Monday, March 15, 2010
Suspiria is one of Dario Argentos most beloved films and is the first part of The Three Mothers trilogy. One of the things people find most appealing about the film is the use of vibrant color, especially red, in a nightmarish setting.
The film has a slow build to the climax but boasts some of the most graphic killing scenes ever filmed. Another interesting aspect is that this was the last film to be processed in Technicolor before the plant closed.
During a night of rain and thunder, a young American ballet student, Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper), lands in Munich to attend a prestigious dance academy in Freiburg. When she reaches the school, she witnesses another student, Pat Hingle (Eva Axén), fleeing the building in a panic. Unable to gain access herself, Suzy stays in town for the night.
Pat arrives at a friend's apartment where she is attacked and murdered. She is stabbed several times. The killer then winds a cord around her neck that finally hangs her when she crashes through a stained-glass ceiling. On the floor directly below, Pat's friend is also killed when she is hit by falling glass and metal.
On her arrival at the academy the next morning, Suzy is introduced to Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) and Miss Tanner (Alida Valli). In a recurring Argento plot device also used prominently in Profundo Rosso and Tenebrae, Suzy realizes she recalls overhearing something Pat said the night before, but is unable to remember it. Suzy meets Olga (Barbara Magnolfi) and Sarah (Stefania Casini) and learns that she is to board off-campus with Olga. The following morning, Blanc informs her that a dormitory room is now free but Suzy says she would prefer to stay where she is. After a strange encounter with the cook (Franca Scagnetti), Suzy passes out during a lesson and awakens to discover the staff have moved her into a dormitory room against her wishes. Sarah's room is next door, and the two become friends.
As the school prepares for dinner, maggots begin to fall from the ceiling. Tanner discovers crates of spoiled food on the floor above, and the students and staff are forced to sleep in the practice hall overnight. During the evening, Sarah identifies a distinctive whistling snore as that of the school's director, who is not due to return for several weeks. The next morning class is interrupted when Tanner accosts the blind pianist Daniel (Flavio Bucci), telling him that his guide dog has bitten Blanc's young nephew Albert (Jacopo Mariani). Outraged, Daniel proudly resigns immediately. That night, Suzy hears the staff as they leave for the night, but realizes they seem to be heading somewhere inside the building. While discussing this with Sarah, she becomes suddenly drowsy and goes to sleep, leaving Sarah to count the footsteps she hears as they pass. Meanwhile, Daniel the pianist is killed on his way home when his dog becomes spooked and tears his throat out.
Next day, Suzy upsets Sarah by telling Blanc that she heard Pat saying the words "iris" and "secret" the night she died. As the two girls swim, Sarah reveals that she was close to Pat and that Pat had been taking notes and talking strangely for some time. Later, she discovers the notes are gone. Once again, Suzy comes over drowsy and Sarah flees her friend's room just before an unseen person enters. Escaping to the attic, Sarah is attacked and finally murdered after becoming trapped in a room full of razor wire.
Finding Sarah's room empty the following day, Suzy goes to meet her friend's psychologist Dr. Mandel (Udo Kier). Mandel explains that the school was founded by Helena Markos, a Greek émigré, who was believed to be a witch. Markos is also known as Mater Suspiriorum, or the Mother of Sighs. Mandel's colleague Professor Millus tells Suzy that a coven can only survive with their queen.
Back at school, Suzy discovers all the students have gone to the theater. Finally suspicious of her prescribed glass of wine, she dumps it and listens for the footsteps of the staff. After her count, Suzy finds herself in Blanc's office. Noticing irises painted on the wall she finally recalls what Pat was saying the night she was killed, and finds a door hidden in the wall. Beyond, she discovers a ritual chamber where the coven is gathered, apparently directed by Blanc and comprising most of the rest of the staff. Unseen, Suzy learns she is to be killed, and finds Sarah's corpse. In another room she finds the directress and accidentally wakes her. The directress reveals herself as Helena Markos and taunts Suzy, calling Sarah's reanimated corpse into the room to attack her. Suzy lunges at the outline of Markos, fatally stabbing her through the neck with the tailfeather from a glass peacock. Suzy then flees out of the school and into the night as the school bursts into flame, destroying the entire coven.
And yes, this is another classic horror film that is slated for a remake. I don't see how they could make this film any better, so why try?