Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) arrives in Germany to attend the prestigious Tanz Dance Academy and train as a ballet dancer. She arrives during a torrential rainstorm. As she is running from the cab to the building another student, Pat Hingle (Eva Axen) is running out. Suzy pushes the intercom button but the person on the other end refuses to let her in. Suzy has no choice but to stay at a hotel overnight.
The next day she returns to the school and is greeted by Miss Tanner (Alida Valli) and introduced to Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett), the deputy director. Suzy then hears about Pat being expelled the night before and about her death. Madame Blanc then tells her that her room is not ready for her yet but she can stay with Olga (Barbara Magnolfi), one of the students who lives in town. Suzy also meets Sara (Stefania Casini). Sara had been Pat’s friend and believes something strange is going on at the dance school. Sara and Suzy become good friends.
Weird things begin happening. Suzy suddenly gets ill and is forced to stay at the school instead of Olga’s apartment when Olga kicks her out. One evening maggots begin falling from the ceiling. The maggots are traced to some spoiled food in the attic. Daniel (Flavio Bucci), the schools blind piano player is fired when Madame Blanc’s nephew Albert (Jacopo Mariani) says his seeing eye dog bit him. Later Daniel is attacked by the dog and killed. Sara tells Suzy that Pat was acting strangely before she was expelled. She also tells Suzy that she has some notes that Pat left but when she goes to get them they are gone. Sara is then stalked and killed. Suzy is told that Sara just decided to leave. Throughout some of these eerie events there is a feeling of a malevolent presence.
Suzy talks to Sara’s friend Frank Mandel (Udo Kier). Frank is also a psychiatrist. From him she learns that the school was started by Helena Markos, a woman who was supposed to be a witch. Frank introduces Suzy to Professor Milius (Rudolf Schundler). The professor gives Suzy a basic lesson in witchcraft 101. When Suzy returns to the school she finds that all the students have gone to see a performance of the Bolshoi Ballet. Suzy is alone in the school and strange things are still happening.
“Suspiria” was released in 1977 and was directed by Dario Argento. It is an Italian supernatural horror film. Argento co-wrote the screenplay with Daria Nicolodi. The film is partially based on Thomas De Quincey's 1845 essay “Suspiria de Profundis”.
The movie is considered the first in a trilogy of films done by Argento that he called The Three Mothers. The other two films are “Inferno” 1980 and “The Mother of Tears” 2007. They were three supernatural horror films. Supposedly each film deals with one of the three ancient witches. They were a triarchy of witches whose power allowed them to manipulate world events. Their aim was world domination. Mater Suspiriorum or the Mother of Sighs is the oldest and wisest of the Three Mothers.
“Suspiria” is full of wonderful music and vibrant colors. The music score was done by Argento and a progressive rock group called Goblin. Goblin collaborated with Argento on several of his films. Argento uses music and color to set a scene or enhance the mood of a particular scene. He used the same techniques when making “Phenomena” 1985. Both the music and the energetic colors enhance the eeriness and otherworldly feel of his films.
"Zum Walfisch" or "The Whale" in Freiburg Germany is a gothic style house. The house was used as the dance academy and witches' home in the movie. Argento does the narration in the film.