Alan Jones Interview

Ahead of the Jan 20 launch of FRIGHTFEST SATURDAY SCARES WITH ALAN JONES on Fast TV channel NYX, Alan recounts his rise to journalistic prominence – from stealing shocker posters and partying with ABBA to falling out with filmmakers and writing his upcoming autobiography.

Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a journalist?

Alan: No, I loved horror and fantasy movies from the age of ten, or rather the idea of them because obviously I couldn’t go to the cinema and see anything of that nature. I read horror novels nonstop, stole shocker posters pasted up on the billboards at the end of my street, cut out all the wonderfully lurid adverts from newspapers and pasted them into scrapbooks. I was literally waiting for the moment I could pass for sixteen so I could get into X films and start watching all the movies I was desperate to catch up on.

Can you describe how you got your “big break” into journalism?

Alan: To cut a very long story short – in the early 1970s I worked as a receptionist at the Portobello Hotel in Notting Hill Gate. It was, and still is, a mega-celebrity watering hole and I partied with everyone from ABBA and David Bowie to Queen and Jack Nicholson. One of the guests was sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison who caught me one night writing up film reviews. Before I could stop him, Harlan was reading some entries and he told me he liked my style and that he knew an editor in the USA who could use my ‘talents’. That was Frederick S. Clarke, the editor of the seminal magazine ‘Cinefantastique’

You quickly became a pioneer of genre cinema with your insightful reviews and features, how hard was it building up your almost encyclopaedic knowledge?

Alan: Like every genre fan it’s an inherent thing, isn’t it? I learnt everything by seeing the movies, reading such great books at Carlos Clarens’ ‘Horror Movies’ and magazines like ‘Castle of Frankenstein’ and ‘Monthly Film Bulletin’. No internet, no video, if you missed a movie you hoped it would turn up in late night shows in rep or at the Scala cinema. The times I travelled to the Odeon Croydon to see dodgy exploitation double bills…. Back then no one was properly reviewing these movies so it was a blank slate I worked from and that’s why I’m proud of my early reviews. I usually got it right without any outside help clouding my judgement!

Alan with Dario Argento

You are renowned for your honest reviews, has this ever affected your friendships with creatives in the industry?

Alan: Yes, but if it does affect it that much, they weren’t friends in the first place. So many people when they say they want you to be honest don’t want that at all. I lost Dario Argento for a year because I hated PHENOMENA so much. He got over it. My close friend rock video pioneer Russell Mulcahy too. He took me to Argentina on location with HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING and was really shocked when I slated the finished result. No one died.

You’re hosting NYX’s very first original series, FrightFest Saturday Scares with Alan Jones, how did that come about?

Alan: They asked me. Simple as that. NYX are plugged into the genre zeitgeist in a way very few niche Fast Channels are.

Was it difficult to choose the movies to include in this series?

Alan: Not at all. Each of my choices means something special to me, either in terms of pure fandom or love of the director or because I was on the set watching it being filmed or knowing the people involved. I have been on location with thousands of films since the very first one – STAR WARS in 1977. I want to impart my knowledge and point the viewer to aspects they may not know about the movies in question and make them as enthusiastic about it as I am.

Do you have a personal favourite film which you present?

Alan: If you are holding a scalpel to my throat, wearing black-gloves, I would have to say Mario Bava’s BLOOD AND BLACK LACE because it was the very first X film I saw at the cinema. And when I look back in hindsight, it set the seal on my entire life because it engendered my love of Italy, Italian directors and artistic gore.

How would you sell this series to the casual viewer?

Alan: Even if you are a connoisseur, an aficionado or a casual NYX viewer I guarantee you will learn something you never knew about classics, guilty pleasures and bona fide masterpieces and hopefully see them in a totally new light.

FrightFest is 25 years old this year and is still the biggest celebration of the genre in the UK, you must be proud of how respected this brand has become?

Alan: Absolutely. I couldn’t be more delighted. Who knew when we started FrightFest back in 2000 as a meeting place for genre fans in London, that we would become a brand leader, a champion for independent fantasy, be vitally important to sales agents and be in the Top 20 Greatest Film Festivals of All Time Lists? As long as we keep that sense of community, I see no stopping us extending our reach. We have so much exciting stuff planned for our 25th Anniversary this year, I can’t wait.

So, what are you up to at the moment?

Alan: Apart from watching roughly 20 movies a week for FrightFest, and the other festival I am now Artistic Director of, the Trieste Science+Fiction Festival, I have two books launching this year. One is my ‘Discomania’ autobiography, which contains reviews of every Disco movie you cannot afford to miss (105 of them!). The other book is a volume of every review I wrote for ‘Starburst’ magazine during my 30-year tenure as their main critic. Both books are published by FAB Press. Also, I’ve just filmed my segments for the documentary I WAS A TEENAGE SEX PISTOL, a Disco conversation with my S’Express mate Mark Moore for the 4K restoration of THE MUSIC MACHINE, Britain’s answer to SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, and next week I’m recording a commentary for OPERA, the most important Argento film for me personally as it was the first one I ever covered on location in Rome. Then there’s the Berlin and Cannes Film Festivals… And filming more ‘Saturday Night Scares’ for NYX of course.

FRIGHTFEST SATURDAY SCARES WITH ALAN JONES is broadcast on Saturday nights on NYX UK, kicking off at 9pm on Saturday 20 Jan. It is produced by FrightFest’s Ian Rattray and Greg Day.

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