Suspiria - Ultimate Collectors Edition

Suspiria - Ultimate Collectors Edition

I can already hear people saying…"surely not yet another DVD release of Suspiria?!" Well of course it does seem quite a bewildering prospect to have another DVD of Argento's classic out there…but of course any true Argento fan will rightly be curious not only as to why but perhaps more importantly exactly how good this latest incarnation really is?

First things first, let's briefly look at the film itself…I wont waste time as any horror fan worth their salt will no doubt have seen the legendary 'Suspiria' countless times by now. But for any newcomers to the scene this 70's horror classic follows the lovely Suzi Banyon (played by Jessica Harper in her finest role) as she arrives at her new ballet school in Bavaria. Arriving late in the midst of a furious storm she finds herself locked out of the prestigious establishment and has to seek alternate accommodation, but as she heads off in her taxi she notices a distressed female run off in the distance. Said female has just been ejected from the school decrying that something 'absurdly fantastic' is going on there, but as she holds up in a friends stylish art deco apartment both she and her chum soon fall foul to an evil mysterious presence in one of the most stylish and graphic showstopping death scenes to be seen in a horror movie in a long time.

The next day Suzi manages to gain access to her new school and quickly settles into the day to day girly fun of sexy but bitchy ballet loving Euro babes, effeminate pretty boys and domineering mistress teachers…but before you think we're sliding into a girls own adventure you're swiftly assured that this is anything but that. Argento's 'Suspiria' is without doubt one of the horror genres true cinematic classics, why so some may ask? Well after viewing the film it should be all to clear (even for those who may not be fans of the directors output in general) - 'Suspiria' is the sum total of collaboration perfection…at the fore is the stunning directorial skills of Argento himself, using the scope of the viewed image he creates every shot as though it is a work of art; stylish, rich and colourful, quite simply a visual delight. But what use is sumptuous eye candy if you don't have a decent plot and the story here is indeed a good one, using mystery elements used successfully in giallo style movies previously Argento and ex wife Daria Nicolodi give the old graphic murder mystery theme a fresh new occult edge that newcomers to the film will find enthralling, especially during the films old school gothic finale. But the final piece of the jigsaw comes in the form of the simply stunning soundtrack scored by 70's prog rockers Goblin who deliver perhaps the definitive companion horror movie score, aurally hammering the viewers senses with a pounding soundtrack that equals any of the stylish action onscreen. But if like me you've known and loved 'Suspiria' as long as I have then there's no point in preaching to the converted but needless to say if you have never seen this gem then you should make it a point to do so now!

But I can hear the old school Argento fans screaming 'enough already, what about the disc?' Well ok, let's firstly look at the film print on show itself…the great news is that visually Dragon have delivered the goods on the image front - the anamorphic widescreen image is as rich and colourful as you could hope for. Of course DVD fetishists will no doubt get all anal about Anchor Bay's release being ever so marginally sharper but I had no room for complaint. But perhaps it is with Dragon's audio delivery that will be the make or break for fans, depending on what your language of choice is; the 2 channel stereo English audio is good in the way that it delivers the original (and more favourable) Goblin pounding score that at times felt slightly diluted on the Anchor Bay remixed release, but through normal TV speakers the spoken track isn't quite as clear as I would have liked (if at times slightly muffled) but then again through my surround system it played a lot better. Italian readers will welcome the 2 channel stereo mix on offer though the Italian DVD did include a 5.1 surround option this still sounds very clear and effective. But it is without doubt the German readers that have struck lucky with this fine release with both 5.1 surround and 2 channel stereo options 'Suspiria' has at last found it's perfect presentation for the German Argento fan! There's no subtitle options on offer but with such a tasty selection of audio options you'd be hard pushed to complain about Dragon's offerings here.

Now let's get our fingers dirty with all the great selection of extras…but before I move on to covering the dedicated extras disc two I should point out that the 'movie' disc one includes a varied selection of trailers for other forthcoming titles in the Dragon line (including 'Amazonia', 'Dead Hate the Living', Huriko the Goblin', 'Gonin 2', 'A Living Hell', Bloody Beach' and 'Another Heaven') .

