Kooky Cozzi Paganini Horror! ...Now In HD!

If you like your stylish Italian horror flicks cheap, silly and weird, then you should already have this movie!  But if you haven't been collecting horror DVDs over a decade ago, you probably missed out on Luigi Cozzi's Paganini Horror. But unless you're hung up on your movies being, you know, good by some kind of objective or reasonable standard like a normal person, in which case you'll probably absolutely hate this movie. But assuming you're not one of those people, then I'm here to tell ya, this German import's worth tracking down.

Update 1/10/17 - 10/29/19:  Better yet, just buy the blu-ray!  Because Paganini Horror's been restored in HD for a new special edition from 88 and Severin Films.
If you're not familiar with this one, the plot is real simple. A guy buys a long lost score by the famous composer Niccolo Paganini from Donald Pleasance, who's also the devil or something along those lines. He gives it to his girlfriend, an aspiring rock star, to turn into a modern pop song with her band.  Their manager, Daria Nicolodi, who also might be evil, wants them to shoot their music video in an old mansion that's stuck in a time loop, where some little girl once killed her mother just like Paganini killed his bride and used her intestines to string his violin as part of his pact with the devil.  Plus, Paganini will be summoned in the flesh when the band plays his song, or maybe he's just a masked slasher, but either way his victims come back as ghosts and hmm, okay.  Maybe the plot's not so simple, or even quite comprehensible if you really stop to think about it.  But why would you do that?
It's a fun, attractive and charmingly daft little horror movie about a famous violinist come back from the dead to chase young people around a colorful music video set.  It's attractively shot, Paganini has a violin with a knife that shoots out of it, there are a couple gnarly kills, everybody's running around in silly costumes, the music is upbeat and catchy - including a couple, full blown pop rock performances - and they've got some great location photography.  On the other hand, the whole production is clearly low budget, and set pieces often look very cheap and the impressive casting of Pleasance is wasted with some bland third party dubbing (on the Italian and English audio tracks) and not terribly interesting dialogue... I mean, come on, he's the devil!  Plus, the story really is a mess.  It's co-written by three people, including Nicolodi, which should put this on par with Suspiria, right?  Yeah, no.
So, the cult German label put this out twice on DVD in the early 2000s; all the cool sites like Xploited and Diabolik used to have this in spades.  But now its long OOP.  The first version was a 2-disc set, with the uncut widescreen version and a slightly trimmed 4:3 Italian television cut.  The second disc with the TV cut doesn't have English language options, though, and there are many differences between the two versions except some blood has been trimmed and the picture's open matte.  So I just got the single disc edition, which is completely English friendly, and also happens to be a fully loaded special edition.  It's pretty awesome, except for one little thing: it's woefully non-anamorphic.

But that's not an issue anymore!  Paganini Horror has been restored in 2k from the original negative for blu-rays in both the UK (88 Films) and the US (Severin).  I went with the Severin for a reason I'll get into below, but as you'd expect, they both trample the non-anamorphic concerns with full 1080p HD transfers.
2003 X-Rated DVD top; 2019 Severin BD bottom.
The DVD's non-anamorphic, but at least it's not interlaced, taken from film elements (occasional flecks and dust pop up; but for the most part it's pretty clean) and in the director's presumably preferred 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  But yeah, it looks awfully compressed and low on detail in that tiny window.  The non-anamorphic presentation is a real bummer, because this is a film that relies a lot on its look. And now that we see the film in HD, well, it still looks a little on the grungy side.  I'd put that down more to a reflection of the film itself than its home video representation, except grain does appear pretty pixelated and artificial, so I'm not so sure.  It's unquestionably an improvement over the DVD, don't get me wrong; but I wonder if some Italian company's been sitting on this scan for a long time.  I suppose we're facing "how much money can we be expected to spend on a low-key Cozzi oddity?  We're lucky to get this in HD at all" deal, which is admittedly understandable.  Swinging the pendulum back to the positive side, Severin retains the 1.66:1 ratio with some pillar-boxing, but in comparison to the DVD, we see that they've unveiled more information along all four sides, which is good because the DVD always did feel a little tight.

