GoreMaster 100 Films Archives

Suspiria released August 12, 1977

Suspiria

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.

Trivia:

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It is often incorrectly assumed that, to achieve the rich color palette, the film was shot using the outdated 3-strip Technicolor process.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.

The Wicker Man released June 1975

The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man is a 1973 British film, combining thriller, existential horror and musical genres, directed by Robin Hardy and written by Anthony Shaffer. The film stars Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt, and Britt Ekland. Paul Giovanni composed the soundtrack. The film is now considered a cult classic.

Based very loosely on David Pinner’s 1967 novel The Ritual, the story centres on the visit of Police Sergeant Neil Howie to the isolated island of Summerisle, in search of a missing girl the locals claim never existed. Howie is a devout Christian, and is appalled by the reconstructed form of Celtic paganism practised by the inhabitants of the island.

The Wicker Man is generally well regarded by critics and film enthusiasts. Film magazine Cinefantastique described it as “The Citizen Kane of Horror Movies”, and during 2004 the magazine Total Film named The Wicker Man the sixth greatest British film of all time. It also won the 1978 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film. A scene from this film was #45 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments.

A badly-received 2006 Canadian/German/American remake was produced, from which Robin Hardy and others involved with the original have disassociated themselves.

The Wicker Tree, a “spiritual sequel” also directed by Hardy, is set for release in 2010.

Trivia:

Although the film is set in May it was filmed in October and November 1972.


A body double was secretly used for the naked rear shots of Willow dancing. The scenes were filmed after Britt Ekland had left the set. The body double was used because Ekland would only agree to topless shots of her body. After shooting was over, not only was Ekland furious to learn she had been doubled in some shots but that she was also a few weeks pregnant in that scene. Director Robin Hardy says it was Ekland herself who did not want her bottom to be filmed, as she did not like it.


The negative and the outtakes of the film were stored at the vault in Shepperton studios. When it was bought, the new owner gave the order to clear the vault to get rid of all the old stuff. Foolishly, the vault manager put the negatives, which just arrived from the lab, with the ones which were to be destroyed..


Director Robin Hardy originally wanted Michael York for the role of Sgt. Howie. When it turned out he was unavailable, David Hemmings was considered before writer Anthony Shaffer and producer Peter Snell recommended Edward Woodward who had always been Snell’s first choice to play the part.


Edward Woodward was always the producers first choice for the role of Howie (despite the director favouring Michael York).


Christopher Lee agreed to appear in this film for free.


Although the film is set in Scottish territory and all the characters are meant to be of Scottish nationality, all five of of the leading cast are not Scottish: Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward are English, Diane Cilento is Australian, Ingrid Pitt is Polish and Britt Ekland is Swedish.


This film was intended as a vehicle for Christopher Lee. Lee himself has said that he considers this to be one of his greatest ever roles.


Was filmed in 1972 in Dumfries and Galloway in South West Scotland, and there was some controversy when Britt Ekland labeled it as the “bleakest place on Earth”. The producers were forced to apologize to the locals.


John Sharp was second choice to play the island’s doctor. The role was originally intended for Patrick Newell.


It is rumored that the original negative of the full length version was used as landfill in the M3 motorway in England. Actor Christopher Lee has said that this was apparently done on purpose, because of Michael Deeley’s dislike of the film.


The current version available in the USA and UK is still incomplete, despite its ‘director’s cut’ status. Still missing is a lengthy speech made by Lord Summerisle on apples.


Britt Ekland was dubbed by Annie Ross.


The last film of Ian Wilson.


The film gives it’s name to a music and arts festival (The Wickerman Festival) which has been held annually in the area where the film was shot (Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland) since 2004. At the end of the festival a giant Wicker Man sculpture is burned as a ‘sacrifice to the festival gods’.


The stumps of the wicker-man used in the final burning scene remained at the location of the shoot for decades and became a landmark for fanatics. There was outrage by fans as the stumps were cut down and stolen in late 2006.


Although Rowan was played by ‘Geraldine Cowper’ it is her twin sister Jackie whose photograph is handed around by Howie, and in fact during the chase through the caves Jackie appeared in a couple of shots instead of Gerry.


The ‘evil eye’ rowing boat, which takes Howie to and from his plane, was not constructed for the film. It belonged to a resident of Plockton. Upon seeing it, the producers decided it would suit the film. The boat survived until 2004 when it was destroyed in a storm.


Rowan Morrison was born on the 13th November 1960.


In The Directors Cut, there is a scene in which we see Howie and McTaggart in their police car, that was filmed in a garage. The illusion of passing cars was created by two crew members waving torches past their windscreen.


During Filming, Britt Ekland said Dumfries And Galloway were the most dismal place in creation. The producers had to apologize to the local press for her comments.


During filming, Anthony Shaffer’s brother Peter stood in for Howie’s Mr Punch during one shoot.


According to director ‘Robin Hardy’, Howie’s final speech is based upon Walter Raleigh’s dying words.


Robin Hardy makes a cameo appearance in the film as the preacher in the mainland church scene. Screenwriter Anthony Shaffer was present during the filming of the final scenes and is said to be among the villagers.


Until 2009 this film was never officially released in Germany. Only then it was released on DVD by Kinowelt (however, since it was not released before, without a German dub).


Information concerning the film’s checkered distribution history in the US: Opened 9/30/77 in Minneapolis MN with a PG rating; another run on 1/28/81. Variety reviewed it in their 5/15/74 issue. New Orleans run 10/28/78; San Francisco January 1979; Los Angeles with new ad campaign 3/9/79 and R rating; New York 3/26/80 with R rating and distributed by Dynamite Entertainment-Abraxas Releasing.


The letter kick-starting the investigation (seen in the Director’s Cut) is addressed to: Sgt Neil Howie, West Highland Police, Ullwater.

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