suzy assumes this was the girl she saw leaving the school in a hurry last night. She mentions this to the Madame Blanc and the police, but can't provide comprehensive answers to their questions.

    Suzy is introduced to the other students and sets about fitting in to the daily routines of school life. During a dance class, Suzy begins to feel weak and faints. When she awakens, she finds herself in one of the boarding rooms, being fussed over by staff and a doctor. She is told to rest and is restricted to a mysterious diet to help "build up her blood". When maggots begin falling into the boarding rooms, the students all congregate to form a temporary dormitory while the roof space is fumigated. It is here that another student, Sara (Stefania Casini), plants a seed with Suzy that all may not be as it seems at the academy.

    Without giving away too much of the film's plot, it's fairly obvious that some of these characters will meet with a ghastly end, in definitive and imaginative Argento style.

    The school's blind piano player, Daniel (Flavio Bucci), is fired when his seeing-eye dog is accused of biting Madame Blanc's nephew. His walk home through the vacant piazza at night provides a memorable moment in the film. Suzy and Sara believe that the footsteps they hear nightly are still within the walls of the academy and are not leaving the building, as first assumed. With Suzy in a state of sedation due to her strange diet, Sara decides to investigate the source of these footsteps alone.

    The next day Sara is nowhere to be found. Suzy is informed that Sara left the academy during the night which she knows is untrue. Suzie's suspicions reach the point where she seeks information from psychiatrist, Dr. Frank Mandel (Udo Kier). Sara was a patient of his three years earlier and had mentioned to him that she believed the dance academy was being run by a coven of witches.

    Suzy summons the courage and decides to investigate their theory of the hidden rooms inside the academy. Soon the obscure words muttered by Pat Hingle begin to make sense and Suzy realizes the horrifying truth.

    This Collectors Edition of Suspiria is presented in a two-DVD set. Disc one contains the feature and trailers. Disc two contains all the other special features.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The superb video transfer presented on this edition perfectly compliments the film's complex visuals.

    The transfer is presented in the correct and original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    There are very few adverse issues with this transfer. A dazzling level of clarity and sharpness is exhibited throughout. Blacks displayed exceptional depth and definition, with no low level noise. Shadows were also superb and held an extraordinary amount of detail.

   One of the difficult aspects of transferring this film in the past has been the use of vibrant colour. Many of these colours are displayed in a fluorescent glow at times and tended to bleed, therefore it generally looked terrible on video. Fortunately, no such problems exists with this transfer to DVD. Colours are rendered superbly to the disc and literally leap off the screen. I found no signs of oversaturation and the colour balance appeared perfect.

    There were no MPEG artefacts. Film-to video artefacts weren't an issue. Some very occaisonal and very minor grain was the only blemish I noticed. But this fact was not enough to warrant any reduction in the overall score of the video transfer. A remakeably clean print of Suspiria has been used for this transfer. I really struggled to find any film artefacts whatsoever.

    Unfortunately, no subtitles are available on this DVD.

    This is a single sided, dual layer disc. Even with the assistance of software, I could not locate the layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer for this edition of Suspiria is also outstanding.

    It may come as a surprise to some people who may have purchased this edition already that there is a Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) audio track on this disc. The default audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), which is surround encoded. The 5.1 audio track could easily be overlooked, as there is no audio setup selection in the menu on the disc, and the film plays in the default of Dolby Digital 2.0 once "play" is selected. Furthermore, the packaging only advertises a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track needs to be selected directly from the appropriate audio button on your DVD player remote once the "play film" selection has been made. I listened to both of these quality audio tracks and was very impressed with each of them.

    The dialogue quality was clear and easily understood throughout the film. Audio sync is difficult to comment on, due to the ADR process, which is used often in Argento's films. Actors spoke dialogue in their natural language, namely English, German or Italian. Anything other than English was later dubbed in a Rome sound studio. The audio sync of the English-speaking roles is excellent. While ADR-altered dialogue is noticeable, it is an issue inherent with the original print and in any case, it is a trademark of Argento's films as well as other Italian productions from the period.

    The superb music score for Suspiria is by Goblin, with close collaboration with Dario Argento. The discography of the band is really quite extensive. They have scored many Argento films including Deep Red, Tenebre and Non Ho Sonno. They also wrote the score for George Romero's Dawn Of The Dead. The music score for Suspiria combines many different styles of music with contrasting blends of instruments to produce a piece that's perfect in terms of creating the required atmosphere. Frantic tribal beats, combined with light electronic melodies and elements from the bouzouki, create a truly eerie sound that stays with you. Goblin also added to the evocative nature of the score by applying distorted vocal effects in random arrangements.

