A chat with Dario Argento

Some think Dario Argento is God, some think he’s got a bad attitude when it comes to sex-violence but all agree he’s one of the most influential and inventive horror film directors of our time. Recently, he spoke to TC’s man in Europe, Roman Guttinger, in Profondo Rosso, the film shop he owns in Rome:

TC: Two weeks ago, you were in London at ‘Shock Around the Clock’. Did you like it and was it your first time in London?
DA: I’ve been to England before, I’ve got a lot of friends there but it’s quite a long time since I was last there. Yes, I enjoyed it. It’s definitely important to talk to my fans, it’s always interesting to hear their criticisms – some of them even make suggestions and tell me what they like…!

TC: You presented ‘Two Evil Eyes’ at the festival, your latest movie which you did with George Romero. You worked with him on ‘Dawn of the Dead’. Now, 11 years later you’ve done another. Do you like working with him?
DA: George is an old friend of mine and so I enjoy working with him. We have a similar taste – we have a lot in common. That doesn’t mean that our films are similar: on the contrary, we film totally differently, but our ‘visions’ are close together.

TC: I heard he offered you another movie, but you didn’t want to do it. Why?
DA: Yes, the budget was too high. I don’t like to work on too big projects – I can’t do what I want to when I always have to care about the money. Anyway, at the moment I’m rather busy, I’m producing Michelle Soavi’s ‘La Secta’ and next year I’m going to direct a movie in the States.

TC: What can you tell us about these two projects?
DA: ‘La Secta’ starts in the 16th century where you see a sect carrying out gruesome ceremonies. Then in the present day you see the sect still exists, practicing their unholy rituals. They wait for an important day – during the movie, the spectator realises what this special day is… Sergio Stivaletti [‘Demons’, ‘The Church’, etc] is again doing the effects – there’s one especially good effect with a very big bird. I can’t tell you a lot about the other project next year. I can just say that Dennis Etchinson will be the co-writer for the script. He’s quite famous in the States. The movie will be in the style of ‘Tenebrae’ and ‘Opera’, more mystery than pure horror like ‘Demons’.

TC: You also want to do some more short stories inspired by Edgar Allen Poe.
DA: Yes, next year I’ll be doing some shows for Italian TV. Tom Savini, with whom I worked on ‘Two Evil Eyes’ will do the special make-up effects again.

TC: Why do you think the US and British rating boards cut your movies so heavily? ‘Day of the Dead’ or ‘Re-Animator’ for example are much bloodier than your pictures.
DA: I really don’t know why, it gives me a headache when I think about it… Most of the cut scenes don’t contain violence, just dialogue. They destroy my whole work!! I think probably they don’t respect foreign movies, they don’t try to discuss with foreign film-makers about censorship because it’s too far away. So they take the simplest course and cut the movies.

TC: Have you had any problems in Italy with the censors?
DA: When I’m making movies for Italian television, I sell them my pictures and they cut out what they think isn’t possible to show on TV. For the TV companies it means money – the earlier they can show it, the more money they earn! when I sell them the rights to my pictures, they can do whatever they choose.

TC: What about your popularity in Italy – when you walk through Rome, do the people recognise you? And do you like it when they start talking to you?
DA: Yes, every day some people start talking to me, but I think it’s ok. It makes me proud, finally here’s my ‘earnings’ that people like my pictures. The people here in Rome aren’t watching me like a star, more like a friend, “Ciao, Dario, how are you?”, things like that.

TC: You’ve got one Profondo Rosso shop in Rome and another in Ferrara [near Bologna]. Was Forbidden Planet in London an inspiration for your shop?
DA: Yes, I know F.P and I wanted to have something similar in Italy. I also wanted to have some sort of meeting point for horror fans here in Italy. Luigi Cozzi [ aka Lewis Coates, director of ‘Contamination’, etc ] and I are going to open another store in Milano around November 1990. It’ll be the biggest shop and there will be upstairs a museum of some of my movies. It’ll be the same style as my other shops, just twice as big. But first there will be the official opening of the P.R shop in Ferrara on the 6th of October. It’s been open since the beginning of August, but we’re having a party for everyone who’s interested in it that Saturday. We’ll have some special effects performances and… you’ll see!

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TC: I heard there are plans for a Profondo Rosso magazine.
DA: At the moment it’s just a project but we hope that the first issue will be out in November 1990. Most of it will be comic strips inspired by my movies.

TC: “Suspiria Strikes Back”?
DA: [ laughing ] Yes, something like that! But there will be reviews of the latest horror-movies too.

TC: Will there ever be a real third ‘Demons’ film? In Britain, they released a movie called ‘Demons 3: The Ogre’ by Lamberto Bava, but it’s just one of his TV-productions.
DA: Yes, it has nothing to do with a sequel to the movies. Actually ‘La Chiesa’ [The Church] should have been the third movie, but after I and II I changed my distributor and they didn’t want to make sequels so they changed the script and took out all the demon sequences. So ‘Demons III’ died.

TC: Do you have a lot of contact with other Italian directors like Bava or Fulci?
DA: I’ve a lot of contact with Lamberto Bava because he’s also a friend of mine but I’ve no contact with Fulci. I like his old movies more than the new ones – they aren’t my cup of tea!

TC: Which directors do you admire most in general?
DA: [thinking]… There are just two – Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock.

TC: I’ve heard you’re a vegetarian. Is that true, and if so, why?
DA: Yes, it’s true – I’m a vegetarian because I don’t like the idea of killing animals. I could never arrange it with my conscience!

TC: So what do you think of the cannibal movies which contain real animal killing?
DA: I don’t like them, they are disgusting! It’s sick when they show the slaughter of innocent animals. It’s the same with the child porn movies – disgusting, I could never do that!!