Book Reviews:

Mondo Argento

by Alan Jones

(Midnight Media, 76pgs, £12.99, A4)

Packed with an abundance of amazing pictures, Alan Jones' Mondo Argento is a must for all fans of 'The Italian Hitchcock'. It also provides a useful introduction for anyone wishing to know more about this amazingly popular horror director, whose films include Deep Red, Suspiria and Phenomena. An influential filmmaker, Argento's influence can also be readily seen in Hollywood films such as The Omen, Halloween, Dressed to Kill and many others. An acknowledged Argento authority, Jones provides a selection of fascinating pieces, one for each of Argento's films as both director and producer. Jones is a frequent contributor to the fantastic media, and many of the pieces collected here have previously appeared in print in a variety of publications. Around each article is gathered a breathtaking array of rare stills relevant to the film being discussed. Even the most obsessive Argento fanatic will be stunned by the sheer volume of pictures on display, many of which have scarcely; if ever; been seen in print before.

As a frequent visitor to Argento's sets, Jones is able to impart inside information about the making of Argento's oeuvre. Jones makes no attempt to defend Argento for his penchant for decorously depicting the protracted deaths of pretty young women, nor does he provide any analysis of the films' meanings. A short interview with the director closes the book, and once again, the emphasis is on the making of the films, rather than subtext. Readers wanting a deeper perspective on Argento should read Maitland McDonaghs' ground-breaking study Broken Mirrors, Broken Minds, a book which makes a perfect companion to Mondo Argento. While McDonagh systematically details the meanings behind Argento's movies, Jones' book completes the picture by giving hard information about their creation, and a selection of pictures which give a powerful feeling of what Argento's work is really like. Given that none of Argento's films as director are available uncut in the UK, Mondo Argento is truer to the flavour of the filmmaker than many of the videos of his films that are currently available. For those who only know Argento via such compromised prints, the book shows what you've been missing.

Extensive use of side bars allow the inclusion of a full Argento filmography, including films he wrote, or co-wrote (including Once Upon a Time in the West, which he co-wrote with Bernardo Bertolucci). Various video editions are represented by box cover reproductions, and there is also a selection of advertising materials for various films. These are illuminating to see how Argento's films have been marketed in different countries (compare the silly, hysterical ad campaign for the American release of Unsane, compared to the classy European equivalent, under the original title of Tenebrae.) Midnight Media have even managed to track down a ticket for the 1976 London press showing of Suspiria. Including the films Argento has produced; as well as those he has directed; allows the book to include films such Dawn of the Dead, Demons, and The Sect. The two documentaries on the director, Dario Argento's World of Horror, and Dario Argento: Master of Horror are also featured. The book goes up to the director's latest film, The Stendahl Syndrome, which is represented by an abridged version of Jones' cover story on the film for Cinefantastique magazine. Printed on heavy weight glossy paper, the book is a delight to flick through. Whether you view Argento as sexist, or a genius, or both, he is certainly one of horror cinemas original, and an innovative filmmaker. Anyone who has ever enjoyed a Argento flick, or been curious to know what his style is all about, would be well advised to acquire a copy of this book without delay. One to put at the top of your movie related shopping list.

Adrian Horrocks