    The surround channels were used aggressively from the very beginning of the film through to the film's frantic and noisy climax. From the opening scenes of heavy rain and thunder, the viewer is immersed right in the centre of Suspiria's nightmare. The incredibly eerie Goblin score surrounds the viewer, never allowing him or her to slip into a comfort zone.

    The subwoofer was highly active, adding significant bass enhancement to the score and general effects.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Thankfully, the hig calibre selection of extras presented on this collector's edition compliment the entire DVD package.

Menu

    The menu design for all the menus are quite superb. They are heavily animated, with generous and intelligent use of Goblin's score. All menus are 16x9 enhanced and feature Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s) surround encoded audio.

Featurette-Suspiria 25th Anniversary Documentary (51:48)

    This fully comprehensive documentary provides a wealth of fascinating information on the making of Suspiria. It features interviews with cast and crew members including Daria Nicolodi, Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Udo Kier, Luciano Tovoli, the four members of Goblin and, of course, Dario Argento. The documentary is divided into seven chapters, all relating to different aspects of the film. These chapters include: The Story, The Director, The Stars, The ScoreThe Style, Favourite Scenes and Anecdotes and Looking Back. Where nessasary, English subtitles are provided in easy-to-read yellow text. Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) audio.

Featurette-An Eye For Horror Documentary (56:57)

    A very imformative documentary focused on Dario Argento and much of his body of work. Featured are interviews with Argento himself, his family members, actors, and fellow genre directors such as John Carpenter and George Romero. The documentary is a comprehensive commentray on a career that has spanned nearly forty years and produced many outstanding films. This imformative piece also features discussion about the various collabarations with family members on many of his movies. Argento's long-time partner in film and life, Daria Nicolodi, provides valuable input, as do his daughters Asia and Fiore, and his brother, Claudio. The important relationship of music in Argento's films is discussed with Goblin, Keith Emerson and Alice Cooper. Special effects guru Tom Savini gives some excellent insights into this essential element of any Dario Argento film. Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) audio.

Exclusive Interview With Dario Argento (21:14)

    This is an obvious replacement for an audio commentary. Argento discusses various aspects of Suspiria in an empty cinema, while scenes from the film play on the screen in the background. Although an audio commentary would have been icing on the cake, this piece provides some quality information about the production of Suspiria and is an excellent companion to the two documentaries included in this edition. I don't believe Argento has provided an audio commentary for any version of Suspiria on DVD. Dario Argento speaks throughout this featurette in Italian. English subtitles are provided and are easily legible in yellow text. Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) audio.

Trailers - Suspiria, International Trailer (1:55)   US Trailer (1:09)   TV Spot (0:27)

      These trailers are on disc two as listed above. On disc one, the first two trailers are featured again and play simultaniously for a running time of 3:09. Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) audio.

Poster and Stills Gallery

     A collection of 96 images, ranging from film stills and posters to advertising material. These images scroll through automatically with no audio provided.

Argento Trailer Collection (Disc one)

    All trailers feature Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s) audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There are many different DVD editions of Suspiria available worldwide, including various R4 versions. These editions all vary in some way, from basic one-disc editions, through to three-disc limited editions.

    The US limited edition seems to be identical to the Australian limited edition, apart from the NTSC transfer of the US edition. I will base my comparison on this limited edition, which is a three-disc package, with the third disc consisting of a CD of the Goblin music soundtrack.

    The limited editions miss out on:

    This region 2,4 collector's edition misses out on

     Which release you prefer depends on your preference for the additional documentary and interview over the more sophisticated sound options, soundtrack CD and booklet. Either way, I would stick with the local version of either the collector's edition or the limited edition, due to the PAL transfer over the NTSC one.

Summary

    Suspiria is a true cinematic nightmare and a classic piece of baroque horror that is superbly presented in this two-disc collector's edition. Any fan of the macabre world of Dario Argento must have this in their DVD collection.

    The video and audio transfers are both superb.

    The selection of quality extras are also an asset to this collection and make for compulsory viewing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Anchor Bay is better - REPLY POSTED
Soundtrack issues? - REPLY POSTED
Stop putting this when comparing, please! -
NTSC vs PAL - REPLY POSTED
PAL vs NTSC -
PAL vs NTSC - David M REPLY POSTED
PAL vs NTSC - tess
NTSC transfers -
PAL vs NTSC - zetmoon
PAL vs NTSC 2 - zetmoon
Suspiria is a dull movie, overated. -
Crank up the volume! -
Zetmoon, you are a tonic! -
PAL vs NTSC - tess
PAL vs NTSC, and michaeldvd.com review standards - Neil
Horses for courses, Tess - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)
ntsc vs pal -
soundtrack issues -