The Curator of Schlock #334 by Jeff Shuster
The greatest horror movie of all time? I won’t argue.
I made one request of Jervis. While I am busy scribbling away on the My-Dinner-With-Andre-but-with-vampires script, I thought a nice, cool glass of egg nog might hit the spot. I asked that the next time Jervis stop by the grocers that he pickle me up some. What does he buy me? Horizon Organic Low Fat Egg Nog. Are you kidding me? I can’t get the real stuff. I’m going to figure out a way to deal with Wally, Celestial, and Jervis. I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!
Speaking of hell, this week’s movie is 1977’s Suspiria from director Dario Argento. Jessica Harper plays Suzy Bannion, an American ballet student who travels to Freiburg, Germany to attend a famous dance academy. Unfortunately, there are sinister happenings going on at this dance school and by sinister happenings, I mean witchcraft. Nasty, nasty witchcraft.
Suspiria is the ultimate horror movie about witchcraft.
I believe it was the last movie in Europe shot with a technicolor camera. Accompanying the gorgeous visuals is a jolting score by the Italian prog-rock band Goblin.
So I’m struggling a bit to give my thoughts on Suspiria in that it’s as close to a perfect horror movie as I’ve ever seen. More often than not, horror seems to be about regular people running into evil. Sometimes that evil comes from the natural world, but sometimes it’s preternatural. And sometimes that regular person is destroyed by that evil. When you go into a horror movie, you don’t know if the main character is going to survive.
Take Suzy Bannion for example, an ordinary American woman visiting Germany. She comes European ancestry, might even be part German, but that country is as foreign to her as any other. When she arrives at the school, she notices another student running from the academy into the stormy night. Said student is murdered in a painful and terrifying fashion by some kind of spell. These spells attack other faculty and students at the school, anyone who gets too close to figuring out secret of the academy, that members are involved in the occult.
I remember when I first watched Suspiria, I kept trying to figure out who the witch was. Was it Madame Blanc, the aging headmistress of the academy as played by Joan Bennett? How about Miss Tanner (Alida Valli), an angry woman with a thick German accent that would probably feel right at home in the Third Reich? We’ve got Pavlos, a creepy Romanian dude with false teeth, and Albert who resembles Little Lord Fauntleroy. Which one of them is the witch? They all are.
The above mentioned belong to a coven running the academy. At the head of this coven is Helena Markos, a witch know as the “Black Queen,” thought to have died in a fire many years earlier. The coven kills anyone that gets wise to them. And they have set their sites on Suzy Bannon which they refer to as a “bitch of an American girl.” Well the coven shouldn’t underestimate the American girl. Sometimes it’s the American girl that will succeed where others failed. Sometimes it’s the American girl that will whoop your ass.
June 19, 1950 to November 26, 2020
There would be no Suspiria without Daria Nicolodi. She cowrote the screenplay, inspired by tales she’d heard about a ballet academy run by practitioners of the occult, Daria Nicolodi starred in several Italian movies, but she was a writer as well as a performer. I’ve covered movies of her on the blog before and will cover more. May she rest in peace.