LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Journalist Alan Jones Chats About Dario Argento
By James Whittington, Sunday 26th September 2010
Alan Jones is one of the most respected journalists around today. His work has appeared in far too many magazines to list here, he is also one of the four organisers of the legendary FrightFest movies events and is a leading authority on the work of Dario Argento. Alan will be on the Horror Channel introducing the movies in our Dario Argento season during October so we decided to chat with Alan as to why Argento's work is so important and why he loves the work of this Italian director. (photo of Alan Jones by Steven Hurst)
HC: When were you first exposed to Argento's work?
AJ: I'm very lucky in that I’ve seen every Argento film in sequence and in the cinema. Being a horror fan ever since I was 12, I read all the American horror magazine like Famous Monsters and Castle Of Frankenstein. In 1970, just after I had moved to London, they started mentioning The Bird With The Crystal Plumage as being the best movie since Psycho. I finally tracked it down under its UK title The Gallery Murders on a double bill in an East London flea pit - in those pre DVD days you had to catch movies fast, otherwise you never knew when you’d see them again. To say it made an impact on me is an understatement. Watching Crystal Plumage was a revelation in terms of style, story content, violence and surreality, all wrapped up in a cosmopolitan Italian atmosphere. I was besotted, and became a rabid giallo and Argento fan from that moment on. I had already worshipped the work of Mario Bava and Riccardo Freda in my teens, without really understanding why, but Argento finally locked down my love for Italian horror sensibilities and their brand of shocking and ethereal imagery I clearly responded to more than any other sub-genre.
HC: Can you recall the first time you met him?
AJ: Like it was yesterday. In 1982 I was working for the video company Videomedia who had offices on Wardour Street. My boss Maureen Bartlett first started off the company with a series of language tapes before moving into more commercial product. One day she came back from Cannes saying she had bought this great movie from Italy titled Tenebrae. Naturally because I was an Argento devotee I was absolutely thrilled. And I took over all aspects of the release, which meant Dario and Daria Nicolodi, his partner and leading lady at the time (and mother of Asia Argento), came to London to do press for the theatrical debut. I had already entered the horror journalism field and had written a major piece on Argento’s work for the magazine Cinema. I was astonished to learn Dario had read it and was familiar with my writing. He’s credited me as being the first person outside of Italy and France to fully appreciate and understand his work. That began my relationship with him and his family that endures to this day, and saw me on every subsequent film set to cover the making of his movies. I rewrote all those set reports into my bestselling book Profondo Argento, which fans will be delighted to know I’m currently updating for a 2012 launch date. On our first meeting, Dario said something to me I’ve never forgotten. He asked me to always keep his fans informed on what he was up to. I promised him I would and through my magazine connections I have done that. On the Turin set of Mother Of Tears I told him how grateful I was he had let me into his life, and he in turn thanked me for all my support. I reminded him of our first meeting, and once more I was astonished that he remembered it in precise detail too.
HC: How do you think he’s changed as a director and as a person over the time you’ve known him?
AJ: As a director, especially watching him work as much as I have, he hasn’t changed at all. He’s still this tireless mad whirling dervish. Anyone in my line of work will know being on film sets is very boring, but Dario’s are different because of his over-powering personality. I know all his traits and whims - for example, beware when he goes to the side of the soundstage and starts walking in a circle because he’s thinking about the next shot and you are dead if you interrupt his train of thought - and the drive he has to put the images he sees in his mind on film. As close as we are in some ways, I’ve always kept Dario at a remove too, that way I can always be objective about his work and I have told him my honest opinions of his movies over the years. He recently turned 70 and perhaps is now looking his age, but the fire is still there, so is the temper and I hope he can forget all about the experiences on his last movie Giallo - significantly the only one he never produced or had full control of - and bounce back with something worthy of his estimable talents. Argento is a brand name the Italian Film Industry should not be ignoring. Who else has had such continued global success in the horror field that the Italians still see as the poor relation.
HC: Of the five movies showing this month on the Horror Channel which one is your favourite and why?
