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 Important news from team FrightFest
Posted in Frightfest, Tuesday 2nd June 2020
Due to the continuing Covid-19 restrictions on social distancing, Arrow FrightFest's traditional five day event in August has been regretfully put on hold. Instead, the organisers are planning to expand their traditional all-day Halloween event at the end of October.
Alan Jones, co-director, said today: "Sadly, we won't be able to come together and celebrate our 21st year in the summer but rest assured, we will make our London Halloween event one to remember. FrightFest has always been about the genre community joining together, not just to embrace films but to demonstrate our unique spirit of supportive closeness".
Details on dates, venues, films and tick...SHARE: READ MORE The Grudge (2020) - Blu-ray review
Posted in Reviews, Monday 1st June 2020 The Grudge Certificate 15 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
One of the most famous films of the last couple of decades or so, Japanese shocker Ju-On: The Grudge from director Takashi Shimizu was an expertly crafted journey into the paranormal. A few sequels and remake later and we arrive at a new version of the idea, this time the horror has never been more violent.
When someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage, a curse is born. It gathers in the place of death but cannot be contained. Once you encounter it...it will never let go.
Written and directed by Nicolas Pesce, the movie really does get under the skin of the viewer with an atmosphere that contains ...SHARE: READ MORE Alien invasion, English style!
Posted in News, Sunday 31st May 2020
The deadliest plague has come from above!In a rural English town, two police officers begin their normal shift but soon realise something is wrong. With residents behaving strangely and horrific events unfolding before their eyes, they learn they are under attack from terrifying alien creatures and must fight to defend their town and community.
Starring Katherine Drake and Ritchie Crane, written and directed by award-winning VFX artist and filmmaker Neil Rowe (Robot World), Alien Outbreak will be available to own on DVD and Digital from 20th July from Dazzler Media.... SHARE: READ MORE There's a new reason to be afraid of the dark... Pitch Black in 4K
Posted in News, Saturday 30th May 2020
A sci-fi/horror sleeper hit that birthed a franchise and launched the career of a new action movie icon, Pitch Black holds its own today as a nerve-shredding creature-feature in which the monsters outside finally meet their match against a monster within.
When an intergalactic transport ship crashes on a remote desert planet with no sign of help on the horizon, the survivors, led by Fry (Radha Mitchell), band together to find a way back home. Among the passengers is Riddick (Vin Diesel), a convicted murderer being transported by marshal Johns (Cole Hauser) - and now freed of his chains and on the loose. But as a solar eclipse plunges the planet into total darkness, a threat eve...SHARE: READ MORE Creepshow 2 coming soon to HD
Posted in News, Saturday 30th May 2020
Titans of terror George A. Romero and Stephen King deliver yet another selection of blood-curdling tales in Creepshow 2, the follow-up to the 1982 horror classic. Arrow Video will be giving this classic the release it deserves on Blu-ray on 13th July.
In "Old Chief Wood'nhead", a group of young hoodlums face retribution from an unlikely source after looting a local hardware store. Meanwhile, "The Raft" sees a group of horny teens wishing they'd read the warning signs first before taking a dip in a remote lake. Finally, an uptight businesswoman finds herself with some unwanted company following a hit-and-run incident in "The Hitch-hiker".
Retaining the same EC comic book flav...SHARE: READ MORE You're going to need a bigger sofa... Doctor Who - The Monster Vault opening soon
Posted in News, Tuesday 26th May 2020
Doctor Who's biggest and most comprehensive monster guide yet, The Monster Vault takes you on the ultimate tour of the Whoniverse, discovering and cataloguing every wonderful and terrifying creature the Doctor has ever encountered.
From the notorious Daleks, to the evil Stenza warrior T'zim-Sha and the ancient Thijarians, The Monster Vault features in-depth profiles on each monster, showing the Doctor's most dangerous enemies in their natural habitat and unveiling their secret histories. You will also discover how monsters were created and designed, through exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews, anecdotes, case studies and unseen artwork.
