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 Interview with Andy Nyman about his role in the classic TV version of The Woman in Black
Posted in Interviews, Sunday 9th August 2020
Andy Nyman is one of the most popular and hardworking actors working today. From thrillers to chillers, from comedy to drama, Andy can turn his hand to any genre. Thanks to Network Releasing we are able to appreciate his first ever TV appearance as they release a remastered version of the acclaimed television adaptation of The Woman in Black. We chatted to Andy about his role in this legendary piece.
HC: Let's chat about this TV version of The Woman in Black, was it one of your first ever roles very first TV role?
AN: That was my very first TV role, I was 23, the same age my son is now. It is a shock, isn't it? I was like, when I saw it ...SHARE: READ MORE Dracula's Child by J.S. Barnes - The Unofficial Sequel to Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'
Posted in News, Saturday 8th August 2020
J.S. Barnes dives straight to the dark heart of Bram Stoker's legendary creation, capturing the voice, tone, style and characters of the original, whilst exploring pressing themes of modern life in this age of false facts and fake news in Dracula's Child. The book offers a wonderful and wholly original expansion to the story of the world's most famous vampire. After all, evil never truly dies.
It has been some years since Jonathan and Mina Harker survived their ordeal in Transylvania and, vanquishing Count Dracula, returned to England to try and live ordinary lives.
But shadows linger long in this world of blood feud and superstition - and, the older their s...SHARE: READ MORE I Spit on Your Grave franchise to get box-set treatment
Posted in News, Saturday 8th August 2020 Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment has announced I Spit on Your Grave: The Complete Collection - the shocking, controversial and ground-breaking film series, presented on Blu-ray and DVD for the very first time, arriving 5th October.
When the original 1978 film was banned in the UK upon release, this notorious revenge movie helped launch the "video nasty" craze of the 1980's and inspired a generation of genre directors through its provocative, no-holds-barred filmmaking. 32 years later, a bold and shocking remake reignited the franchise and spawned a series of sequels which pushed the envelope even further.
Available in the UK as a complete set for the first time, t...SHARE: READ MORE Arrow Video FrightFest announces August 2020 Short Film Programme
Posted in Frightfest, Saturday 8th August 2020
The films may be short, but there is no shortage of scares as Arrow Video FrightFest 2020 showcases the best new short films from the UK and around the world, with six countries representing three continents. From under-the-bed monsters to monsters in front of your eyes, from the sinister and the creepy to the wickedly human and the not-so-human, this year's selection shines a spotlight on upcoming filmmakers.
The UK is represented with a record eleven entries. There are world premiere screenings for Werewolf, where game night just got dangerous, A Bit Of Fun, where a girls' night in brings out the dead and The Beholder, in which you'd be wise to ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Airell Hayles writer and co-director of They're Outside
Posted in Frightfest, Interviews, Saturday 1st August 2020
FrightFest is once again on the horizon but this time, due to global events the event has become a virtual experience with all films being accessed online. Horror is once again sponsoring the First Blood strand of the event. Here we chat to Airell Hayles whose movie They're Outside mixes found footage and pagan horror genres to great effect.
HC: Where did the idea for They're Outside come from?
AH: This idea for They're Outside came from a couple of things. I remember as a kid hearing that my uncle suffered mild agoraphobia, and when I learned what it was, I was fascinated by this idea of some people being kind of scared to leave their homes. Of course, the recent Covid-19 events h...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Fionn and Toby Watts, directors of Playhouse
Posted in Frightfest, Interviews, Saturday 1st August 2020
FrightFest is once again on the horizon but this time, due to global events the event has become a virtual experience with all films being accessed online. Horror is once again sponsoring the First Blood strand of the event. Here we chat to talented brothers Fionn and Toby Watts who have delivered a gothic, creepy piece named Playhouse.
HC: Was there one film or person who influenced or inspired you to become film makers?
FW: As a young boy I remember being absolutely blown away by the image of The Terminator's exo-skeleton rising from the flames. Around the same time I saw Candyman at a sleepover (rented by my friend's 'older' brother...) and it was such an i...SHARE: READ MORE Shatner Vs The Devil! Who wouldn't want to see that?
