Color, 2016, 116 mins. 35 secs.
Directed by Luigi Cozzi
Starring Luigi Cozzi, Philippe Beun-Garbe, Alessia Patregnani
Intervision (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Profondo Rosso (DVD) (Italy R0 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

After blowing Blood on Méliès’ Moonthe minds of die-hard Italian horror fans at the end of the '80s Blood on Méliès’ Moonwith Paganini Horror and The Black Cat, filmmaker Luigi Cozzi took a long time before finally getting back into the feature film game. In the interim he's been very happy running the Profondo Rosso horror shop in Rome, which is owned by Dario Argento with a subterranean museum of memorabilia from his films circa Phenomena onward. In a move that feels like a psychedelic cross between Cozzi's comic approach to The Black Cat (itself an unofficial addition to the "Three Mothers" cycle) and Lucio Fulci's A Cat in the Brain, here he plays himself embroiled in a supernatural murder mystery centered around the Profondo Rosso store itself. Tossed into the mix is a slew of cameos including Argento, Lamberto Bava, Barbara Magnolfi, Luigi Pastore, Antonio Tentori, and other faces from the Italian genre scene.

In the CGI-laden opening sequence, a Dune-style female narrator floating in the stars explains how the fate of the world can be traced to a creepy occult figure dating back to the the time of Leonardo Da Vinci complete with a mystical book that will play a pivotal role in our story. In 1890, the evolution of cinema was a key chapter thanks to the Blood on Méliès’ Moonunknown involvement of a French inventor, Louis Le Prince, whose cinematographic inventions were appropriated on the way Blood on Méliès’ Moonto Paris when he mysteriously vanished. Enter Cozzi and the shop, the latest and most crucial location in a nightmare unfolding between parallel universes, set off by the arrival of a wrapped package from a Parisian magician named Pier Pierpoljakos. Soon after while Argento is doing a book signing, Magnolfi shows up fresh from a disturbing seance only to get murdered in the museum by a possessed mannequin from Blood and Black Lace. From there it's a cavalcade of references to films by Cozzi and many others, all tied to a sinister secret involving some dark matter Méliès footage and the slighted Le Prince who's trying to crack through into this plane of existence.

Okay, this is basically the craziest two-hour commercial for Profondo Rosso imaginable, but as a kind of ambitious and extremely unpredictable cinematic goof made by Cozzi and his pals, it's certainly not boring. This one also easily outdoes Argento's Trauma for the most "WTF?" moment in Italian horror involving dreadlocks, here in a final punchline that sends the film out on an unforgettable note, for better or worse. The film was made and released under the banner of Profondo Rosso itself, including several film festival engagements and a 2017 Italian DVD with English subtitles. In 2002, Intervision issued it as a two-disc Blu-ray set decked out with lots of extras. The film was shot digitally in HD and definitely looks it, but the transfer's great for what it is; DTS-HD MA Italian 5.1 The Little Wizards of Ozand 2.0 audio options are included with optional English subtitles. Cozzi also The Little Wizards of Ozprovides a 10m12 video intro (inside the shop, of course) about how the film originates back to his days at Cannon just after making Hercules and how the concept evolved over the years from a simpler period picture.

Also on the first disc is another entire feature Cozzi shot right after Blood: 2018's The Little Wizards of Oz (96m5s), which was borne out of Cozzi's work with an elementary school where some kids wanted to make a movie. Essentially it's a pint-sized version of what Brian De Palma did with Home Movies except much weirder since it's an amalgamation of ideas from the kids' essays about L. Frank Baum and his world of Oz. That means you get another CGI opener, lots of animation, a bunch of the kids singing reggae, a sort of framework involving their substitute teacher who assigned the project in the first place, an extended sequence with the children dressed up as Dorothy and her pals in what looks like another galaxy, and a red-faced Wicked Witch of the West committing evil with a floating Etch A Sketch. To put it mildly, you've never seen anything like it. In this case it's definitely recommended to watch Cozzi's intro to this one (clocking in at 7m49s) or you won't The Little Wizards of Ozhave the slightest idea what you're The Little Wizards of Ozwatching.

The second Blu-ray is devoted entirely to special features including the feature-length 2016 autobiographical documentary by Felipe M. Guerra, FantastiCozzi (72m33s), with the man himself assembling various public appearances and a new interview into a portrait of his lifelong passion for sci-fi and horror. It's a sweet-natured and endearing self-portrait, and for many it will probably be the highlight of the set as it veers through key genre touchstones from the 1960s onward. Also included are several featurettes including the making of Blood on Méliès’ Moon (10m44s) presented by Cozzi at the store desk, the making of The Little Wizards of Oz (11m23s) focusing on the CGI creation, "The Art of The Little Wizards of Oz" (7m25s) which plays like a sort of interactive slideshow, a brief 2m50s visit with L'Écran Fantastique Magazine founder Alain Schlockoff, and the Blood on Méliès’ Moon trailer.

Reviewed on November 24, 2022.