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Feature


American ballet student Suzy Bannon (Jessica Harper) flies to Freiburg, Germany to attend the  prestigious Tanz Dance Academy. The night she arrives, a storm is raging and a young woman from the Academy is viciously murdered. In the days that follow, Suzy and her new friend Sera (Stefania Casini) uncover a conspiracy constructed by a coven of witches.

Some readers may have come to expect long reviews when I’m sent a Dario Argento movie. This time, I find myself revisiting the director’s most famous film and likely the most famous Italian horror movie of any era, Suspiria. To make time for other reviews and because Suspiria has been lacking on North American Blu-ray for some time, I’ve decided to stick to reviewing this disc’s technical attributes. I just can’t imagine that I have anything new to bring to the table on this particular subject. However, if readers would be interested in a more in-depth exploration of the film, its place in Argento’s canon, and legacy, please inform me in the comments and I can probably find time for an update in the near future.

 Suspiria: Synapse 4K Restoration
 Suspiria: Nouveaux UK BD
Suspiria: Anchor Bay DVD

Video


Historically, Suspiria has been among the most readily available European horror films on North American home video. This included VHS releases from Magnum Entertainment and Fox Lorber, a Laserdisc from Image Entertainment, limited edition and standard DVDs from Anchor Bay, and a re-release of Anchor Bay’s DVD from Blue Underground. Synapse Films first announced they had acquired the rights in 2013 and that they were planning an extensive remaster, but, between then and their Limited Edition Steelbook release late last year, fans had to choose between importing BDs from either Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, 84 Entertainment in Germany, Nouveaux Pictures in the UK, Videa or Eagle Pictures in Italy, King Pictures in Japan, or Artvision in South Korea. Being the impatient type, I went for Nouveaux’s 2010 UK disc. This proved to be a mistake, because it was possibly the weakest of all HD versions. Interestingly enough, however, every version seems to have had its share of problems. At the very least, no two releases look exactly the same.

The key issue wasn’t detail or clarity as much as it was colour temperature and brightness. I have access to the Nouveaux disc, which has similar grading to the Italian and Japanese transfers, the Anchor Bay DVD, which was long considered by fans to be the superior transfer in terms of colour (despite its lack of resolution), and, now, Synapse’s release, which shares similarities to the German disc. Synapse has created an exclusive new 4K restoration (changed from their initial announcement of a 2K scan) of the original uncut, uncensored Italian 35mm camera negative. Early on, they worked closely with Technicolor in Rome and Los Angeles with the scan being coordinated by Technicolor Hollywood’s director of restoration services Tom Burton (also known for his restoration of Blade Runner). Later, they announced that their extensive colour correction would be supervised and approved director of photography Luciano Tovoli, which probably explains why the release was pushed from 2015 to 2017. Comparison caps from all three discs have been included here for comparison purposes – Synapse on the top, Nouveaux in the middle, and Anchor Bay’s DVD on the bottom.

 Suspiria: Synapse 4K Restoration
 Suspiria: Nouveaux UK BD
 Suspiria: Anchor Bay DVD
Without seeing every single transfer up close, I’m unable to draw a complete conclusion (I’ve heard that the Aussie disc is also quite good, yet have never seen it with my own eyes), but I find it hard to believe that anyone has matched what Synapse has done here, let alone surpassed it. Details are extremely tight-knit and the thorough digital clean-up hasn’t erased the film’s inherent grain texture. Most of all, they’ve fixed a number of grading issues. Reportedly, Tovoli also approved the transfer Nouveaux utilized (taken from an Italian remaster, hence the similarities). Given its washed-out, overly bright, and oddly pink qualities, I’m not sure he was fully invested in the project. As you can see, sequences with flashes of light appear completely blown out, while Synapse’s remaster more closely resembles the AB DVD hues and grading that fans have compared to original theatrical screenings. The 4K scan and 1080p capabilities allow for richer and punchier hues and, thankfully Synapse’s quality control has maintained subtler gamma/contrast levels. One more plus in the new transfer’s column is the more accurate representation of the anamorphic framing. Not only is there slightly more information on all sides of the screen, but the right and left edges of the frame are properly distorted during wide-angle panning shots. As far as I can tell, all previous releases have either slightly flattened or cropped the compositions to avoid this.

