Monday, February 20, 2012
What Do You Know About... Witches?
So, a local Italian film festival played an actual, old-school International Classics print of SUSPIRIA - followed by a 25 minute long "preview" of Argento's upcoming DRACULA 3D. The Italian Hitchcock himself was there for the event, and I was amused to find that Mrs. Kentai couldn't stop saying (far too loudly for comfort) that HE WAS SO CUTE!! I mean, he is, but for crying out loud hun...
The latter has improved some of the CG we saw late last year in that 6 minute promo reel, and I'd be lying if I said didn't at least get a campy kick out of seeing Asia Argento's still impressive body bare to the world in Stereoscopic "REAL3D" before pretty much anyone else... but, as expected, the film still looks all sorts of disappointing. Perhaps not Phantom of the Opera terrible, but not better enough based on everything we've seen leading up to this point, either. Even poor Rutger Hauer looks more confused in his role as Van Helsing than anything... In the end I think Argento apologists will love it, drunken techno-buffs will have a new guilty pleasure to waste their overpriced 3DTVs on, and the rest of us who are waiting for Argento to resurrect his flailing career will simply sigh, shake our heads, and be thankful that we still have everything from Deep Red to Opera.
Anyway, I'm mentioning this to share a few thoughts about the vintage American version of one of the most fantastic horror films ever shot. Every DVD and Blu-ray release since 2001 has had at least some controversy attached to it, and I wanted to mark a few of the more important thoughts down before they were lost to the ages;
* Despite being what I can only assume was a release print and thus several generations away from the camera negative, the contrast was nowhere near as exaggerated as it was on Luciano Tovoli's "DP Approved" 2007 HD restoration. Broadly speaking the print looked quite similar to the Anchor Bay DVD from 2001, though fleshtones had a bit of a constant yellow push where the AB transfer was closer to green. Which is "correct" I have no fucking idea, but I'd be willing to wager the ideal color timing is somewhere in the middle; imagine the UK Blu-ray without the contrast cranked up past 11 and I think that'd be the best of both worlds.+-
(The only alternate possibility is that this is a new positive print made from whatever Interneg International Classics had; the print was plenty clean and tramlines were particularly inoffensive, but reel changed were a bit on the nasty side, and it honestly seems ridiculous that anyone would make a new edited US print versus paying to have Technicolor Rome make a new IP from the negative. Without any conflicting information present, I'll assume that this is, indeed, the real deal and that it's been kept almost shockingly pristine in the last 35 years or so.)
* The print was almost positively optical mono, and most curiously, the scene early on where one of the doomed girls shouts out the key to unlocking the mystery of the Tanz Akademie is distorted under thunder and screaming wind - just like the Anchor Bay DVD! This was a sticking point listed as a blatant innacuracy by countless Argento fans on early internet reviews, largely I assume since the English stereo mix included on the various uncut VHS/LD incarnations had the line more or less unscathed...
I don't know why two versions of this line exist on actual 35mm prints, but it's nice to know once and for all that Bill Lustig and his company didn't go out of their way to create a new distortion. Likely, that's what the audio elements they were given sounded like to start with!
* The print I saw removes the scene in which Daniel, the piano teacher played by Flavio Bucci, is kicked out of the school and deals with it by getting his blind ass hammered. It basically just cuts straight to the scene of him walking through the deserted streets with his dog, which is a bit odd, but probably not overly distracting if you haven't seen the film uncut before.
* Similarly, the opening murders are all cut down pretty dramatically to appease the MPAA. Everything MOVIE CENSORSHIP has pointed out was indeed missing, as was the close-up of a certain girl getting her throat cut with a straight razor... rather, the first second or so of the shot was there but it cuts abruptly away.
* The final shot of Jessica Harper in the rain doesn't go tinted red, as it does on the HD master. I really have no idea where that bullshit came from. I still strongly suspect that IF that was ever a thing (and I doubt it was) that it was something they added solely to the Italian 70mm prints, which would likely have to have completely different titles anyway.
* Color was exceptionally bold, with the reds, teals and gold that saturate the film looking vibrant and dreamlike without ever looking as... electronic, one might say, as the 2007 HD master. While the focus was regularly a bit on the soft side grain was surprisingly fine, almost non-existant on much of the darker material. My guess is this was due to the film being shot using the long abandoned Technirama 8-perf 35mm process, giving this film roughly four times the negative resolution of the average Techniscope feature. It was fine enough that you could clearly see the wires holding up the bat puppet, and I honestly don't remember seeing that on the UK Blu-ray...
* Speaking of "not seeing" shit, the 'shadow man' that attacks Suzy with a straight razor was - aside from his eyes - completely indistinguishable from the shadows around him. Whether this speaks to the weakness of a multi-generational print, or the "crushed" shadow detail on the UK Blu-ray is actually what Tovoli and Argento wanted from the theatrical release is anyone's guess, but I can say that the scene is notably more effective when all you can literally see are a pair of glowing eyes and a dark shape waving its arms from a pit of pitch black horror.
* Yes, I saw the Suspiria movie, now who wants to touch me? I SAID WHO WANTS TO FUCK'N TOUCH ME!
And just to be certain that friend of the Kentai Blog Michael Mackenzie didn't see THE SAME EXACT PRINT I did at the 2009 Glasgow FrightFest, the print he saw began with a BBFC "X" rating certificate while this one ended with an MPAA "R". Can't get much more definitive than that, now can it?
Apparently they played Django in the same theater a few hours later, but they merely used the Blue Underground BD. They're also playing Cat O' Nine Tails and Deep Red later in the week - I just can't justify a trip out for the former, but I might just take a drive for the latter. If I say nothing, assume I was either busy or that it was also the Blue Underground video release and not a genuine rotten grindhouse print with THE HATCHED MURDERS slapped on over the original titles with sticky tape...
I guess this want to experience a "real" 35mm prints, scratches and fading and all, is basically that same slightly illogical, archaic technology driven lust that vinylphiles have against CD, isn't it?
EDIT: Cuss on me! Turns out the Deep Red show was Monday and the Cat O' Nine Tails show is on Wednesday, not the other way around. Oh well, this wouldn't be the first time my fuzzy memory has gypped me out of a local screening...