Dario Argento likes to make films about people being killed I would rather see a beautiful girl killed than an ugly girl or a man, is Argentos brazen-faced justification of his work. Nothing wrong about that one supposes, least of all Argentos frank honesty about the matter. What does get one though is the wildness of Argentos pretensions. Sometimes Argento is capable of staging his killings with an extraordinary artistry, whereas other time they seem wildly over-the-top. Suspiria is a film that is almost operatic in its excesses. Within the first few minutes of the film, it is not merely enough for Argento to kill a girl instead she has her head smashed through a window, then have her stabbed to death, a noose slung around her neck before she is finally thrown through a stained glass window to be left hanging on the end of the rope.
Visually, Suspiria seems to hover on the edge of a fairytale. The sets and lighting scheme swamp the eye in a gorgeous colour palette of scarlet reds, velvet blues and iridescent greens so thick they seem to ooze right off the screen. Some of the plays of light throughout are amazing. Out of this, Dario Argento creates a genuinely haunted atmosphere, as though the film seems caught on the abyss of the otherworldly. There is the moment when Jessica Harper leaves the airport and a mysterious wind emerges from nowhere seemingly harrying her, and the subsequent drive through the forest where eyes appear outside the window. There is an exquisitely haunted scene in the square where the blind piano player is killed, which is staged with the classical buildings surrounding the square all beautifully underlit while the giant shadow of a never-seen bird flaps about overhead. Throughout there are all the Argento-esque scenes of trademark arty ultra-violence the aforementioned scenes with the first victim being stabbed, hung and dropped through a stained glass window; the piano player whose throat is ripped out by his seeing-eye dog; and the great scene where one girl flees the killer and crawls through a window only to become enmeshed in tangles of barbed wire that fill the room.
There is also no narrative to Suspiria. Argento has lifted much of the films premise about a series of murders in a girls boarding school from the excellent and underrated Spanish film The House That Screamed (1969) where the major addition here is an occult explanation for the killings. Not much makes sense in the film; in fact, that is an extreme understatement plotting could be said to arrive with an arbitrary incoherence. The killings seem random and with little connection. A dormitory is plagued by a rain of worms, a room is filled with barbed wire, with no explanation offered other than what Argento derives from the immediacy of the effect. The lack of unifying narrative makes Suspiria feel empty, a film that is carried by style alone. This is something that one always has to accept or reject as being part and parcel of the Dario Argento film. Many regard Suspiria as Dario Argentos finest film. Personally, one feels that the artistry is not as polished as it would become on some later Argento films such as this films sequel Inferno (1980) or the glorious Opera/Terror at the Opera (1987), and these combined tend to make Suspiria seem one of the more overrated in Dario Argentos canon.
Much has existed in legend about supposedly uncut Italian versions of Suspiria that contain scenes that are too gory for English-language release, although this is more fan myth than anything else. The scene where the blind piano players seeing eye dog turns and kills him was cut in many versions that came out at the time but this has been restored for most modern video/dvd releases.
Inferno (1980) was Dario Argentos sequel where he announced that both films were part of a trilogy set around The Three Mothers Mater Suspiriorum, Mater Tenebrarum and Mater Lachrymarum. It took Argento a further 27 years to complete the promised third film with Mother of Tears: The Third Mother (2007), although in the interim Luigi Cozzis cheap The Black Cat (1990) purported to be an unofficial sequel. A US remake of Suspiria was announced during the 2010s under David Gordon Green but finally seems to be set as an Italian production for 2017 release with Dakota Johnson in the Jessica Harper role.
Dario Argentos other genre films are: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), The Cat ONine Tails (1971), Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971), Deep Red (1976), Inferno (1980), Tenebrae/Unsane (1982), Phenomena/Creepers (1985), Opera/Terror at the Opera (1987), Two Evil Eyes (1990), Trauma (1993), The Stendhal Syndrome (1996), The Phantom of the Opera (1998), Sleepless (2001), The Card Player (2004), Mother of Tears: The Third Mother (2007), Giallo (2009) and Dracula (2012).
Terrible US theatrical trailer here:-
Excellent fan-edited trailer here:-