• Paganini Horror



    Released by: X-Rated Kult
    Released in: 2003
    Director: Luigi Cozzi
    Cast: Daria Nicolodi, Donald Pleasence, Jasmine Maimone, Pascal Persiano, Maria Cristina Mastrangeli
    Year: 1989
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    The Movie:

    Take a film directed by Luigi Cozzi (Contamination), of whom I am not a big fan but who I do respect for his love of the genre and his clever eye for snappy visuals, set it in an eerie house haunted by a dead violin player who sold his soul to Satan and put Daria Nicolodi in it 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 movie. Instead what we got was Paganini Horror, a film so far from cool it has to crank up the air conditioning just to stay comfortable, and that’s on a very cold day.

    After a meandering prologue in which a young girl kills her mother by throwing a hairdryer into her bathtub, the story revolves around Kate (Jasmine Maimone, who played Nancy in Demons) and her band, who after spending some time in the recording studio, are told by their producer that they really need a hit. Their overzealous drummer heeds the advice and purchases and 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 band finds out that it’s actually an old piece of music written by 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 and 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 them, the house has a sinister history and when they play their forbidden music, they somehow summon Paganini from the dead, who slowly but surely kills most of them off using a sort of switchblade-violin combo weapon, all the while the producer is still trying to get the video made, hoping for a hit record.
    While there are some interesting camera angles and nifty colored lighting effects, it’s not enough to save the movie. A few moderately icky gore set pieces make the film mildly interesting from that standpoint, but again, it’s not enough. 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. Parts of it do work on a ‘so bad it’s good’ level, but even then, the film doesn’t offer up quite enough camp to really give it a solid recommendation (though it comes close, there is a mild amount of unintentional hilarity here if you want to sit through it).

    German DVD company, X-Rated, has released both the European TV version of the film, which is edited differently, and the uncut export version of the film which has all the gore intact, though there still isn’t a ton of it and those looking for cheap thrills from the effects department will likely be left wanting.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    As stated, there are two versions included on this released. The Italian TV version of the film is fullframe while the export cut is letterboxed at 1.55.1, though there is no 16x9 enhancement. Overall, there is quite a bit of grain, print damage, and some compression problems throughout the duration of each version. Blacks are muddy and a lot of the colors are too saturated or too faded and rarely look natural. The films are watchable, but they sure don’t look too good.

    The TV version is presented in German and Italian audio only with no English subtitles, while the export cut is available with a dubbed English language soundtrack option. Both are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and they don’t sound too bad. There are a few minutes where things do sound quite a bit ‘tinny’ but for the most part dialogue is comprehensible and clear enough to get the job done. They aren’t reference quality tracks but they work well enough.

    Wow. X-Rated has supplied far more extras than I had even though existed for this film. One the first disc, supplementing the TV version of the film, we get a German teaser spot, a second alternative teaser spot, an Italian TV promo spot, the German theatrical trailer, the export trailer, and a batch of behind the scenes/production photos.

    But the second disc is where the meat of this cheese sandwich lies. First off, in addition to the export version of the film, we have a full-length commentary, in English with German subtitles, from the film’s director, Luigi Cozzi. Cozzi is good-natured enough on this track and has no false allusions as to the quality of the film he made here. He doesn’t treat it like a masterpiece and is well aware of the flaws in the film and does a pretty good job of explaining why and how some of them occurred. It’s an interesting track to listen to, even if sometimes his English can be a little difficult to understand through his accent (hey, you can’t fault the guy for this, he does an admirable job with what is not his first language!).

    X-Rated doesn’t stop there though, there’s also an hour long interview with Cozzi, also in English with German subtitles, that gives the director another opportunity to talk about his love of genre films, his influences and experiences working in horror movies, and of course, his work on Paganini Horror. A second featurette goes behind the scenes of recording the audio commentary with Cozzi and runs in at about fifty-eight minutes. By this point, some of the material is getting repetitive, but there is still some fresh information to be gleaned by those who haven’t had enough Cozzi from the previous extras.

    Finally, there are a handful of deleted scenes and an alternate beginning and ending to the film are also supplied. These are in worse shape than the feature itself and look to be taken from a VHS tape, but at least they’re here and it’s nice to have them included even if they don’t look so hot.

    The Final Word:

    While the movie is pretty bad and the video could use some work, X-Rated has slapped a treasure trove of supplements on the disc, which makes it worth a look for Cozzi fans or those who just appreciate really, really bad movies.