Darkness, tears, and sighs. - Recommended 4.5 Stars

American Ballet dancer Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) arrives at the elite German Tanz dance academy in a blinding rain storm as another student is fleeing. While she is refused entry, she returns the next morning to find that the woman she saw trying to escape, is now dead under violent circumstances. Putting her nerves behind her Suzy quickly rises in stature at the academy, under the tutelage of Miss Tanner (Alida Valli) and Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett). She also enlists the other students to investigate the academy as odd things keep occuring, including a maggot infestation, strange lights and illnesses, and further deaths as well. Ultimately Suzy uncovers the secrets hidden below: The dance company is a front for an ancient witches coven led by Mother Suspiria, the witch of sighs.

Suspiria (1977)
Released: 12 Aug 1977
Rated: R
Runtime: 92 min
Director: Dario Argento
Genre: Horror
Cast: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bosé
Writer(s): Dario Argento (screenplay), Daria Nicolodi (screenplay)
Plot: An American newcomer to a prestigious German ballet academy comes to realize that the school is a front for something sinister amid a series of grisly murders.
IMDB rating: 7.4
MetaScore: 79

Disc Information
Studio: Other
Distributed By: Synapse Films
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Audio: Dolby Atmos, English 4.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Italian 5.0 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 98 Min.
Package Includes: UHD
Case Type: Keep Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 11/19/2019
MSRP: $59.95

The Production: 3.5/5

Suspiria is a cult classic based on it’s use of splashy color and the hypnotizing audio of Italian band Goblin. In theatrical 4.0 surround audiences had likely never experienced such dramatic and enveloping sound before and the film was the first to employ three strip technicolor, as made famous by The Wizard of Oz. What it built up in splash and terror, it didn’t match in solid acting performances or entirely believable plot.

Somehow I never saw Suspiria until the Bluray release last year and I pined for a true UHD experience bringing HDR and Atmos sound to the party. We had to wait but both of those are on board and they were worth the wait. We also get a truckload of extras along for the ride, and they are worth diving in to as well.

The allegorical tale of a fish out of water besting an ancient cult as they attempt to bring her into the fold has been mined many times but few live up to the effort to make such a dramatic and overwhelming denouement as Suspiria does. Director Dario Argento has made a career of these types of films tho, and Suspiria might be the highlight of his output, and certainly is the best known of his 3 witches trilogy.

It was hard for me to look at Suspiria with anything but 2018 eyes when I saw it, and it took a lot to imagine what kind of impact it would have had on me had I seen it soon after it came out (I was 7 in 77). There’s not much to the plot but the oozing color, over the top sound, and the bubbling sexuality of the dancers likely would have had much bigger impact then than they did now on me. It all seemed so goofy in it’s over the top seriousness and attempted shock. Ultimately I was impressed with it technically but not in any way as a compelling story.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

Suspiria is a master class in how mid 70s era films can be restored to better than theatrical quality in 2019. The vibrant Technicolor imagery is a thing of beauty when matched with HDR monitors that simply would not have existed 5 years ago, let alone 40. It’s remarkably sharp too, and despite the dark environs in which it takes place grain is ever present but never distracting. It simply looks beautiful and better than ANY other film of it’s era. I’d be incredibly happy to have something like, say, A New Hope, look this good =) The meticulous architecture, backgrounds, wallpapers, city streets, even the maggots look stunning.

Audio: 4.5/5

I thought the audio on the Bluray sounded good last year but this Atmos track pumps that up even higher, with more data pushed around the room and coming from multiple height planes. There’s not a lot of bass action until the finale, but that can be forgiven after 90 minutes of Goblin chants chimes and drums swirling around your ears and lodging their hushed eeriness in your spine.

Special Features: 4.5/5

Production features:
A new 4K restoration of the original uncut, uncensored Italian 35mm camera negative exclusively done by Synapse Films, with color correction supervised and approved by SUSPIRIA Director of Photography, Luciano Tovoli.
Original 4.0 1977 English language LCRS sound mix not heard since the theatrical release in 1977, presented in high-resolution DTS-HD MA 96kHz/24-bit audio, with newly translated removable English SDH subtitles.
All-new Dolby Atmos Remix and High Dynamic Range Presentation.
Italian 5.1 surround mix, with removable English subtitle translation.

Content features:
Two audio commentaries by authors and Argento scholars, Derek Botelho, David Del Valle and Troy Howarth.
Do You Know Anything About Witches? – 30 minute SUSPIRIA visual essay written, edited and narrated by Michael Mackenzie.
Suzy in Nazi Germany – Featurette on the German locations from SUSPIRIA.
A Sigh from the Depths: 40 Years of SUSPIRIA – All-new anniversary retrospective on the making of the film and its influence on cinema.
Olga’s Story – Interview with star Barbara Magnolfi.
Original theatrical trailers, TV spots and radio spots.
“International Classics” English “Breathing Letters” opening credit sequence from the U.S. release.
Alternate all-English opening and closing credits sequences, playable via seamless branching.
Reversible cover art by Wes Benscoter (I flipped mine!).

Overall: 4.5/5

Not only is this release the best that this film has ever looked and sounded (yes beating any and every theatrical presentation) but it’s likely better looking and sounding than any other film of its vintage. While you may or may not be a bigger fan of the film than I am, there is no doubting its influence on generations of horror creators and fans alike. This release is simply a lesson in how to treat a beloved film right from all angles, technically, artistically, historically and with heart and passion.

