THE FIRST DANCE

The mak­ing of the 1977 orig­i­nal

SFX - - Suspiria -

What ex­actly sparked Dario Ar­gento’s clas­sic hor­ror? De­pends if you be­lieve the di­rec­tor or co-writer Daria Ni­colo­dai. She claims it was her grandma’s sto­ries of go­ing to a girls’ school with witch­craft on the cur­ricu­lum. Ar­gento said he was in­spired by a book on the topic. The di­rec­tor also drew on “Le­vana And Our Ladies Of Sor­row”, a prose poem in Thomas De Quincey’s Sus­piria De Pro­fundis (1845). It dis­cusses a god­dess called Mater Sus­piri­o­rum (Our Lady of Sighs). Ar­gento pinched the name for his an­cient witch.

Shoot­ing took place from July-No­vem­ber 1976, in Rome (stu­dio in­te­ri­ors) and Mu­nich (lo­ca­tions). Ar­gento planned to cast girls of 11-14, but the dis­trib­u­tor in­sisted he go older. But he kept the char­ac­ters’ di­a­logue ju­ve­nile – and placed door han­dles higher up, “to re­duce the ac­tresses down in size”. Ar­gento picked lead Jes­sica Harper be­cause of her role in 1974’s The

Phan­tom Of The Par­adise. It was a “tower of Ba­bel” ex­pe­ri­ence for her, sur­rounded by peo­ple not flu­ent in English. In one scene, ac­tor Udo Kier re­peated lines fed to him by a crew mem­ber ly­ing out of shot! As for Mater Sus­piri­o­rum: she was played by a 90-year-old ex-hooker Ar­gento found on the streets of Rome. Well, that’s what he told Harper, any­way…

You’d never guess Sus­piria was made in the 1970s...

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