Audio


Suspiria was originally intended to be seen in 4.0 sound with discrete center, left, right, and rear channels. This was a relative rarity for the time (though the practice dates back to Fantasia in 1940) and, as a result, most theaters likely screened the film in stereo or mono. When the film came to DVD, Anchor Bay and Chance Sound remixed the tracks into a modern digital 5.1 format and variations of either that mix or a 2.0 stereo version were utilized for other releases. Synapse has finally gone back to the 4.0 original English tracks and have presented them in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio sound. Now, here’s the part where I remind everyone that Suspiria, like most Italian films of the era, was shot without sound and dubbed into various languages for international release. In many ways, the English dub is the preferred mix – not only for its aural qualities, but because the cast was speaking English on set during the production. In addition, a number of the English-speaking cast, such as Jessica Harper, Alida Valli, and Joan Bennett dubbed their own performances. They’ve also supplied a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio version of the Italian dub, which has its own advantages, such as Argento’s voice as opening narrator. The discrete LFE pumps up the impactful bass bits, but the 4.0 track still has plenty of low end, as well as sharper, louder stereo effects and more natural dialogue performances. Of course, Goblin’s incredible fright rock score is the star of the show as it pounds and reverberates through every one of the four channels with cracking drums and vibrating synth keyboards.

 Suspiria: Synapse 4K Restoration
 Suspiria: Nouveaux UK BD
 Suspiria: Anchor Bay DVD

Extras


Disc one:
  • Commentary with Troy Howarth – The co-author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films (pub: 2015) and Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films (pub: 2015) offers a professionally prepared, yet fully amiable commentary. He specializes in discussing behind-the-scenes factoids, technical aspects, the history of the Italian film industry, and compares the film to others in Argento’s canon.
  • Commentary with Derek Botelho and David Del Valle – Botelho, the author of The Argento Syndrome (pub: 2014), acts as expect this time, while Del Valle, author of Lost Horizons Beneath the Hollywood Sign (pub: 2016) and general horror movie culture gadabout takes a pseudo-moderator role. Fortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of overlap between the tracks, because Betelho’s expertise tends to pertain to Argento’s influences, his growth as a director, and the film’s artistic qualities.
  • Optional English language opening and closing credits available via seamless branching

Disc two:
  • A Sigh from the Depths: 40 Years of Suspiria (27:07, HD) – A new retrospective featurette from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures that includes interviews with a number of Argento fans and experts.
  • Do You Know Anything About Witches? (30:06, HD) - Michael Mackenzie writes, edits, and narrates this visual essay that revisits Argento’s career and the lasting impact of Suspiria.
  • Suzy in Nazi Germany (8:01, HD) – A look at the real-world Nazi history of many of Suspiria’s Munich locations.
  • Olga’s Story (17:14, HD) – A new interview with star Barbara Magnolfi, who reflects on her training, career, and work in Suspiria.
  • Breathing Letters opening credit sequence from International Classics’ U.S. release (1:41, HD)
  • Two US trailers, international trailer, three TV spots, and five radio spots


 Suspiria: Synapse 4K Restoration
 Suspiria: Nouveaux UK BD
 Suspiria: Anchor Bay DVD

Overall


Suspiria remains the alpha and omega of neon-deco Eurohorror nightmares and it is owed a remastered HD release this substantial. We can always use more extras, of course, but there’s a considerable number of brand-new supplements available alongside the fantastic, nearly perfect 4K restoration and original 4.0 soundtrack. Assuming that you don’t already have Synapse’s Limited Edition Steelbook, this two-disc collection comes highly recommended.

 Suspiria: Synapse 4K Restoration
 Suspiria: Nouveaux UK BD
 Suspiria: Anchor Bay DVD

 Suspiria: Synapse 4K Restoration
 Suspiria: Nouveaux UK BD
 Suspiria: Anchor Bay DVD

 Suspiria: Synapse 4K Restoration
 Suspiria: Nouveaux UK BD
 Suspiria: Anchor Bay DVD

 Suspiria: Synapse 4K Restoration
 Suspiria: Nouveaux UK BD
 Suspiria: Anchor Bay DVD

 Suspiria: Synapse 4K Restoration
 Suspiria: Nouveaux UK BD
 Suspiria: Anchor Bay DVD

 Suspiria: Synapse 4K Restoration
 Suspiria: Nouveaux UK BD
 Suspiria: Anchor Bay DVD

 Suspiria: Synapse 4K Restoration
 Suspiria: Nouveaux UK BD
 Suspiria: Anchor Bay DVD
* Note: The above images are taken from the Synapse Blu-ray (top), the Nouveaux UK Blu-ray (middle), and the Anchor Bay DVD (bottom), then resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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