Suspiria is a 1977 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento, and co-written by Argento and actress Daria Nicolodi. Nicolodi claims the plot was inspired by an experience of her grandmother’s. The setting was originally to be a children’s school but was later changed to a dance school for older teenagers. It stars Jessica Harper, Alida Valli, Udo Kier and Joan Bennett in her final film role.
Entertainment Weekly rated the film #18 of its top 25 scariest movies of all time, saying it had “the most vicious murder scene ever filmed”. A poll among critics at Total Film named it as the 3rd greatest horror film of all-time. It was rated #24 on the cable channel Bravo’s list of the “100 Scariest Movie Moments”.
Suspiria is the first of a film trilogy Argento refers to as “The Three Mothers”, about evil forces attempting to break through to the earth and wreak merciless havoc. Argento’s next film, Inferno (1980), was the second in the trilogy, and the third is The Mother of Tears.
By a poll of film critics conducted by the Village Voice, Suspiria was named the 100th greatest film made during the 20th century.
A glass feather is plucked from an ornament. Director Dario Argento’s feature film debut was directing L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (1970).
Joan Bennett’s last feature film.
The first part (with Inferno (1980) and La terza madre (2007)) of a trilogy of films about the “Three Mothers”.
Director Dario Argento composed the creepy music with the band Goblin and played it at full blast on set to unnerve the actors and elicit a truly scared performance.
It is often incorrectly assumed that, to achieve the rich color palette, the film was shot using the outdated 3-strip Technicolor process. This is untrue. No film made after the mid-1950s was shot using this method. The film was instead shot on normal Eastman Color Kodak stock, then printed using the 3-strip Technicolor process, utilizing one of the last remaining machines. This issue has been confused somewhat by the fact that, on the 25th anniversary documentary featured in the 3-disc DVD set, a discussion of the printing process by cinematographer Luciano Tovoli was incorrectly followed by a diagram showing a 3-strip camera.
Director Dario Argento’s original idea was the ballet school would accommodate young girls not older 12. However the studio and producer (his father) denied his request because a film this violent involving children would be surely banned. Dario Argento raised the age limit of the girls to 20 but didn’t rewrite the script, hence the naivety of the characters and occasionally childlike dialogue. He also put all the doorknobs at about the same height as the actress’ heads, so they will have to raise their arms in order to open the doors, just like children.
Originally the film was to have starred Daria Nicolodi, who was Dario Argento’s girlfriend at the time and who also wrote the screenplay. However, Argento decided to go with a younger actress. Daria Nicolodi does appear in the film twice: she can be glimpsed in the film’s opening sequence that shows Susy walking through the airport, and she also provides the gravelly voice of Helena Markos.
Tina Aumont had been offered the lead role, but due to scheduling conflicts, she could not accept.
The woman playing Helna Markos is not credited. According to Jessica Harper, the woman was a 90 year old ex-hooker Argento found on the streets of Rome.
The voice heard whispering on the bizarre soundtrack by Goblin is that of Goblin band member Claudio Simonetti. Simonetti stated in interviews that much of what he whispers on the music score is just gibberish.
Director trademark: [Dario Argento] Murder victim crashes through window.
Director trademark: [Dario Argento] Character recalls clues from memory.
Dario Argento was inspired to make this film by stories of Daria Nicolodi’s grandmother, who claimed to have fled from a German music academy because witchcraft was being secretly practiced there.
The films finale was inspired by a dream that co-writer Daria Nicolodi once had. In the dream Nicolodi said she had encountered an invisible witch and most bizarrely there was a panther in the room with her that suddenly exploded. The dream was written into the film, only in the film it’s a porcelain panther that explodes – rather than the real panther that appeared in Nicolodi’s dream.
Star Jessica Harper said in interviews that the most frightening scene in the film for her was the grand finale where everything explodes and shatters around her as she flees the academy. Harper said that the rigged explosions where quite unnerving as they were placed close to her on the sets.
According to star Jessica Harper since the film was going to be dubbed after principle photography, sound was rarely recorded during shooting. Harper remarked that it was strange to her to be in the middle of shooting a scene and hearing the background sound of a stage hand hammering away on another set in the studio.
The Argento biography book “Broken Mirrors, Broken Minds” takes it title from the line that Udo Kier says in this film.
While shooting the scene where Suzy and Sara swim in the pool Argento instructed the actresses to stir the pool waters as little as possible to give the scene a more tranquil look.
Dario Argento cast Jessica Harper as the lead after seeing Harper’s debut performance in Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise (1974).
For the wide shots of the ‘maggots’ falling from the ceiling the crew would drop gains of rice down onto the actresses from above.
The film was shot over four months.
Argento had cinematographer Luciano Tovoli watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) to have him model the color scheme of that film for Suspiria.
According to Daria Nicolodi the lead role in the film was written for her, but the studio insisted that an American actress be cast for the lead to make the film more marketable.
Argento cast Joan Bennett as Madame Blanc because of her associations with director ‘Fritz Lang’, whom Argento was an admirer of.
Fulvio Mingozzi plays a cab driver in this film and also plays a cab driver in Suspiria’s sequel, Inferno (1980).
In an interview with star Jessica Harper, she said that many of the actors on set spoke different languages during shooting. According to Harper most either spoke Italian or German and it would make communicating difficult at times. However since the film would be dubbed for American release it was deemed not to be an issue during filming.
Eva Axén who played the part as Pat Hingle had to stay on the set over one week to complete her scenes.