But onto disc two…here have a welcome mixed bag of Argento features that is on paper sure to make any fan of the great mans work grin with delight. First up we get Michele Soavi's excellent documentary 'Dario Argento's World of Horror' - see a younger Argento wig out whilst supposedly scoring Suspiria, in fact see a whole load of great footage and behind the scenes segments from all his classic movies (Inferno, Tenebrae, Phenomena, Zombies et al) but there's one small disappointing fact about this presentation here and that is that even though the English variant option was selected many of Argento's interview segments are not subtitled leaving non Italian speakers out in the cold, but thankfully the bulk of the documentary does contain English audio narrative so all is not lost. German viewers needn't worry though as the Argento interview segments here do contain a German narrative if you choose that particular audio option. The next three extra features are made up of rare Argento interview footage, the first being 'Argento in Muenchen'; a 20 minute hand held video camera segment with Argento at a (tragically) half empty German festival screening where a mumbling silhouetted Dario tries (in English) to connect with the local German crowd; perhaps one for the hard core completist Argento fanatic with keen hearing. Next up is a 24 minute segment called 'Argento Talks'; a splendid short discussion sequence with Dario sitting in a screening room discussing to camera his feelings and thoughts on 'Suspiria' in a segment that will be familiar to folk familiar with 20th Century Fox's Italian 'Suspiria' DVD release; sadly this segment only is offered with the options of German or original Italian audio so Anglophiles will miss out on this informative segment. Finally on the discussion front is 'Viennale 96' , a cool (though not faultless) 55 minute festival interview (around the time of Stendhal Syndrome's release) which not only thrives from being conducted informatively (in English with optional German subtitles) but is filmed professionally enough that makes it a thoroughly enjoyable experience…that is until the last 20 minutes or so of the feature (part 2) where the audio track goes wildly out of synch with the onscreen chat looking worse than many 70's hastily dubbed kung fu movies. That said, the first 35 minutes are still highly entertaining and the last 20 will be fine for the forgiving amongst you. It's trailer time next with both the hilarious hair brushing head and wig wearing skull US trailers with both looking sharp and entertainingly presentable. Finally on the disc two extras front we get two Suspiria music videos, I'll try keep it short and sweet with this as I don't want to sound biased about the exclusive music video provided for this release by my old goth band Scrapheap and our friends at Vertigo Productions. Needless to say it's our very own stylish tip of the hat to the great man with our (hopefully) original melodic goth ode to the classic film (with more than a visual hint of Bava's Blood and Black Lace thrown in for good measure)…and before anyone asks, yes I am the grinning skinhead idiot behind the drums. Needless to say I truly hope you enjoy our foray into the music video world (gulp!) The second music video will perhaps be familiar to many Argento fans as it's Claudio Simonetti's excellent rock band Daemonia with their hard rocking rendition of the Suspiria theme. Damn good stuff and if you are an Argento soundtrack fan then you really should check out the excellent Daemonia CD's to hear how Simonetti has brought those old classics into the new millennium. So that's the 'extras' disc two in a nutshell…at the end of the day it's a very much mixed bag; the documentary/interview segments vary from excellent to slightly disapointing, the trailers are fun and the music videos are the stars of the show (he he) but no matter what I say I'm sure knowing Argento's very dedicated followers you'll be loyally picking this up.

But wait, don't go yet as this set still has some more to offer…there's a third disc here; similar to what Anchor Bay did with their own US set Dragon have got together with soundtrack aficionados Cinevox to include a tasty CD of Goblin's 'Suspiria' soundtrack music. The CD contains not only the key original thumping soundtrack classics but also some interesting short variations of the films opening intro theme as well as variant mixes which alternate between mind warping and downright groovy. If you haven't already got the Goblin collection on CD then this (like AB's CD addition) should make a welcome bonus in this DVD set.

Before I wrap on this overview of Dragon's 'Suspiria' special edition set I have to make mention of the very cool packaging the set comes in. It really is one in the eye to Anchor Bay as Dragon show them how it should be done. Forget your limited edition biscuit tins, here we have what initially looks like a book size box but when you slide the content out of the packaging you find a groovy digipack set that opens out into the shape of a big black crucifix holding all three discs with the now instantly recognisable blood soaked ballerina logo used on the old theatrical release poster back in the 70's. Accompanying this is a nice 16 page illustrated full colour booklet but as this is a German release the text contained within is (not surprisingly) German also.

So, going back to the opening query that is on most folks mind? With so many DVD releases of Argento's seminal classic do we really need another one? Well, for the casual horror viewer that already owns a copy of 'Suspiria' on DVD then probably 'no'. But if you're one of Argento's army of loyal fans then you really do have a dilemma; you will no doubt have Anchor Bay's all singing all dancing near perfect release but the bonus 'extra' discs (and even the packaging will tickle the obsessive collector) on Dragon's special edition will perhaps prove too alluring. German fans though quite simply will find this an essential purchase as it is indeed the ultimate edition for the German Argento fan. Me? I'll be picking up copies for all my family even if it is just to show them our first music video venture (and perhaps corrupt some Argento virgins along the way!) A very worthy and impressive debut from Dragon's Argento Collection that makes anticipation for the subsequent coming releases so much more exciting.

Review by Alan Simpson

Released by Dragon
Region All - PAL
Not Rated
Ratio - Anamorphic widescreen
Audio - Optional German 5.1 & 2.0 or English 2.0 or Italian 2.0
Extras :
World of Horror documentary, three Argento interview segments, two music videos, soundtrack CD, trailers and more!