Suspiria (1977)

One from the re watch pile…

Suspiria (1977)

Film: There’s a lot of films that I return to again and again. Some are because they are like comfort food and just make me feel good, some for nostalgia, and some because I just flat out like the film. Suspiria is all those things together.

I was introduced to the film by a good friend on laserdisc and was IMMEDIATELY entranced by it. The style was something I didn’t recall seeing before, the story spoke to my love of stories about cults and witches and it starred Jessica Harper, whose presence is startling.

Not to mention Udo Kier!

This film made me a Dario Argento fan and introduced me to the wonderful world of gialli which are now my favourite type of thriller. I should point out I had seen these types of films before but had never really paid attention to them as cinematic movements or sub genre.

Now Argento’s films sit highly on both my list of favourite films and most rewatched films, particularly this one, Tenebrae, Deep Red, Phenomena and his much later film Sleepless aka Non So Honno which felt more like one of his earlier films even though it was made in 2001. I love his visual style and his choice of actors for the lead roles.

Suspiria is the first part of a trilogy of films (the second being Inferno and the third being Mother of Tears) about three ancient sisters who are witches. This first film tells of Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper), a young dancer from New York who has been accepted into a exclusive dance school in Germany but she starts at a very strange time for the school.

On the night she arrives, another student leaves and her and a friend’s bodies are found soon after, but their deaths are not the first mysterious occurrences. The school’s blind pianist is murdered by his faithful dog, and another student disappears… This all amongst a strange maggot infestation and Suzy suffering from an illness on which she is put on a special diet.

Quickly Suzy discovers that the school has a strange past involving witchcraft and the occult and maybe, just maybe everything that is happening is connected…

Argento’s eye is amazing in this film and everything has a particular look and feel to it, with an amazing depth of field created with the use of colour and geometry which harkens back to Italian directorial great Mario Bavaria and his style.

His casting choices are fantastic here too. Jessica Harper moves with a natural grace and she really plays into the whole Stranger in a strange land/ alienation thing that horror does so well perfectly. Her natural acting style and girl-next-dooriness make her a perfect Nancy Drew character in this Scooby Doo type adventure.

Suspiria is an exciting watch, both for the visuals and the story, and I really can’t recommend it enough. Top shelf horror.

Score: *****

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was performed on the Australian Umbrella region B Bluray release and it being sourced from a new 4K restoration means it is quite an amazing looking. It is presented in 2.35:1with an equally impressive 5.1 DTS-HD audio and runs for approximately 99 minutes.

Score: *****

Extras: Extras? You want extras? Oh boy, do we have extras!! Granted with most of them being about Suspiria, some themes are re-discussed, but it doesn’t become annoying. Actually it’s a completely look at the film. It must be noted though that if you are adverse to reading subtitles, you may not enjoy most of these extras.

Suspiria Told By Dario Argento is a thorough interview with Dario Argento by Variety’s Nick Vivarelli. It’s a fascinating reflection on the film and the filmmaking process, even down to the selection of the film stock!

25th Anniversary Suspiria Documentary is the documentary that was presented with many DVD releases of the film in 2002 which goes just shy of an hour but looks at the making of the film. It features interviews with Argento, Niccolodi, Harper, Kier, and others involved in the making of the film.

Exclusive Interview with Dario Argento is an interview with Argento from 2004 where he discusses the making of the film. It’s the most uncomfortable interview I’ve ever had to watch as he is twisted in a chair for the whole thing. I swear my back ached by the end of it.

Fear at 400 Degrees: The Cine-excess of Suspiria looks at Argento’s career, the giallo as genre and reflections on the film by various critics and academics.

An Eye for Horror is a TV special from 2000 about Argento’s career, and features interviews with his cast and contemporaries. Essentially, it’s an Argento Love rest. That’s not a criticism in any way: he deserves a love fest!

Dario Argento’s World of Horror is the Michele Soavi helmed from the 80s. Great for its time and still relevant, with some pretty cool behind the scenes footage of the making of some of his films.

The is an image gallery which normally I don’t think are a valuable addition to a DVD or Bluray, but in this case it shows all the promotion material for the film, which I do find interesting.

Next we have a pile of trailers for the film, including the international trailer, the US theatrical trailer, a Tv spot and a few radio ads, followed by an Argento Trailer Reel, starting with Bird With The Crystal Plumage and finishing with Sleepless.