This lavish and visually stunnin...SHARE: READ MORE Influential and genre bending horror-comedy receives a new 2K restoration
Posted in News, Tuesday 26th May 2020
Eureka Entertainment to release Ricky Lau's influential Mr. Vampire, a genre bending horror-comedy, presented from a brand new 2K restoration making its worldwide debut on Blu-ray as part of the Eureka Classics range from 20 July. The first print-run of 2000 copies will feature a Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase and Collector's Booklet.
One of the most genre-defining (not to mention genre-defying!) horror-comedies imaginable, and one of the key Hong Kong blockbuster hits of the 1980s, the popularity and influence of Mr. Vampire cannot be overstated. Spawning at least four sequels and countless spin-offs and imitations, this Hong Kong horror-comedy to end them all was ...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel brings shocks aplenty in June with star-studded Spine-Chiller Season
Posted in Features, News, Thursday 21st May 2020
There are star-studded shocks aplenty on Horror Channel in June, courtesy of the Spine-Chiller Season - a selection of supernatural mysteries to get your summer off to a very scary start. Scheduled for Saturday nights at 9pm, the season is headed by the Channel premiere of the moody and violent chiller Gothika, starring Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr. and Penelope Cruz. Other titles include Kevin Bacon's career launcher Stir of Echoes, the gripping US-remake of The Grudge, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, and the terrifying supernatural thriller Pay the Ghost, starring Nicholas Cage.
There are also UK TV premieres for the sharply eerie Nails, starring Shauna Macdonald and Ross Noble and the deadly Viral, ...SHARE: READ MORE Vin Diesel comes back to life in Bloodshot
Posted in News, Sunday 17th May 2020
Vin Diesel stars in the thrilling action movie Bloodshot, available to buy on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD on June 8 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Based on the bestselling comic book "Valiant" by Jeff Wadlow, Diesel stars as Ray Garrison, a soldier recently killed in action and brought back to life as the superhero Bloodshot by the RST corporation. With an army of nanotechnology in his veins, he's an unstoppable force - stronger than ever and able to heal instantly.
But in controlling his body, the company has sway over his mind and memories, too. Now, Ray doesn't know what's real and what's not - but he's on a mission to find out.
Directed by David S. ...SHARE: READ MORE Exploitation classic Inferno of Torture to be released on Blu-ray
Posted in News, Sunday 17th May 2020
Exploitation legend Teruo Ishii (Horrors of Malformed Men, Orgies of Edo) delivers one of his most extreme visions of violent eroticism in this, the sixth in his abnormal love series. Tattoos and torture await women forced into servitude in Ishii's Inferno of Torture which is being released 6th July by Arrow Video.
Unable to repay a local lender, Yumi (Yumika Katayama) takes up an offer to serve as a geisha for two years with a promise of freedom once her debt is repaid. She quickly realises that this is less a house of geishas than an extremely cruel brothel specialising in supplying western visitors with tattooed playthings. Taken under the wing of one of th...SHARE: READ MORE Dirk Gently to do his detecting on vinyl in July
Posted in News, Sunday 17th May 2020
'Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable.'
Presented in triple gatefold vinyl for the very first time, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency stars Harry Enfield as the singular detective in this full-cast BBC radio dramatisation of the novel by Douglas Adams. First broadcast on Radio 4 in 2007, these fantastically entertaining comedy sci-fi dramas are adapted and directed by Dirk Maggs, acclaimed for his dramatisations of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Good Omens, Neverwhere and many others.
Dirk Gently has an unshakeable faith in the interconnectedness of all things. His Holistic Detective Agency mainly succeeds in...SHARE: READ MORE A trio of Lugosi classics coming to Blu-ray for the first time
Posted in News, Sunday 17th May 2020
Eureka Entertainment to release Murders in the Rue Morgue/The Black Cat/The Raven: Three Edgar Allan Poe Adaptations starring Bela Lugosi, on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK. Presented in a 2-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray set (2000 copies only) as part of The Masters of Cinema Series, available from 20 July.
This trio of classic 1930s horror films-Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat, and The Raven-is also distinguished by a trio of factors regarding their production. Most notably, each film is based on a work by master of the macabre Edgar Allan Poe. Part of the legendary wave of horror films made by Universal Pictures in the 30s, all three fe...SHARE: READ MORE Articles Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Sunday 14th June
Saturday 13th June
Sunday 7th June