• Paganini Horror (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: October 29th, 2019.
    Director: Luigi Cozzi
    Cast: Daria Nicolodi, Donald Pleasence, Jasmine Maimone, Pascal Persiano, Maria Cristina Mastrangeli
    Year: 1989
    Purchase From Amazon

    Paganini Horror – Movie Review:

    Take a film directed by Luigi Cozzi (Contamination), who -despite the ‘quality’ of some of his films you have to respect for his love of the genre and his clever eye for snappy visuals, produced by Fabrizio De Angelis and set it in an eerie house haunted by a dead violin player who sold his soul to Satan. Throw in Daria Nicolodi and have Donald Pleasence run around in a few scenes and you’ve got something, that to me at least, sounds like a pretty cool premise for a seriously chilling horror movie. Instead what we got from that mix was Paganini Horror, a film so far from chilling it has to crank up the air conditioning just to stay comfortable, and that’s on a very cold day. But what the film might lack in atmosphere, it makes up for with garish fashions, a few neat murder set pieces, bad eighties ‘rock’ (including an opening number that sounds way too much like Bon Jovi’s ‘Living On A Prayer’ for its own good) and sheer goofiness.

    After a meandering prologue in which a young girl kills her mother by throwing a hairdryer into her bathtub, the story shifts and in turn revolves around Kate (Jasmine Maimone, who played Nancy in Demons) and her band. After spending some time in the recording studio, are told by their grouchy producer that they really need a hit. Their overzealous drummer heeds that advice and purchases an obscure piece of music from Mr. Pickett, a mysterious man played by an intoxicated looking Donald Pleasence (best known as Dr. Loomis from Halloween). The drummer gets the parchment, and Pickett gets a whole bunch of cold, hard U.S. cash… which he then proceeds to throw into the wind from the top of a tall tower, muttering to himself about ‘little demons.’

    The band comes to find out that what the drummer, Daniel (Pascal Persiano of Demons 2), bought is actually an old piece of music written by Niccolò Paganini, a violinist who sold his soul to the devil for fame and fortune. They try out the music and declare themselves to have a hit on their hands. The next step? They decide to make a video for the song because ‘No one else has ever done anything like this before, except for Michael Jackson and Thriller… and his fantastic video clip!’

    They hire a horror movie director named Mark Singer (Pietro Genuardi of Dellamorte Dellamore), who wears his glasses on the end of his nose, and off they go to film their video in a creepy old house that they’ve rented from Sylvia Hackett (Daria Nicolodi of Deep Red and Tenebre).

    Unfortunately for all involved, the house has a sinister history and when they play their forbidden music, they somehow summon Paganini from the dead. He skulks about in a gold and slowly but surely kills most of them off using a sort of switchblade-violin combo weapon. While all of this is going on, the producer is still trying to get the video made, hoping for a hit record. Sigh…. the high price of fame.

    While there are some interesting camera angles and a lot of nifty colored lighting effects, it’s not enough to make Paganini Horror ‘good’ in the traditional sense, but it’s entertaining enough if you’re in the right mood for it. A few moderately icky murder set pieces make the film mildly interesting from that standpoint, but don’t go into this expecting a gore fest, because it isn’t. The story meanders and ends up nowhere interesting and the dialogue is absolutely horrible to the point where it’s virtually impossible to take the film seriously – so don’t. There’s some definite camp appeal here that will no doubt please some of those more enamored with Cozzi’s films, but much of the film’s appeal will stem from its time capsule qualities. This is a VERY eighties film in look and style, from the score to the décor to the costumes – just the overall look of the picture makes you feel like you should be doing a few lines and arguing about Reaganomics (for the record, we do not suggest doing these things).

    The pacing is okay. The movie goes by briskly and offers some unintentional humor along the way. Donald Pleasance is weirdly dubbed in the English track – a big mistake by anyone’s standards – but it adds to the picture’s schlock appeal. The rest of the cast are amusing enough, even if no one really stands out all that much aside from Pleasance. This isn’t a classic and as an actual piece of ‘horror’ it’s a misfire, but there’s definitely entertainment value to be had.

    Paganini Horror – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings Paganini Horror to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen. The opening credits show some damage that looks baked into the opticals but the visuals are pretty clean after that. The movie was shot on 16mm so expect a good but of grain to be inherent in the picture. Sometimes that grain gets a little clumpy looking as the encoding here leaves something to be desired, but the colors look good. Detail, depth and texture are about as good as you can expect given the heavy grain and the frequent use of heavy lighting filters but it looks pretty decent overall.

    Audio chores are handled by your choice of an English or Italian language DTS-HD Mono option, with optional subtitles provided for the Italian track and English closed captioning for the English track. The English track does feature some light sibilance that isn’t on the Italian track, but at the same time it’s a bit clearer. Not sure why that is. Either way, the levels are properly balanced and the dialogue is clear. As far as which one is more accurate? Flip a coin but if you go by the lip movements of the cast it sure looks like everyone is speaking English rather than Italian.

    The main extra on the disc is a half-hour interview with Luigi Cozzi himself entitled Play It Again, Paganini. Here the director discusses how and why he came to helm a Paganini-sploitation picture, writing the story for the film, how the film didn’t start as a horror picture but wound up as one, rewrites that were required and Dardano Sacchetti’s contributions to the film in that regard, working with the film’s producers, having to bring the picture in on a super low budget and his thoughts on the film overall.

    After that, jump into a sixteen-minute interview with actor Pietro Genuardi entitled The Devil’s Music. He talks about his experiences on the film and how excited he was to be cast alongside established pros like Nicoladi and Pleasance. The disc also includes nine-minutes of deleted material, including an alternate ending, much of which Fabrizio De Angelis cut out of the film without Cozzi’s consent. De Angeles was probably right to cut the material out, it’s weird (and ties into some of Cozzi’s other work when it doesn’t need to) but it’s great to have it included here. Additionally, the disc includes a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. It’s also worth pointing out that a limited edition of 3,000 pieces also comes bundled with the film’s score on CD and a color insert card containing a track listing for that CD. Soundtrack fans certainly appreciate little touches like this, and it’s a neat extra to have indeed.

    Paganini Horror – The Final Word:

    Paganini Horror is goofy and hard to take seriously but easy to enjoy. Severin Films gives this wonky piece of Eurotrash a decent release with some fine extras and the soundtrack included on CD. Not a film to all tastes, but if you dig low budget, late eighties oddities, you’ll likely get a kick out of this one.

    Click on the images below for full sized Paganini Horror Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Darcy Parker's Avatar
      Darcy Parker -
      I’m seeing around the web that this is another one that Severin did a subpar job on, and the 88 Films release from the UK is the one to grab if you can.