Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Suspiria (1977)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Suspiria (1977, It./W.Germ.)

In Italian director Dario Argento's stylistic gothic horror masterpiece about the supernatural and witchcraft - with dazzling, starkly chromatic, visually-stunning and gaudy cinematography (with rich pinkish reds and hazy blue colors) and meticulously-designed Hitchcockian set-pieces. There were a series of creatively-brutal and bloody murder scenes (i.e., the opening elaborate double-murder sequence: a repeated chest stabbing into a dancer's still-beating heart and then her body hanging from an electrical cord, and the bisecting of another dancer by a falling shard of glass from a crashing stained glass-window ceiling above her).

[Note: The film was remade by director Luca Guadagnino as Suspiria (2018) with Dakota Johnson as the main star.]

The unrated USA version featured more explicit gore than the edited R-rated version, most notably in the opening, ultraviolent, visceral murder sequence and when the blind pianist was attacked and killed by his own seeing-eye dog.

  • in the opening sequence, ingenue American ballet dancer-heroine Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) arrived from New York at the Munich, Germany airport and during a violent rainstorm, she took a surreal taxi-cab ride to the Tanz (Dance) Academy in Freiburg [Note: Although the academy was a set, a plaque on the outside of the building was recreated - commemorating the fact that it was briefly the residence of noted classical and theological scholar Desiderius Erasmus.]
  • as the taxi pulled up in front of the ornate academy (with gold columns and reddish walls), young blonde ballerina Pat Hingle (Eva Axen), a recently-expelled student from the dance academy for improper conduct, was seen fleeing from the school's entrance, spouting strange words: "The secret! I saw beyond the door! Three irises - turn the blue one!"; when denied entry to the dance academy, Suzy was forced to detour to town in the taxi to spend the night; she watched briefly as Pat ran through the woods toward town
  • Pat sought refuge that night in the nearby apartment of female dancer-friend Sonia (Susanna Javicoli); she vowed to go "away forever" the next morning, and claimed she was very upset: "It all seems so absurd, so fantastic. All I can do is get away from here as soon as possible." Suddenly, after seeing a pair of eyes in the darkness outside, an unseen assailant-killer's bare arm crashed through the window behind her and reached around to grab her neck. Her face was crushed against the window pane in front of her
  • her friend Sonia heard the commotion and rushed for help in the hallway, crying: "Help me, help me. There's a murderer!", and then went running down the stairs to the lobby entrance area
The First Victim - Pat Hingle

Pat Stabbed in Heart
  • Pat was repeatedly stabbed in the chest by the killer with a large knife, as blood dripped from her mouth; the killer grabbed a rope (or electrical cord) and wrapped it around her body (with her arms pinned to her side), and then continued to stab her - into her exposed still-beating heart - as she laid on her back; her face (and then her entire body) were shoved through a colorful stained-glass skylight window in the ceiling of the apartment lobby; she was stopped in mid-fall by the cord catching around her neck that suspended her only a foot or two from the floor as blood dripped down from her body
  • the camera panned over from the puddles of blood to discover her deceased friend Sonia, the second victimized dancer on the first floor who had been vainly calling for help; she had been bisected by the falling shard of glass and other objects from the ceiling's skylight

Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett)

Ms. Tanner (Alida Valli)

(l to r): Sara, Suzy, Olga
  • the next morning, Suzy returned to the dance academy where she was introduced to harsh teacher-instructor Ms. Tanner (Alida Valli) and the academy's vice-director Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett); she also met Olga (Barbara Magnolfi) and Sara (Stefania Casini) and although initially Suzy was boarding off-campus with Olga, she was moved into the dance academy without her consent, where she became friends with Sara living next door
  • during preparations for dinner, hundreds of maggots rained from the ceiling - the result of crates of spoiled food discovered on an upper floor
  • there were a number of other suspicious happenings in the school: (1) the unexpected early arrival of the dance academy's directress - due to her distinctive whistling snoring sound in a makeshift dormitory sleeping area surrounded by reddish-illuminated sheets, and (2) the discovery that the teachers did not leave school each evening at 9:30 pm for their homes in town, but retreated to somewhere inside the building
  • after an argument between Ms. Tanner and the dance school's blind pianist Daniel (Flavio Bucci) who was accompanied by a seeing-eye dog, Daniel resigned from the school; there was another horrific scene in the middle of the town's large, deserted piazza (Königsplatz) that night, when Daniel was viciously attacked by his own spooked seeing-eye dog, that lunged at his throat and windpipe and tore it out - seen in close-up
Sudden Neck Attack by Seeing-eye Dog
  • in another scary scene, sheer negligee-wearing terrorized ballet dancer Sara escaped attack by an unseen intruder by crawling through a window high in a wall, only to tumble onto coils of concertina razor wire (where her struggles cut deeply into her flesh). Suddenly, a black gloved hand (from the unseen figure) covered her mouth to stifle her screams, and then slit her throat with a straight-edged razor
  • Suzy learned though local folk legend that the dance school was founded by Greek emigre Helena Markos (Lela Svasta), who was suspected of being a witch and Queen of a coven; Markos was also known as Mater Suspiriorum, or the Mother of Sighs
  • Suzy realized the meaning of the words ("iris" and "secret") that Pat Hingle had spoken the night of her death after entering Madame Blanc's office, where she saw the walls painted with irises - turning the blue iris, a hidden door opened, and the young dancer-student Suzy entered the secret passageway to explore the witches' headquarters where a coven was gathered together; she overheard Madame Blanc instructing Ms. Tanner and her followers: "We've got to get rid of that bitch of an American girl. Vanish! She must vanish! Make her disappear! Understand?...She must die! Die! Die! Helena, give me power!"
  • in a climactic scary sequence, as Suzy turned around, she noticed the blood-stained corpse of Sara; she retreated to an adjoining room with a large glass peacock statue; in the room, head witch Helena Markos was resting on a bed - with her distinctive snoring; Suzy accidentally knocked over the statue and awakened the sleeping Markos, who sat up and asked threatening questions: "Who is it? Who's there? I've been expecting you, the American girl. I knew you'd come. You want to kill me? You want to kill Helena Markos?....Now death is coming for you, You wanted to kill Elena Markos? Hell is behind that door! You're going to meet death, now! The living death!"
  • Suzy was attacked by the reanimated corpse of butcher knife-wielding Sara, ordered to kill her by revenge-seeking head witch Helena Markos; Suzy was able to stab the figure of Markos in the throat with one long tailfeather of the large glass peacock statue; closeups were visible of the face of the bestial creature with clawed hands, as it moaned and groaned and was destroyed; Sara and Markos faded away from view after the stabbing, and other coven members began to perish

Blood-Stained Corpse of Sara

Suzy Next to Peacock Statue

Sara Reanimated and Commanded to Kill Suzy
  • this caused all apocalyptic hell to break loose as the whole building began to internally explode; it completely erupted in a conflagration of flames and destruction, as Suzy fled from the school

Deaths of Coven Members

Suzy Fled From Self-Destructing Academy

Ingénue Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) Arriving at Munich Airport

Taxi-Cab Ride to Dance Academy

Ornate Entrance to Tanz Academy

Second Victim Sonia: Bi-Sected by Falling Shard of Glass in Lobby of Apartment

Maggots Raining From the Ceiling

Blind Pianist - Death by Seeing-Eye Dog

Razor-Wire and Throat-Slitting Death of Sara

Clue: A Blue Iris Painted on a Wall - Opening Up Secret Passageway to Witches' Coven

Bestial Helena Markos Stabbed and Destroyed by Suzy


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