Without a doubt this release comes “Recommended”. It’s an ‘experience’ more than a film, and one that can’t be replicated. Note that I reviewed the 2018 ‘reimagining’ and that film has its charms for sure, but it’s so different that it’s nigh on impossible to compare the two.

B07XQRHW61

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Sam Posten

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Sam Posten

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Note that the review currently says Anchor Bay as the studio. We don't currently have a way for me to make this Synapse. I will fix that as soon as I can.
 

Bryan^H

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Great review Sam. My friend sampled this for me on his new TV/sound system. I was very impressed with it. I wouldn't call the steelbook Blu-Ray that I got last year garbage, but I will most likely never watch it again now this exists.
 
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Thanks. Here’s the thing, I know a lot of hard work went into that Blu-ray. It just is so really outpaced by the tech in this release that it’s hard to compare them.
 

Scott Merryfield

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Thanks for the review, Sam. I watched my copy right after it arrived, and was extremely pleased with both the video and audio quality of the disc. I also own the BD from Synapse (my wife's attempting to sell it for me), and was amazed the UHD could be this much better than that stellar release. I have a price ceiling of $20 for UHD titles normally, but I broke my rule for this one occasion and am glad I did.
 
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Sam Posten

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Yeah I was surprised at the $60 MSRP especially since they don't include a Bluray OR digital code. I get that small vendors can't make it up in volume but I'd hate to think of how many fans will pass on this excellent release because of the asking price.
 
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Vincent_P

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The images attached to this review are taken from the overseas TLE restoration, not the Synapse one, and are not reflective of how the color timing on the Luciano Tovoli-approved Synapse version looks.

It's also worth noting that SUSPIRIA was not filmed in 3-strip Technicolor. It was filmed on normal Kodak Eastmancolor negative, but was explicitly designed to be printed in I.B. Technicolor, and was one of the last films printed by Technicolor Rome in the I.B. process before they shut down their equipment and sold it off to China. Below is an excellent retrospective article from American Cinematographer where Tovoli discusses the lengths he took in collaboration with Technicolor Rome to achieve the unique colors for SUSPIRIA: https://ascmag.com/articles/suspiria-terror-in-technicolor

Vincent
 

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Thanks Vincent. I can only report the information I got online, which didn't make that distinction readily apparent to me:

13. IT WAS THE FINAL FILM TO BE PROCESSED IN THREE-STRIP TECHNICOLOR.


ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT
Color is very important in Suspiria. It adds to the fairy tale vibe and creates an otherworldly look that no other horror film has. One of the reasons for this is Argento’s insistence that the film be processed in three-strip Technicolor (the same process that gave classics like The Wizard of Oz their vibrant colors), which by the late 1970s had become both expensive and arcane. It was so arcane, in fact, that Technicolor was throwing out its three-strip processing equipment as the film was being made. Argento persuaded the Technicolor processors in Rome to hold on to a single machine until he finished Suspiria. He got the processing he wanted, and the film got its iconic look.
https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/503550/14-unforgettable-facts-about-‘suspiria’

The original Suspiria will never lose its fever pitch charm. The fact that the demand to see the film on celluloid in theaters 40 years after its release speaks volumes about its enduring impact on subsequent generations. Aside from the cultural impact, it’s the little trivial details that add to the film’s mysticism; random facts like Argento’s intentional placement of every doorknob of the academy at the eye-level 0f the female actors, magnifying the audience’s subconscious interpretation of the characters’ childlike naiveté. Or that Suspiria was the first Italian film to use the Steadicam technology for image stabilization. Or how Argento shot Suspira on Eastmancolor Kodak stock, then printed the film using the three-strip Technicolor process, utilizing one of the last remaining three-strip machines. After that, the three-strip process became obsolete. Yet, it lives on through this film.
https://www.filminquiry.com/suspiria-1977-review/


The production design and cinematography emphasize vivid primary colors, particularly red, creating a deliberately unrealistic, nightmarish setting, emphasized by the use of imbibition Technicolor prints. Commenting on the film's lush colors, Argento said:

"We were trying to reproduce the colour of Walt Disney's Snow White; it has been said from the beginning that Technicolor lacked subdued shades, [and] was without nuances—like cut-out cartoons."[14]

The imbibition process, used for The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939), is much more vivid in its color rendition than emulsion-based release prints, therefore enhancing the nightmarish qualities of the film Argento intended to evoke.[6] It was one of the final feature films to be processed in Technicolor,[15] having been shot on one of the last remaining Technicolor 3-strip cameras in Europe at the time; the rest had been returned to California.[6]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspiria

Also: HTF is not generally provided screenshots to use and we do not have the technical capability to break Bluray and UHD copy protection as some sites do.
 

Brian9229

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One little part of the review confused me; "Was the first film to employ three strip Technicolor, as made famous by the Wizard of Oz". Kind of sounds to me like Wizard of Oz used it first then, yeah?
 

Sam Posten

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One little part of the review confused me; "Was the first film to employ three strip Technicolor, as made famous by the Wizard of Oz". Kind of sounds to me like Wizard of Oz used it first then, yeah?
No, Oz did it later but more well known (much wider audience) is my understanding.

We got that right @Vincent_P ?