AJ: Oh dear, it’s Sophie’s Choice, how can I pick one out of the masterworks they represent? I adore Terror At The Opera because it features two of my favourite Argento set pieces - the crow-camera flying around the opera auditorium to unmask the killer, and Daria Nicolodi’s spectacular bullet-through-eye death. And I had the best time on the Rome locations for that movie. Deep Red has my favourite murders, each foretold by actions in the sequence before it. Tenebrae has that fabulous soundtrack, T-shirt death and camera-over-the-roof stalking... But it has to be The Bird With The Crystal Plumage because it is still so fresh looking, so exciting, so beautifully composed, a marvellous mixture of art and exploitation. And the knife rape murder is still one of Argento’s most amazing moments.
HC: It is rumoured he is remaking Suspira; if true do you think this is a wise idea?
AJ: Dario and his producer brother Claudio Argento sold the remake rights to Suspiria ages ago and the producer has been trying for years to get it off the ground. The latest news is that David Gordon Green, of Pineapple Express fame, (!) is down to direct. But then Natalie Portman was also supposed to be taking the star role brilliantly essayed by Jessica Harper in 1977, and she ended up in the remarkably similar Black Swan instead. The problem with a remake of suspiria is that why it’s such a great film is because of Dario’s style and directing prowess. It has nothing to do with the story. Anyone could film the plot about a ballet school infested by witches. But no one can replicate the florid visual look and stunning images Dario gave that seminal supernatural masterpiece. There have also been rumoured remakes of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Deep Red in 3D and Tenebrae. Take them all with a pinch of salt.
HC: Argento inspired many big name directors; do you agree that it was about time he was recognised by critics outside the horror genre for his accomplishments?
AJ: Well, John Carpenter, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, and many lesser directors, consistently cite Dario as one of their major influences. I do think he has been recognised now by the people who count as one of the key masters of horror. Once people realise he directed Suspiria, one of the Top Ten horrors of all time, they get it. Unlike Mario Bava, Riccardo Freda, Sergio Martino, or even Antonio Margheriti, whose reputations outside Italy are stronger than within their own country, Dario’s name has always meant something special there. I can still recall attending the Rome premiere of Terror At The Opera and the massive advertising campaign calling it 'The Christmas Chill From Argento'. Don’t forget Dario is constantly on TV in Italy, had his own Saturday night game show ‘Giallo’ at one point, and in the 70s he and Daria were the Posh and Becks tabloid figures of their era. So he has always signified something more in Italy. Internationally he may be pigeon-holed as just a horror thriller director, but what’s wrong with that? Especially when you have your name above the title as he always does.
HC: Are there any directors around at the moment that you think could handle the Giallo genre and update it for the 21st century?
AJ: See my favourite film of the moment Amer. What co-director Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani do in that stunning thriller is replicate the motifs, visual codings and cliches of the classic giallo movie to fashion a whole new contemporary narrative sensation. Think of it as a neo Three Faces Of Fear with three stages of female sexuality explored to unmask its black-gloved assassin. All set to recycled Italian soundtracks in the Tarantino tradition. Amer is mesmerising and magnificent and anyone who loves Dario’s movies will be beside themselves when they see it
HC: So what’s next for you?
AJ: Hopefully covering every aspect of Dario’s next film. Will it be the Cannes announced Dracula 3D? I know he’s been working on that but not sure how concrete the plans are yet. You can be sure I’ll let you know though.
HC: Alan Jones, thank you very much.
You can catch Dario Argento movies throughout October on the Horror Channel. Click here for the full list and start times.
Related show tags: DEMONS, DEMONS 2, PHENOMENA, TERROR AT THE OPERA, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE MORE ARTICLES Would you open the Book of Monsters?
Posted in News, Monday 19th August 2019
Dark Rift Films and Blue Finch Film Releasing have announced the release of the award winning, horror comedy Book of Monsters in the UK and Ireland. Full of practical effects driven monsters and intense, gory action, the movie is a dark horror comedy in the vein of The Evil Dead II and Shaun of the Dead.
Sophie's 18th birthday party becomes a bloodbath when six terrifying monsters descend upon her house, intent on devouring the party guests and killing anyone who tries to leave. As her school friends are torn apart and consumed, Sophie must rally a band of misfits and take up arms to send their party crashers back to hell. In order to survive the night, Sophie will face her destiny...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel Manager Stewart Bridle rounds up some of the genre gems to catch at FrightFest 2019.
