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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 10/15/01



Suspiria
Limited Edition - 1977 (2001) - Anchor Bay

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround
THX-certified

Suspiria: Limited Edition Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A+/A-

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A-/A

Specs and Features

Disc One: The Film
98 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:08:43 in chapter 18), triple Amaray keep case packaging, Daemonia music video, poster and stills gallery, talent bios, international and U.S. theatrical trailers, TV spot, 3 radio spots, essay/interview booklet, 9 lobby cards, Easter egg, THX Optimizer test signals, animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects and music, scene access (26 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 EX and 2.0 & DTS-ES 6.1), Italian and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Documentary
52 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.78:1 and 2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, triple Amaray keep case packaging, animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects and music, scene access (9 chapters), languages: English/Italian (DD 2.0), subtitles: English

Disc Three: Soundtrack CD
45 mins, 11 tracks, PCM 2.0 stereo

"Suzy and Sara. I once read that names which begin with the letter of 'S' are the names of snakes."

All right all you Giallo horror fans out there, listen up! Dario Argento's widely acclaimed and internationally revered Italian horror masterpiece Suspiria has finally arrived on DVD, and arrived in a colossal way as a robust 3-disc set, courtesy of Anchor Bay. And the only thing more impressive than the last disc of this set is the first two…

Suspiria is a rather simple story, and one that doesn't require too many words to summarize. The genuine attraction most people have to this film really isn't with the plot per se, but rather the downright creepy atmosphere that Argento was able to paint within the frames. Suzy Banyon (played by the lovely Jessica Harper who's an unbelievable dead ringer for A.I.'s Frances O'Connor) is a young American ballet dancer who has just arrived in Germany to attend the well-regarded Tanz Akademie dance school. No sooner is our heroine on the academy's doorstep on that fateful, stormy night does the madness begin. After one of the school's more troubled girls is brutally murdered, fear mounts within the mind of her former roommate Sara (Stefania Casini). Sara has been haunted by the thoughts that the school's Frau administrators and teachers are not what they seem, and something wicked may be going on behind the looming walls of the malevolent building. As Sara and Suzy become friends, they also become partners in a shared anxiety. As the two young women venture into the nucleus of the school's dark secrets, a terror awaits them unlike they ever expected.

Many critics and film fans believe Suspiria to be one of the scariest movies of all time. While I'll agree that it definitely possesses a uniquely sinister, eerie atmosphere - and this film is all about atmosphere - I don't consider it an especially white-knuckled frightening film. There are few scenes that caught me by surprise when I first viewed it (there's just something about doing a swan dive into razor wire that upsets me for some reason), but for the most part the out and out "scary" scenes of the film are not its strong points.

If you go into this film expecting a clean representation of reality, you'll be sorely disappointed, as the heart of the film will quickly pass you by. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs inspired Argento's stylistic vision for Suspiria, and within the film he attempted to create a nightmarish fairytale with a decidedly twisted and exaggerated perception of reality - a reality seen through the eyes of a frightened child. The overall depiction of color in the film's "world" is much bolder and more lurid than anything you'd experience in reality, and Argento's liberal use of a German Expressionistic tone help transport the viewer into storybook state of mind. The vivid primary colors used to enhance mood, and the exaggeratedly shaped objects with their long shadows are what provide this film with an atmosphere that's as spooky and spine-tingling as anything your likely to see in film. Juxtapose this against the intentional youthful curiosity and innocence portrayed in the characters of Suzy and Sara, and what you have is an unequivocally disturbing experience.

Presented in a brand new 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from the original negative under the supervision of Argento and cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, Suspiria is easily one of the elite few remastered DVD transfers that holds its own against newer films. The master is astoundingly clean and free of overt blemishes, and the amount of film grain is slight, and displayed at an appropriate level. Colors, which, again, are very important to the film's presentation, are boldly represented without oversaturation. Fine picture detail is impressive given the film's age, black level always appears deep and true, and I saw no signs of compression artifacting and distracting edge enhancement. This, dear readers, is a remastered transfer for the ages.

