Suspiria (1977) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

In this case, I'm not sure if it makes any sense to report that the emperor is naked. 

This horror movie from Dario Argento is rated 3 stars by Leonard Maltin. It has 100% positive reviews at RT. It is rated a near-classic 7.2 at IMDb. It has been issued in a numbered special edition 3-disk DVD set. People treat this film as if it were the Pieta of horror movies, and how can one cast soil upon the Pieta? 

Now let's give the devil his due. The praise they lavish upon this film is essentially deserved, in that: 

  • It is visually magnificent. The set design and the primary color indirect lighting, coupled with the unusual camera work, make it an updated, color version of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, kind of a visual statement of what the world might look like to a madman.

  • The music by Goblin is creepy.

  • The combination of the first two factors gives some scenes an extraordinary atmospheric punch. It's the kind of film that could kick you hard if you fire up a doobie before watching it.


 Now let's make a note of some negative things the critics do not often mention:
  • The acting, as it so often is in these post-dubbed films, is irredeemably bad. If you aren't aware of it, the Italian filmmakers were light years ahead of the rest of the world in their sophisticated mastery of the channels of distribution to the international market. Their works were probably the only films shown immediately in both the Soviet Union and the USA, as well as far-flung places like India and the Philippines. The great directors, Dario and Sergio Leone, even Fellini, filmed everything without sound. Everything was post-dubbed into whatever language they needed. Jessica Harper points out in the bonus DVD material that the actors would be acting in one scene while the stage hands were hammering away on another set only a few feet away, just out of camera range. Dario almost never recorded live sound in any movie, and never did at all in this one. On the other hand, it is the best acting Udo Kier has ever done.  You see, even though Udo speaks English, they didn't let him do his own voice in the English version, and the guy who overdubbed his lines is much more believable as a shrink than Udo would have been with his Peter Lorre delivery.
  • The witch make-up is about equivalent to your kids' Halloween costumes, and is shot in excessively lingering close-up to allow us to see every piece of latex.
  • The plot is no better than the plot in any other grade-z horror movie.
  • The plot exposition is done by long monologues - Harper goes to visit Kier, who says "why, didn't you know? The academy was founded back in 1718 as a ..... add ten minutes of exposition"
  • The special effects are ... um ... let's just say pre-CGI
  • The film seems to end with no satisfying catharsis.
  • Those wonderful moments of fright and those visual splendors I mentioned don't constitute a big chunk of the running time.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1 - excellent transfer

  • Three disks - movie on the first one, new documentary on the second, isolated musical score on the third

The plot:

An American girl arrives at a European ballet academy where she is to study on scholarship. As she knocks on the door in a howling wind and a downpour, another girl runs from the academy in fright.

She sees a lot of scary, suspicious stuff. Well sir, turns out the academy is a coven.

That's about it.

You know what kind of flick it is, and that others consider it the top of the line. I agree that it is one of the most stylish horror films ever created, but apart from that is very ordinary.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.3 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Top of the line in stylish Italian horror flicks. I feel it has great parts, but is not that easy to watch, because there are many weaknesses, and the great parts don't constitute such a great whole. It's a good flick, but way overrated. But, let's be honest, mine is a minority opinion.

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