Score: *****

WISIA: One of my favourite films of all time and this release is fantastic; it will get rewatched over and over again.

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Contamination (1980) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Contamination (1980)

Arrow Video’s Contamination Bluray


Film: Italian horror is totally my jam. Even though Re-animator is my favourite horror film, I can’t resist a good… or a bad Italian horror, fantasy or scifi film. They are sometimes nonsensical, sometimes brilliant, but always totally entertaining.

This film was written and directed by Luigi Cozzi, also known for Starcrash and one of my favourite films The Killer Must Kill Again, but here under the alias ‘Lewis Coates’. It has a super score by my favourite band Goblin, and really feels of it’s time, especially if you are an Italian horror film regular.

Contamination: Louise Marleau as Col. Stella Holmes


A freighter arrives in New York with a dead crew and a cargo of boxes of coffee from South America which actually contain some kind of egg which explodes if under any kind of heat, infecting those who are exposed to its bacteria, which then causes them to explode.

An investigation is started, headed by Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) along with the survivor of the first egg encounter, police lieutenant Tony Aris (Marino Masé). They experiment on a few of the eggs and come to the conclusion that they are not of this earth, and perhaps the only person who could help them is the only surviving member of a Mars mission, returned astronaut named Commander Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch). 

Contamination: Ian McCulloch as Cmdr. Ian Hubbard


Very soon the three are on the trail of the eggs on Earth which leads them to South America, and the secret as to how these eggs made their way here…
Cozzi’s love of science fiction is well on display here, and the heavy inclusion of 70s/ 80s Italian gore makes it a keeper. This film isn’t too disassociated from American 50s scifi as at its core, it’s actually kind of wholesome, with its military trying to end a world-threatening event plot. It’s just the exploding chests and copious amounts of blood, landed it in the list of video nasties in the 80s in the UK, which is where it’s notoriety comes from.

Contamination: eggs… so many eggs!


That finite excuse for that notoriety though may have come from Cozzi’s use of Peckingpah-esque slo-mo for every single chest explosion!!

For years people have said it’s an Alien rip off, and even though Cozzi claims to have been inspired by it, I think it’s unfair to make the comparison. Yes there are eggs, and yes, there are exploding chests, but just because these two elements feature in it to me don’t make it slightly comparable.
Contamination is heaps of sci-fi fun with a dash of 80s gore, and it’s a fit that sits well!
Score: ****

Arrow Video’s Bluray menu screen


Format: The edition of Contamination reviewed in the U.K., region A and B Bluray released by Arrow Video. The film runs for approximately 95 minutes and is presented in a nicely cleaned up 1.85:1 images with a choice of and Italian or English mono soundtrack. It’s not the sharpest image you’ll ever see, and there is the very occasional speck onscreen, but they are minor quibbles for a film of it’s vintage.

Score: ****

Extras: As ever, Arrow have the goods with this release!

Luigi Cozzi on Contamination is an older… sorry, I mean ‘archive’ interview with the director of the film, where he discusses the origins of the film and the process to make it. Cozzi narrates the whole thing, and gives us a look as some behind the scenes footage as well.

Contamination Q&A is an session of questions proposed to Cozzi and McCulloch, hosted by Arrow’s Ewan Cant. It’s an entertaining and amusing discussion for sure.

Sound of the Cyclops is a talk with Goblin keyboardist Maurizio Guarini which for me, as a Goblin fan, was really interesting.

Luigi Cozzi vs. Lewis Coates is a career retrospective interview with Cozzi.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery delves into the ‘Italian Copy’ films that aimed to emulate the success of films like Jaws, The Warriors and Dawn of the Dead, amongst others.

We also have a trailer and black and white graphic novel based on the film, which has some pretty cool indie styled artwork. I don’t get why you’d make a comic an extra on an actual disc, as I’d much prefer an ACTUAL comic included in the packaging like Arrow’s release of Demons.

Also, there is a commentary by Fangoria’s Chris Alexander which is a fan commentary, but Alexander knows his stuff!

Hidden within the disc, one will also find really cool alternate covers for the cover, one with original art and the other with cool new art by Ghoulish Gary Pullin (whose amazing artwork can be found HERE!)  and there is also a fully illustrated booklet with a piece by the aforementioned Mr. Alexander, and details of the restoration.

Score: *****

Contamination: Marino Masé as Lt. Tony Aris


WISIA: Heaps of gore and heaps of corn, you better believe I’m coming back for more!