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SUSPIRIA (director/writer: Dario Argento; screenwriters: from the book Suspiria de Profundis by Thomas De Quincey/Daria Nicolodi; cinematographer: Luciano Tovoll; editor: Franco Fraticelli; music: The Goblins/Dario Argento; cast: Jessica Harper (Suzy Banyon), Stefanla Casini (Sara), Joan Bennett (Madame Blanc), Alida Valli (Miss Tanner), Flavio Bucci (Daniel), Giuseppe Transocchi (Pavlo), Udo Kier (Dr. Frank Mandel), Miguel Bosé (Mark), Barbara Magnolfi (Olga), Rudolf Schuendler (Prof. Milius), Renato Scarpa (Prof. Verdegast), Eva Axén (Patty ‘Pat’ Hingle); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Claudio Argento for Seda Spettacoll; Anchor Bay; 1977-Italy-in Italian with English subtitles)
“Only catches fire when it has run out of imagination to end it in any other way but through a pyrotechnic display.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Italian horror film director Dario Agento (“Deep Red”) shoots an all style no substance blood-splatter supernatural/horror film, perhaps an outlandish cross between The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby. Its horror is of the arty atmospheric kind; its story is of the non-existent kind. It seems inappropriate to criticize Agento after he puts in such an effort to make it so scary, yet the truth is the film only catches fire when it has run out of imagination to end it in any other way but through a pyrotechnic display. It’s based on the book Suspiria de Profundis by Thomas De Quincey.

Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper) is an earnest young American ballet student who arrives by plane on a rainy night in Freiberg, Germany to attend the prestigious Tans Academy, a ballet school, and gets locked out. She finds out the next day a monster mangled a student (Eva Axén) she saw running out of the boarding school mumbling some gibberish to herself. It leads to Suzy finding the school, which is decorated like a bordello, turning out to be a front for a witches coven and a place more interested in murder than dance. The damsel-in-distress gets assaulted by location, weather, unfeeling students, the tyrannical mysterious co-directors Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) and Miss Tanner (Alida Valli), heavy-breathing from ghosts, a plague of white worms, bodies of students and staff piling up as grizzly murder victims, loud Tubular-Bells music from the Goblins in the form of a haunting childhood lullaby (which might be the scariest thing in the pic) and your usual thunderstorms as horror pic staples of fright. It’s all about Agento showing off his technical skills through the use of colorful sets, peculiar camera angles and lighting effects. Baroque and overbaked to a fault, it sticks to the grotesque, perverse and crass trying to offer a thrill a minute. It’s the kind of horror film that seems proudest of itself that the vics were so cleverly eliminated in a brutal but obvious fake way. It’s more a cotton candy visual treat than a thinking man’s film, but despite its slightness offers some cheap thrills for those who are not squeamish.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”