A new episode of Shock Waves just dropped and we were fortunate enough to have Don May Jr. from Synapse Films drop by as our special guest. The entire episode (embedded at the end of this piece for your convenience) was extremely educational in terms of learning about how Synapse operates and some of the unforeseen challenges a boutique label like them faces. But at the top of our discussion was, of course, their upcoming SUSPRIRA Blu-Ray restoration, which May confirms is coming later this year and promises to be the definitive version of Dario Argento’s masterpiece.
The big news?
“We are working with Luciano Tovoli, the cinematographer, which is the ultimate reference for SUSPIRIA,” May revealed exclusively on Shock Waves. “He’s been working with us every step of the way, and we’re going to get his ultimate sign off. There are other companies that are touting restorations and doing their own thing, but if you don’t ask the guy who created the imagery, what’s the point?”
How difficult was it to get the original cinematographer’s involvement on this SUSPIRIA restoration?
“I emailed him, and he’s like ‘sure.’ The great Robert Harris has been a friend of mine since NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. People don’t know who he is, but he did the restorations on THE GODFATHER, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, MY FAIR LADY! So, when I have questions or need advice, I go to him. His advice is, always revert to the DP. Always. And he told me this story. When we was working on THE GODFATHER, he was working with (cinematographer) Gordon Willis and Francis (Ford Coppola), and Francis point blank said, “listen, if you have any technical issues, you talk to me. But for color, you talk to him, because it’s his design.” And that’s what you should do.”
“Tovoli is dead on with ‘this is supposed to be this way.’ He knows exactly what he wants and is very detailed in his explanations. One of the things that he opened my eyes to with SUSPIRIA, which I wouldn’t have even thought of is he said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “when I did SUSPIRIA, it wasn’t about the play between light and dark, or light and shadow, which is traditionally a horror film. Everything is mostly very well lit, and was always supposed to be. My design was always conflict between color, not conflict between light and dark. Everything’s lit, and should be fairly bright. The conflict to me is the primary colors fighting each other.”
You can see even more screengrabs on Synapse’s blog right here.
Another unique exclusive to their disc?
“One of the other things our SUSPRIA has that no one else has used – in ’77, they made prints with magnetic LCRS 4 channel sound. In other words, when you go to a movie theater, you have optical sound on the print. It was read off of an optical reader and it played the sound. Well, SUSPIRIA, certain prints had mag tracks on them. Two mag tracks on the left of the frame, and two on the right. And each one of those was left, center, right, and a mono surround. And it was discreet surround, so it wasn’t like Dolby where you get a stereo and certain frequencies would just throw to the back. SUSPIRIA was specifically mixed with directional dialogue. Nowadays, you get a 5.1 and all the dialogue is in the center. In SUSPIRIA, there’s people talking as they walk behind, and you hear things way over to the left and way over to the right. There’s one funny scene where there are girls talking in a room, and there’s one girl sitting in the center of the frame with a pair of scissors, and the only thing in the center channel at that moment is her scissors noise! So, they really did this crazy surround-track, and we’re going to be the first people to present it that way on home video. It’s really crazy.”
So, when exactly is the disc coming?
“Right now, we are done with all the color until Tovoli gives us his final notes. We’re about 95 percent done with the 4 channel audio. We’re trying to adjust the levels of some of the stuff. The mags came to us without really any mixed levels. We’re going through it and getting it together, and working on some extras. I don’t know if we’re going to get some of the things that we had planned, but according to one of my supplementary producers, we may have something from Nicolas Winding Refn and Guillermo del Toro. 20th Century Fox sent me a vault list of some of the things that they have, so we’ll use those for extras as well.”
A lot of hard work has gone into this disc, from wrangling rights from various companies that claimed ownership, to tracking down the best possible original materials. You can hear all about those in the actual episode. The disc will be out later this year for sure, and it sounds like it’ll be worth the wait!
Be sure to visit Synapse-Films.com!