Posted in Features, Frightfest, Monday 19th August 2019
It's the most terrifying time of year, one filled with fear, torture and overwhelming dread. I'm not talking about being strapped to some SAW-type trap but rather having to decide watch to watch from FrightFest's annual line-up. And in their 20th year things are even harder than before with a record-breaking 78 movies to choose from. But if making a decision is slowly killing you then let us help with some of the movies we recommend scaring yourself with...CRAWL Alexander Aja, the director behind such horror hits as Switchblade Romance, the 2006 version of The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha 3D, returns with another gory genre piece that will do for the reputation of alligators what he previously did for... SHARE: READ MORE The Ford brothers chat about The Dead 2: India and Offensive which are both showing in our FrightFest Season.
Posted in Features, Frightfest, Wednesday 14th August 2019
Ahead of the UK TV premieres of The Dead 2 and Offensive, (part of the FrightFest season), brothers Howard and Jon Ford discuss the trials and tribulations of filmmaking, healing wounds and why The Dead 3 won't be happening any time soon...
HC: We will be launching our massive 13-night FrightFest Double-Bill Season with the UK TV premiere of The Dead 2. Excited?
HF: Well it's a surprise, but a lovely one! Until I was asked to do this interview, I had no clue The Dead 2 had even been picked up by Horror Channel! But yes, I'm very excited.
JF: I hope the viewers enjoy the film. We went through much pain and effort to make this film, in tough parts of India. We were on a very m...SHARE: READ MORE Arrow Video FrightFest announces 2019 Short Film Programme
Posted in Frightfest, News, Friday 9th August 2019
From unseen forces to dangerous desires, from the remorseful living to the remorseless dead, from under the earth to creepy closed doors, Arrow Video FrightFest 2019 continues the festival's fine tradition of showcasing the best in global genre short filmmaking.
This year's five continent selection unleashes the newest creations from both upcoming and established filmmakers and embraces a record fifteen UK films, seven spotlighted selections from Canada and a breakthrough entry from The United Arab Emirates.
Homegrown talent continues to energise the UK film industry, as reflected in this year's entries. There's Folk Horror (Wither, Marianne) and Body Horror (This Little ...SHARE: READ MORE Toby Jones 'glows' in Kaleidoscope
Posted in News, Thursday 25th July 2019
Acclaimed on its theatrical release, Toby Jones is the the lead in Kaleidoscope, a bleak, nightmarish psychological thriller written and directed by brother Rupert Jones in his feature film debut.
This intense thriller is set to arrive on UK digital platforms on 12 August 2019, followed by its DVD release on 23 September 2019. The cast includes Sinead Matthews (Jellyfish), Cecilia Noble (Danny and the Human Zoo) and a stand out turn from national treasure Anna Reid, MBE (Last Tango in Halifax).
A sparse, drab flat, on a housing estate in London, loud frantic knocking and a dog barking. We meet Carl Woods (Jones), an ex-prisoner with dreams of starting a gardening business, as he's ...SHARE: READ MORE Jen and Sylvia Soska are back with their next nightmare - the bloody, brutal and deranged Rabid!
Posted in Frightfest, News, Thursday 25th July 2019
Acclaimed horror directors and Sylvia Soska aka The Twisted Twins (Dead Hooker in a Trunk, American Mary) are back with their next nightmare - the bloody, brutal and deranged Rabid!
After aspiring fashion designer Rose (Laura Vandervoort) suffers a disfiguring traffic accident she undergoes a radical and untested stem-cell treatment. The experimental transformation is a miraculous success, transforming her into a ravishing beauty. But she soon develops an uncontrollable sexual appetite, resulting in several torrid encounters, which sees her lovers become rabid carriers of death and disease. As the illness mutates and the contagion spreads out of control, all hell breaks loose as the infected r...SHARE: READ MORE Hex Studios will unleash a legion of demons at FrightFest
Posted in Frightfest, News, Wednesday 24th July 2019
The latest offering from the Scottish studio is a demon-themed anthology featuring 13 shorts produced especially for the project by up-and-coming directors from around the world. For We Are Many is the first of several anthology features in the works at Hex, and seeks to showcase the best of new and emerging talent in the genre.
