Review: Suspiria (1977), directed by Dario Argento
Suspiria is the first of a trilogy about “The Three Mothers,” a trio of witch sisters who each have taken over a great house in different parts of the world. The Mother of Sighs, the oldest sister, has a dance academy in Germany.
Now, these are old-school fairy-tale witches, not to be confused with crystal-rubbing Wiccans of today. Their aim is to corrupt, to do evil, and to confuse and manipulate. And murder, of course. Otherwise, what would Argento do with all of that Da-Glo red blood?
Jessica Harper, whom you may remember from Shock Treatment, plays American dancer Suzy, who has traveled all the way to Freiburg, Germany to be part of this prestigious academy. Very soon, she sees that something strange is going on, and the more she learns, the more bizarre and frightening the story gets.
Soon, the witch and her coven decide she is too damned nosy for her own good. It gets bad. As in Rosemary’s Baby, she finds no one believes her, and the witches are trying to control her, and everybody seems in on it — or dead.
Argento’s use of color is fascinating to me. The whole set is so decorative and vibrant, and the horror scenes are brightly-lit with red and green colored lights. The air of the place is mystery and menace, and even when the horrible deaths occur, it is disturbing in large part because of the incongruity with the setting, not to mention the casual way the Academy covers them up.
Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy — like Polanski’s “Apartment Trilogy” and Luhrman’s “Red Curtain Trilogy,” is not precisely a linear collection of sequels. This movie features the first mother, Mater Suspiriorum, the Mother of Sighs. The second, in Inferno, is Mater Tenebrarum, Mother of Darkness. The third, Mater Lachrymarum, is, of course, Mother of Tears. The making of the trilogy spans 30 years (“The Apartment Trilogy” took 11 years, Luhrman’s trilogy spanned 9 years).
The meta-tale of the three titular witches* is fascinating. They interweave, and by the end quit a vivid history is uncovered.
*Titular Witches coming to the Vagasil Amphitheater tonight!
Suspiria (1977), directed by Dario Argento and co-written by Argento and Daria Nicolodi, starring Jessica Harper, Alida Valli, Udo Kier and Joan Bennett. Suspiria is the first of the trilogy Argento refers to as “The Three Mothers”, followed by Inferno and The Mother of Tears.
Mater Suspiria: Mother of Sighs