Tuesday, August 01, 2017

3 Off My Head: Suspiria Lost, Suspiria Gained

A post shared by Jason Adams (@jasonaadams) on

I told you a few weeks back how a pristine 35mm copy of Dario Argento's masterpiece Suspiria had been unearthed in Italy was getting  a tour around the country - well it's playing here in NYC right now in a sold out run at the Metrograph and I saw it Sunday night. It was a religious experience, but then you knew that. 

The surprise (although it shouldn't have been, since I knew the print had come from Italy) was the movie being dubbed into Italian. It was an odd reversal of how giallo films are usually seen in this country - I'm used to seeing these Italian films dubbed, usually badly, into English. But the original Suspiria is actually in English in the first place, and so the twenty times I've seen it before I've seen it hearing the English-speaking actors' (like Jessica Harper and Joan Bennett) real voices. This time, however, I saw the opposite - it was dubbed into Italian, with English subtitles. It made for a new, strange viewing experience of a movie I am deeply familiar with.

Or am I? I thought I was an expert on this movie, but I caught all sorts of things I never had noticed before with this viewing. And I had seen Suspiria on the big screen once before this, so perhaps my eyes were searching the image harder this time since I was listening to the dialogue (the dubbed dialogue) less? Whatever the case here are three moments from the movie that I finally caught this time:

1) When Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) gets blinded by the shaft of light off that strange gold pyramid that the old cook is cleaning (which the witches use to make Suzy sick and move her into the school) I'd never noticed that the little boy smiles a creepy smile as the shaft of light hit her directly:

It's hard to even tell in that lo-fi gif but on the big screen you can see the creepy little weirdo smiles as the light hits her and stops smiling as the light fades. God he's a creep.

2) When Sarah is being chased through the school, right before she is murdered in one of the movie's most brutal scenes, she is walking through an empty room and doesn't notice that THERE ARE EYES RIGHT BEHIND HER. You actually can't even tell on the DVD copy I have here, seen above; here, let me lighten it a bunch:

Behind her in the shadows there! And you still can hardly see them here, but on the big screen they were yellow and bright and unmissable. They're identical to the eyes you see in the first murder scene of the film outside of the window:

I used to claim that Suspiria is a movie you just have to roll with - that it typifies Dario Argento's "dream logic" and whatever you think doesn't make sense is intentionally confusing. But I honestly find it far less confusing than I used to, and this connection between murder scenes - these yellow eyeballs in more than one location - makes it even less bewildering.

3) Right before Sarah is murdered by those yellow eyeballs though we get a shot of the murder weapon - this fancy straight razor - being pulled out of its case, in which also sits a pair of pearl tipped pins. And later on when Sarah's reanimated corpse makes its monstrous reappearance...

... I had never ever noticed before that Sarah has those pearly pins stuck in her eyeballs! This one's actually fairly clear now that I have noticed it, but the scene's always moving at such a clip that I'd somehow totally skimmed past it before.

So you see? Suspiria is actually
100% coherent after all! Who knew?

Have you noticed any of these moments before? 


mangrove said...

Wow! Sara (not Sarah, you rube) being stalked by Helena's shadow is a great find! I never caught sight of her, on DVD nor blu-ray. Off to check!

Jason Adams said...

Haha "Sara" versus "Sarah" was one of those things that I thought to myself as I typed it to double-check before I hit "publish" and then didn't because I am terribly lazy. Oh well!

Anonymous said...

I love "Suspiria" so much, and have seen it at least 20 times, but had never noticed some of the things you pointed out here, so thank you. By the way I would love to know what your opinion is on "Inferno", the sequel to "Suspiria", which I believe is an equally beautiful film that never gets discussed as much.