Interview with Luigi Cozzi

cozziLuigi Cozzi (Sept. 7, 1947, Busto Arsizio) is one of the foremost connoisseurs and popularizers (through his editorial work at Profondo Rosso, founded with Dario Argento) of Italian cinema.
Some of the most interesting texts devoted to genre films (Horror, Science Fiction, Detective, etc.) have been edited by him.

But the author of so many books has, in the past, also been a good director, directing films of different genres and leaving his mark by signing on as director of the excellent thriller The Murderer is Forced to Kill Again.
Cozzi made himself available (by phone) by answering a series of questions put to him trying to understand how, and why, the conditions of our Italian cinema currently weigh in rather badly...

The interview

D:
his first direction can be attributed to a short film, The Tunnel Under the World.
What is it about and how did the idea of directing the film come about?

Cozzi:
My main passion has always been science fiction. The Tunnel Under the World, written in 1955 by Frederick Pohl was a subject that I considered suitable to coin science fiction with my other great passion, which is, indeed, film. The original story (where an entire community is held captive by advertising researchers) was, recently, also borrowed in Peter Weir's film (The Truman Show, 1998).

D:
later collaborated with Dario Argento: working on the subject of 4 Flies of Grey Velvet. How do you remember that time spent together with the director?

Cozzi:
With Dario we were (and still are) very close friends. We would often be at the movies together, or at the dinner table, and in those contexts, we would discuss a new story to be brought to the screen. The genesis of the subject of 4 Flies of Grey Velvet had these characteristics, only to be formalized into a screenplay later in the long sessions held together with Dario.

D:
Of the episodes in the TV cycle The Door to the Darkness, the one titled The Neighbor is perhaps the best, along with Eyewitness: had you considered directing a mystery/thriller genre film at the time?

Cozzi:
I wished to try my hand at directing, having worked as a freelancer for a number of film magazines (his articles in Horror, directed, in the early 1970s, by Alfredo Castelli - ed.) were interesting, and the context of the time was that: the detective story was the only genre that was in vogue.

D:
How did you come to direct the mystery The Murderer is Compelled to Kill Again, since your favorite genre is science fiction?

Cozzi:
the production, inspired by Giorgio Scerbanenco's novel (Al mare con la Ragazza) had planned to make a film (originally The Spider) that would be an extension of the episode The Neighbor. After my experience as Argento's assistant director, as well as director of the episode of the La Porta sul Buio cycle, Dario himself put my name forward as the most appropriate one to direct the film.

D:
in the film The Spider there is, in my view, a strong sense of "independence" from the traditional detective story born in the wake of the Argentine titlings.
Beginning with the title, continuing with the fact that The Killer is seen in the face from the first frame and that the police are portrayed as efficient and play a prominent role...

Cozzi:

Indeed it did. In spite of the fact that the period called for titles and films with "similar" content to Argento's, I thought of giving the film a "different" and countertrend slant. Together with Daniele Del Giudice we wrote the script of the film affixing a whole series of decisively unusual details: such as that of the killer who appears from the very first frame.

D:
the distribution affairs of this film were rather painful: made in 1973 it landed on the screens only two years later, in 1975 with a different title. Compared to the first version, were any cuts or changes made?

Cozzi:
once completed, the film was rejected by the censors for the contents of scenes deemed too violent combined with other sex scenes. Later, after "purging" the film of sequences deemed "extreme," the film was retitled as L'Assassino è Costretto ad Uccidere Ancora and was released in Italian theaters in a cut version. When I was contacted by Blue Underground for the digital edition of the film, I dictated that the film be edited in its entirety: as it was originally conceived.

D:
let's change course and aim for the genre you are most comfortable with: Contamination is an excellent example of fantasy/horror, full of splatter sequences and enhanced by the Goblin soundtrack. How did you come to include the soundtrack that would later also be used in Massaccesi's film, Buio Omega?

Cozzi:
the producer had particularly liked the musical themes previously composed by the Goblins, and when the Goblins were contacted to compose the soundtrack they immediately agreed, knowing that I had previously collaborated with Dario Argento...

D:
Starcrash is considered a cult film: how do you remember Nadia Cassini, David Hasselhoff, and Caroline Munro?

Cozzi:
Nadia Cassini worked a couple of days (always accompanied by her husband), but as far as I remember she was very nice and kind, as was Caroline Munro. For David Hasselhoff, although he is very active in TV shows intended for television, the participation in Starcrash represents his debut on the big screen.

D:
You had the opportunity to work together with Joe D'Amato, collaborating on scripts for films with a "Caribbean" theme. Later you were offered to direct La Casa 4, a Massaccesi production: why did you refuse to complete the film?

Cozzi:
I gave up directing the film after two weeks: the set was set up and the film was already being technically made. It was just that the story did not appeal to me; I found it too obvious and banal. Massaccesi wanted me to direct a film that I didn't feel was mine: and for no particular reason I decided to give up directing a horror film with television as its final destination....

D:
In your opinion, why has the culture of Science Fiction cinema not developed in Italy? Except for a few titles by Margheriti and rare forays like Bava's Shark-Red in the Ocean or some of his films (Starcrash and Contamination)...

Cozzi:
in Italy there is not the international mentality towards this topic: starting with the producers and ending with the public. There is a lack of a suitable culture to delve into this topic, which is not particularly liked by the public.
For Starcrash, for example, a medium-to-high budget film, it was possible to bring the project to fruition thanks to the involvement of foreign producers. The support of capital from foreign production companies made it possible to make a science fiction film through the use of techniques that were appropriate and, normally, precluded to purely Italian productions...

D:
Can you unravel the mystery of the lack of Italian distribution of Black Cat-De Profundis?

Cozzi:
in the late 1980s the meddling of televisions in film productions decreed the emergence of films intended (mainly) for TV passage. Black Cat was not deemed optionable for TV passage, so its only destination was the foreign market....

D:
As a director do you think you will never get behind the mdp again?

Cozzi:
we shall see what the future proposes: a priori no decision to give up directing a film that perhaps proves interesting or to delve into a subject worthy of attention...

 

I thank Cozzi for his generous availability, and for his courtesy in this context.

 

Interview by Fabio Pazzaglia

 

 

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Barbara Torretti
Barbara Torretti
Editor and moderator of the DarkVeins community. Passionate about horror cinema, I also do reviews and interviews pertaining to the film, music and art circuit.

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