I watched the Synapse Films 4K restoration of Dario Argento's cinematic marvel Suspiria the other night. It's been a few days since that experience...and I am still stunned.
A little bit of a full disclosure. And I'm sure that if you are a Film Deviant regular (I'm sorry if you are)...you might already have a good idea of how obsessed I am with the film. In any case, if this is indeed your first FD click..well...then, I will just come out and tell you that Suspiria is unequivocally...my favorite horror film of all time. Also...I use way too many...ellipses. I grew up with a sort of confusing relationship regarding the film because of how I felt after watching it. It was something that I just didn't understand when I was younger. My very first encounter with Argento came with a virginal viewing of Phenomena...by way of Creepers. Even tho US distributors cut all the cool stuff out of it...it was enough for my young mind to surmise that I wanted more of what I saw. I tracked down Dario Argento's World of Horror back then...and eventually found bits of the film Suspiria through that, as well my issues of Fangoria...and I knew that I had to seek it out. Well...when I finally found a copy of the film...I was a little bummed out that it wasn't as fucking bonkers as Phenomena was. Hell...I even managed to watch Demons and Demons 2 before I found Suspiria and the way that the US releases marketed those films...made them seem like they were Argento films rather than Lamberto Bava's. So...when I finally saw Suspiria...it felt completely different from the other stuff. Not to mention that I was well into the Fulci stuff at that time. Suspiria just felt...I dunno...too beautiful and convoluted for me. Too...artsy and full of wonder for my taste back then. However...the more that I watched it...the more the film devoured me. Somewhere in my 20's is when it all clicked for me. I became obsessed with the film. I purchased multiple Rotten Cotton t-shirts...before anyone knew what the hell Rotten Cotton was. I found VHS copies and eventually the Anchor Bay collector's edition DVD with the soundtrack and special edition lobby cards. I was consumed.
As the years went by...and I started seeing all of these restoration projects emerging here and there...and then with the advent of the Blu-ray disc...I always wondered why no one ever tackled Suspiria properly. Like...there was no "definitive" version of the film...aside for the Anchor Bay one...or even the decent Blue Underground release. No one really gave the film the true restoration that it deserved. I pretty much shrugged my shoulders and just watched my multiple DVD's on rotation.
Then...one random day back in...I wanna say...like 2013/14...or something? I noticed this relatively tiny ad in Rue Morgue for a Demons/Demons 2 Blu-ray release by none other than Synapse Films. A distribution company that I was familiar with who usually did amazing work with their restorations. I say tiny ad...because I remember it being somewhere in the middle of the magazine and not a back cover or inside front cover ad. I mean, it was a full page ad, I think...but for something like Demons...I would think that there would be fold out posters and motion-activated soundclips coming from the ad. And another ad for Phenomena and Tenebre. And then...I noticed...Suspiria. They were putting out fucking Suspiria. SUSPIRIA!!! My heart started to race...and I was reminded of that one question that I would always think about every now and again: Why hasn't anyone bothered to take on an ultimate Blu-ray release? Well...now Synapse was about to tackle that mammoth of a task. I was excited.
Demons/Demons 2 was released on Blu-ray...and I was fucking blown away. Being a hardcore fan of both films and losing count of how many times I've seen them...it felt like I was watching the Demons films for the very first time. It was a communal experience. Tenebre and Phenomena was more of that feeling. Don May Jr. is a fucking master at his craft. Not to mention that he is also a loving fan of these films and treats each and every project as if they were his own children...giving each frame the care that they deserve. If there was any individual alive who could breathe new life into a film like Suspiria...it would be Don May Jr.
Speaking with Don on several occasions regarding the Suspiria project...he always seemed very enthusiastic about his work to eventually bring the film into living rooms everywhere. Make no mistake...he never hid his feelings for just how hard of a road it has been with Suspiria...but, there is always a simultaneous spark whenever the subject comes up. You can see it in his eyes. That youthful look of excitement and eagerness to talk about his missions to bring these films into Blu-ray territory. And not just that...but...also his dedication to release the best possible versions of these films...EVER. And, yet...Don is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people that you could ever chat with. In fact...he always feels so inviting and full of passion whenever you approach the Synapse booth and ask about one of the films on their tables. Don comes to life and will talk to you for as long as you let him. I love that stuff whenever it comes to some of these companies. That little personal touch. Anyway...each and every time I would talk to him...I could just feel Suspiria coming closer and closer. You could almost just hear that faint, muffled Goblin soundtrack in the distance...getting louder and louder as time went by. I remember speaking to him when Tenebre came out...and he looked tired. Like...this beast named Suspiria had him on the ropes. Still...he was enthusiastic that it would be out soon.