And audio-wise, X-Rated provide the English, Italian and German mono 2.0 tracks, which is great because you get to hear the alternate voices.  But unfortunately, the only subtitles on-hand were in German, so us English speakers had to stick to the English track unless you're multilingual.  So score some more points for Severin, who include both the English and Italian (they did ditch the German dub), now in DTS-HD with optional English subtitles.  In fact, they include two subtitle options: the proper subtitles (faithful translation of the original Italian) and dubtitles (transcription of the English dub).  Researching it online, 88 also seems to have both audio tracks (in LPCM) with just the one subtitle track.
And did I mention packed special editions? Yes!  X-Rated starts out with a very informative audio commentary by director Luigi Cozzi.  He also provides an hour-long on-camera interview.  Plus, there's a brief clip of him speaking at a film festival.  So you really get his full story across all of that.  There's also a short video clip of him recording the commentary, for a little peek behind the curtain.  But then you have probably the most important extras of all: the deleted scenes.  Some of the deleted scenes aren't much, but others are really out there, because contrary to his producers, Cozzi wanted this to be a sci-fi film; so some of these scenes are pretty freakin' weird and out of left field.  They're not translated, but I'd say 90% percent of what's on sale here is visual spectacle, and the puzzling aspect of them being untranslated adds to the fun almost as much as it detracts.  This release also comes in a very cool looking "hardbox," which is essentially an oversized clamshell case, like those classic horror VHS boxes from the 80s.

Oh, and by the way, if you did get that 2-disc version, the only additional extras you'd receive are a couple trailers and a small photo gallery.  All the extras of substance are on the single-disc version.
2003 X-Rated DVD top; 2019 Severin BD bottom.
And now we get to why I opted for the Severin edition: the two blus have differing special features, and only Severin included those wild deleted scenes and alternate ending.  What's that?  Oh, why yes, that is an hour glass floating through outer space like some crazy Dr. Who acid flashback.  Somehow that fit into Cozzi's original vision about the devil and a house haunted by a famous violinist.  Yeah, so one little disappointment is that I was hoping Severin would drum up subtitles for these, but oh well.  These still look like they're ripped from a VHS tape, but the image is a little clearer than X-Rated, which was interlaced.

Severin also has the trailer, which was only on the 2-disc DVD set, and it's in HD here.  But they lost of the DVD's other extras, so die-hard fans may still want to track the X-Rated DVD down.  But only die-hard fans, because Severin has conducted their own 30+ minute interview with Cozzi, which really does a more than acceptable job presenting his insight and memories of the film that the DVD extras did.  Both releases also got an on-camera interview with Pietro Genuardi who played Mark, the music video director in the film.  Too bad neither party seems to have reached out to Maria Cristina Mastrangeli, who's been gracious enough to drop by in the comments here, but oh well.  Anyway, both Severin and 88 Films share the interviews, which were done by Freak-O-Rama - who I can't help but notice are starting to become one of the top guys in I-horror interviewing - and the trailer.  Where they diff is that 88 has an audio commentary by Troy Howarth, while Severin has those deleted scenes.  Also, if you bought their limited editions, 88 comes with a slip cover and booklet Eugenio Ercolani, while Severin's comes with a soundtrack CD.
I originally concluded this post by saying that, "Paganini Horror seems like an ideal candidate for a label like 88 Films," and hey, look what happened!  This is another one in what's becoming a regular pattern of 88 releasing it in the UK and Severin in the US.  Again, the deleted scenes were the deciding factor for me between the two, but the good news is that you can't go wrong either way, and casual buyers may want to just opt for whichever version doesn't require them to pay for overseas shipping.  It's great to see this film back in print so hopefully it can find its audience again.


  1. Nice! But if my memory are right the excellent Daria Nicolodi was the owner of the hunted house, and I played the band manager! :)

  2. Daria Nicolodi played Sylvia the owner of the mansion that rented it out to them to shoot the video in. She was the little girl that killed her mother in the opening scene, that was trapped in her own personal hell, that lured others to join her .

  3. 88 films release has really good transfer will you be doing rewiew of it

    1. They definitely had my attention when they first announced it, but since they don't seem to have the deleted scenes and alternate ending, which are a big part of the fun of this one, I think I'm gonna hold out for the Severin version next month. But yeah, one way or another, I'll definitely be updating this post this Fall. 8)

  4. If the damn distributors hadn't cut out Cozzi's outer space hourglass stuff (making good use of those Hercules FX outtakes) and Donald dubbed his own lines, this would be right up there with the greats. PS - Speaking of, I don't see Cozzi's HERCULES and HERCULES 2 on here -- they are the creme de la Cozzi and both literally and figuratively Cannon!