Not content with a plain old 5.1 remaster of Suspiria's audio, Anchor Bay went above and beyond expectations by including new Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS-ES 6.1 audio tracks. As the film opens, Goblin's hypnotic score slams you in the head, and just as you're trying to recover, you might run for shelter because the entire soundscape becomes engulfed in a rainstorm that sounds like a typhoon is hitting your house. The Dolby Digital track is nothing short of a Godsend for Suspiria junkies. The full range of your surround sound system will be exercised, and every speaker will sing with glee as this track dances throughout your living room. Dialog sounds very ADR-looped because, well, it is. This is forgivable because in Italian cinema during the time, filmmakers never bothered to record usable audio on set. Everything was dubbed and looped in post-production. That said, the dialog sounds a step above many of the other Italian horror films available on DVD. And as good as the Dolby track is, the DTS track goes even further by sporting a bit more subtle ambiance and a more coherent soundstage. Both audio tracks will surely excite you, but there is a bit of harshness in the tracks that begins to give away the film's age.

When it comes to supplements, the 3-disc Limited Edition of Suspiria might not be as exhaustive as its heft and number of discs might suggest, but its extras are still a fitting tribute to the film it supports. Disc one presents the film, and a number of smaller supplements beginning with a music video of Daemonia performing the main theme from Suspiria. This unintentionally comical pre-MTV video features a severe looking, leather clad heavy metal band intensely glaring into the camera and basking in harsh flood lighting and slow motion melodrama. Both the international and U.S. theatrical trailers are nestled on the first disc of the set, along with a TV spot and three radio spots. Packaged within the weighty 3-disc box (which is a cool variation on the dual keep case differing with a slightly wider width and two discs behind the backside door) are a set of nine lobby cards and a booklet containing an interesting essay on the film's history, and an interview with star Jessica Harper. These lobby cards are repeated in the first disc's poster/stills gallery, along with an array of international one-sheets. Rounding out the first disc's features are an Easter egg (hint: look in the bonus menu), and the now familiar does-anyone-really-use-these THX Optimizer signals (I'll stick with Video Essentials, thank you very much).

The second disc of the set features the new 52-minute Suspiria 25th Anniversary documentary. This piece is chock-full of interviews with director Dario Argento, cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, co-writer Daria Nicolidi, stars Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Udo Kier, and score composers/performers Goblin. As "making-of" documentaries go, this one is above average, but not spectacular. It does contain some great behind-the-scenes stories and anecdotes, and Argento goes into detail about his vision and inspiration for the film. There's also an interesting discussion about the then antiquated three-strip Technicolor process used to bring out the striking boldness of the film's color aesthetics. However, the cast and crew go a little overboard trying to deify Argento. He's so talented… he's such a visionary… he's unlike any other filmmaker… blah blah blah…

Disc three is a newly remastered soundtrack CD featuring the haunting, yet unnerving soundtrack for the film, composed and performed by Italian rock group Goblin. The disc is encoded with a standard PCM stereo audio track, and sounds downright fabulous. The music is richly detailed featuring all of the strange little audio cues and creepy chanting. The disc contains 11 tracks, and runs approximately 45 minutes.

So there you have it. If you have any kind of affection (unhealthy or otherwise) for Suspiria, then get yourself out to your favorite DVD retailer immediately… Go. Now! Why are you still reading? Amscray! For those of you unfamiliar with this film, or the Italian horror genre in general, then you are in for a real treat. Not only is Suspiria one of the best of its genre, but also it's by far one of the most accessible, and the perfect title with which to begin your collection. Anchor Bay continues to outshine itself, and this Limited Edition is no exception. A striking picture and state-of-the-art sound, coupled with a nice, but imperfect set of extras makes this one of the most impressive DVD releases for horror fans yet.

Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com




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