Then...one day...I noticed a screening of Suspiria here in Chicago as part of the Flashback Weekend event. A screening for the Synapse 4K version of the film. I'm not ashamed to say that I screamed like Stefania Casini did when she fell into that blue barbed wire room in the film. I fucking screamed like I never did before. I made sure to secure tickets for the screening and they were some of the very best seats in the entire house. My friend Jon Kitley of Kitley's Krypt actually picked out the seats...and if there was one man to trust when it came to picking out seats for a 4K restoration screening of your all-time favorite film...it would be Jon. So...I was tickled when we finally walked up to our seats. Just a few seats over from the Synapse guys.
I remember Don May Jr. walking up to his Synapse partner Gerry...telling him that he had the theater guys crank the sound system to 11 (out of ten). I was fucking giddy. Then Don took the stage and explained a few crucial details. The film is "a true 4K restoration and not some bullshit 2K transfer." The restoration was fully monitored by the original cinematographer himself...signore Luciano Tovoli. This version was to be presented in its entirety...uncut with the original English 4-Channel audio intact...as it was meant to be heard. "So, if you see someone off to the left on-screen with some dialogue...the sound will feel like it is coming from that particular direction." Then...the house lights darkened...and Suspiria began.
"Suzy Bannion decided to perfect her ballet studies in the most famous school of dance in Europe. She chose the celebrated academy of Freiburg. One day, at nine in the morning, she left Kennedy airport, New York, and arrived in Germany at 10:40 p.m. local time."
To say that this version of Suspiria is the most complete and most perfect version of the film that I have ever watched is a total understatement. There are no words available in any dictionary or thesaurus to describe how completely blown away I was in that theater after the film was over and the house lights came back on. I remember thinking that I needed to shake Don's hand and tell him how fortunate we all were that he set upon this mission to bring Suspiria into its current form. And...yet...I didn't. I was fucking speechless. A lump of flesh that had just been assaulted and transfixed by this Italian masterpiece. All of my senses shaken in a completely new...and, yet...familiar way. Even the people around me zeroed in on me and asked for my take...and all that I could muster was a huge smile and a cheesy whisper..."It was fucking amazing." However...truth be told...I teared up in that theater that night. It was the scene when Suzy and Sara are swimming in that beautiful pool. I was overcome by emotion. What a wonderful time to be alive! Suspiria and Star Wars! Holy FuckyPants! This is the way that I was always meant to watch Suspiria...and it was finally happening. How could one ever put that shit into words, man??
The next day at Flashback Weekend...I headed over to the Synapse Films booth and I shook Don May Jr's hand and told him how much I appreciated all of his hard work...and how perfect Suspiria looks and sounds now. We chatted at length about some of the details for the release...and I'm sorry to say...but, I wasn't sure if I could say anything about that stuff...so, I won't spoil that stuff here. I will say that the release will be JAM-FUCKING-PACKED with extras...including multiple commentaries...multiple new featurettes. A beautiful Steelbook case. As of this writing...I believe that I am at liberty to say that an all new master of the soundtrack will be available as a separate CD. And there should be an announcement soon regarding pre-orders, as they are just putting the finishing touches on the release...so, I would be hanging around that Synapse Films Facebook page...if I were you. Because this will be a limited run....I feel like this is the one film in cinematic history that will sell out quickly as soon as that pre-order link goes up. And let me tell you...it will be worth the purchase. Oh...and don't be surprised if you see an announcement for a theatrical run for this new 4K scan. Maybe in time for Halloween? How amazing would it be if the original Suspiria made more money than the remake this fall at the box office?? A boy can certainly dream.
You've been reading about Suspiria.