Posted in News, Thursday 30th July 2020
All hell is about to break loose as Shatner takes on Satan, when 4Digital unleashes The Tomb: Devil's Revenge, on digital platforms from 14th September.
The Descent meets The Exorcist, with a dash of Raiders of the Lost Ark thrown in for good measure, in what promises to be a suspenseful thrill-ride starring iconic Star Trek legend William Shatner, Jeri Ryan (Star Trek: Voyager), Jason Brooks (Star Trek, 2009), Jackie Dallas (Stranger Things) and Michael Yahn (Daredevil).
John Brock is a down-on-his-luck archaeologist who returns from an expedition to the caves of rural Kentucky, after unsuccessfully trying to locate a mysterious relic that hi...SHARE: READ MORE Arrow Video FrightFest announces August Digital Edition line-up and Horror Channel sponsors talent-seeking First Blood strand
Posted in Features, Frightfest, Tuesday 28th July 2020
The UK's most popular horror and fantasy film festival celebrates its 21st bloody year with a special Digital edition, showcasing twenty-five films, from Thursday 27th August to Monday 31st August, including seven world premieres and sixteen UK premieres. Ten countries are represented from four continents in a deadly, daring and diverse programme exclusively presented to UK audiences.
Passes and tickets will go on sale Saturday 1 August and details on how to access the event and choose which films to watch are on the FrightFest website. All film screenings will be geo-locked to UK audiences and only accessible from within the United Kingdom.
The men...SHARE: READ MORE Revisit James Cameron's first movie on Blu-ray in August
Posted in News, Friday 24th July 2020
It may seem like paradise, but just off shore, a new brand of terror has been unleashed in Piranha 2: The Spawning.
While investigating the mysterious death of a diver, scuba instructor Anne Kimbrough (Tricia O'Neil) makes a horrific discovery: mutated piranhas, with wings that enable them to fly, are responsible for the death.
As the body count rises, Anne desperately tries to convince the manager of the resort to call off the annual fish fry on the beach, but he's determined to give his guests the ultimate feeding frenzy.
This exciting sequel to Joe Dante's original Piranha also stars Lance Henriksen and is the...SHARE: READ MORE An all-star cast for an all-time sleazy shocker!
Posted in News, Friday 24th July 2020
In the lurid shocker, Schizoid a newspaper advice columnist (Mariana Hill) starts receiving threats from a mysterious person. At the same time, the female members of her psychiatrist's (Klaus Kinski, Crawlspace) therapy group are being murdered one by one by a maniac wielding a large pair of scissors.
Could these incidents be linked?
Donna Wilkes, Craig Wasson, Flo Gerrish and Christopher Lloyd also star in this long forgotten sleazy slasher which is getting the usual top-notch release from 88Films.... SHARE: READ MORE Dracula on red wax!
Posted in News, Friday 24th July 2020
From the team behind BBC's critically acclaimed Sherlock came Dracula, the reimagining of the iconic titular vampire for a 21st Century audience. Composers David Arnold and Michael Price reunited with writers and creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, to breathe musical life into another famous literary character from Victorian times.
For Dracula, Arnold and Price conceived an innovative and petrifying score, in which traditional instruments and musique concrete merge with contemporary use of samples and sound design.
Scoring Dracula presented its own challenges and the composers have augmented the sound of the orchestra players by creating a library...SHARE: READ MORE Will you hear the Echoes of Fear?
Posted in News, Tuesday 21st July 2020
Creating waves on the US festival circuit and garnering best feature awards galore Echoes of Fear is set to scare the living daylights out of UK audiences as it arrives on digital and DVD this summer from Second Sight Films.
Turning the haunted house genre on its head, this chilling scare-fest, will have you clamouring for a cushion as the horror creeps up to a truly disturbing climax. The supernatural chiller from Brian and Laurence Avenet-Bradley, has garnered huge critical acclaim and arrives on digital formats on 20 July, followed by its DVD release on 3 August.
When her grandfather dies suddenly, Alisa (Trista Robinson) inherits his house and m...SHARE: READ MORE Articles Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Friday 14th August
Monday 10th August
Thursday 13th August