The film stars a host of horror icons including Eileen Dietz (The Exorcist), Nicholas Vince (Hellraiser), and Laurence R. Harvey (The Human Centipede II). Each segment tells the terrifying story of a particular demonic entity, from a devastatingly sensual succubus, to a Native-American demon that drives its victims to cannibalism, and many more, ra...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel celebrates FrightFest 2019 with bumper season
Posted in Features, Frightfest, Tuesday 23rd July 2019
To celebrate FrightFest 2019, taking place in London during the August Bank Holiday, Horror Channel is dedicating thirteen nights to past festival hits. Amongst the twenty-six fearsome favourites, the channel will kick off the season with the UK TV premiere of Howard J. Ford and Jonathan Ford's India-based zombie road movie The Dead 2, the follow-up to their hugely popular African zombie adventure The Dead. There is also a UK TV premiere for Jonathan Ford's Offensive. Produced by brother Howard, this is a dark, violent tale of generational rage and revenge set in rural France.
There are also channel premieres for Julian Gilbey's harrowing British survival shocker, A Lonel...SHARE: READ MORE Spawn reaches issue #300
Posted in News, Monday 22nd July 2019
Image Comics has revealed the highly anticipated J. Scott Campbell cover for the upcoming milestone Spawn #300 issue by Todd McFarlane, President at Image Comics and creator of Spawn. This is just the first of many exciting cover reveals to come on the #Roadto300!
The buzz surrounding the classic antihero series continues to build leading into historic Spawn #300 and record-breaking Spawn #301 when it becomes the longest running creator-owned comic in the world.
This stunning cover by fan-favorite, best-selling artist J. Scott Campbell showcases Todd McFarlane's dark hero in a stunning, heroic pose in front of an ornate stained glass window featuring various allies and villains...SHARE: READ MORE How far down the rabbit hole will you dare to go?
Posted in News, Monday 22nd July 2019
Anticipated upcoming anthology Wonderland, edited by Marie O'Regan and Paul Kane, will be released on 17th September.
Join Alice as she is thrown into the whirlwind of Wonderland, in an anthology that bends the traditional notions of Lewis Carroll's classic novel, featuring ghosts, medieval quests, demons and cyborgs.
Tread carefully as you visit the brilliant and bizarre world of Wonderland once again, for these original and fantastically horrifying tales capture a Wonderland that you'll never have experienced before...
Contributors include the bestselling M.R. Carey, Genevieve Cogman, Catriona Ward, Rio Youers and L.L. McKinney.... SHARE: READ MORE Soundtrack to Lars Von Trier's controversial film Antichrist arriving soon
Posted in News, Monday 22nd July 2019
Cold Spring have announced the official release of the soundtrack to Lars Von Trier's controversial film Antichrist, available on physical format for the first time.
Ten years after the film's initial release, the extreme, provocative performances from Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg in Antichrist still have the power to shock, repulse and divide audiences. The sound design by Kristian Eidnes Andersen with Lars Von Trier, was composed using only natural sounds and samples (including internal body recordings). Each element was recorded specifically for the film and overseen by Von Trier, including a brand new, sombre performance of Handel's 'Lasci...SHARE: READ MORE More Who to hit vinyl in August
Posted in News, Monday 22nd July 2019
Following the sell-out success of Big Finish Productions limited edition Doctor Who stories on vinyl, the audio company has announced another exclusive release. Sainsbury's will launch Doctor Who: Wave of Destruction starring Tom Baker, Lalla Ward and John Leeson on 2nd August 2019. It will be released as a Limited Edition run of 1500 copies on 'ocean swirl' vinyl - only available in the UK.
A modulated frequency wave cancellation signal isn't something that the Doctor and Romana expect to detect in 1960s London. But then they don't expect to find Professor Lanchester, the man who invented it, lying unconscious. Or MI5 investigating. With the help of ...SHARE: READ MORE Articles Archive: 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Friday 30th August
Wednesday 21st August
Wednesday 28th August