Jonathan's name is familiar
among Hammer circles. His expert opinions grace
several websites and books, and his comments on the
egroups [now Yahoogroups - 2005 - his appearances are
less frequent] list has often stirred up a tirade
amongst the more traditional elements.
For your viewing pleasure, we
accompany this interview with a selection of photos
of Jonathan together with some of the stars he has
Born in Redhill in Surrey (South-East
England), he following a public school education in
Lewes Old Grammar, before opting out of University
"as it held no appeal".
Many of our more observant readers will
have noticed Jonathan's name gracing the press
release material for The Dark Side's Amicus book. Yet
shortly before publication was due his name
disappeared altogether. Just what did happen with
regards to that particular publication?
"Allan Bryce and I did
not seem to be able to agree on anything. I was
given a bunch of deadlines that I met but which
were then discarded. I was supposed to have cover
and text approval. I got neither. It's the
DarkSide's book, not mine."
Is that why you disappeared from the
staff behind the DarkSide for a while?
"No - I was at a crucial
stage with another project. I hope to have more
stuff in there as I enjoy writing for them. After
the last issue [issue 85] I got a
beautiful letter from Robert Wynne-Simmons saying
that my 'Blood On Satan's Claw' article was one
of the best pieces of film journalism he'd ever
read. As you can imagine, that meant a great deal
to me. "
How much of the material published in
the Amicus book was your work?
"All of the information,
interviews and illustrations were supplied by me.
I was paid for this. But if you're looking for a
sense of author's voice, it's not mine!
I thought that after reading some of
your other work. The book comes across as
unprofessional at times, don't you think?
I don't know about
unprofessional. Possibly they should have hired
an outside editor.
Perhaps I should have been more
specific. For me still, certain passages read as if
they were written without the proper care they needed.
What did you make of the book; what
didn't you like about it?
"Half of me loved it, the
other half hated it. I was pleased with the
presentation of Ray Christodoulou's piece, as
he's a mate of mine. But I thought (and still
think) printing in full colour was a mistake:
there was a lot of great b/w stuff sacrificed. I
also think that twenty quid is a lot of money for
a very slim volume. But it's OK - I've certainly
seen much worse books. I must point out that
Allan Bryce is not a bad guy. He's a bit of a
rogue, but I like his magazine. And I understand
the book's doing very well, which should keep my
bank manager happy."
That's probably the best thing about
the book I thought. All the illustrations. Many of
which horror fans won't have seen for some time.
Ray's piece looks fab. Though I'm not sure if
I buy into the neccessity for a prelude and afterword
"Oh I disagree - I think
it's all part of the fun - getting your mates to
write nice things about you! "
But then, does today's reader really
want a book full of black and white images?
Black and white image books remind many of us of the
likes of Lorrimar's House of Horror from the 70's. (admittedly,
low-budget poor re-productions)
" I think a good image is
a good image, regardless of it being b/w or in
colour. They pretty much got the balance right in
'The Hammer Story'. "
I'd heard that the book was in a
limited print run, has this changed now?
"I believe they have
reprinted it now." (The
Amicus book is proving very popular with readers
of DS, selling quickly even before it reaches the
Following the relative disappointment
of the Studio That Dripped Blood (wasn't
that a poor title to give the book? After all,
Subotsky I thought, loathed the Hammer exploitation
of sex and blood, and that title was
used for a 1980's Hammer documentary!), you have
announced your plans to produce a definitive account
of Amicus, entitled the Amicus Empire. What
can you tell us about that?
"The title was OK by me -
I can't remember if it was my idea or Allan's.
Max Rosenberg thought it was "A Smart-arse"
title. Perhaps he was right. Anyway, I have so
much fresh Amicus material - and input from
Subotsky's family - that I think it's worth doing
properly. But I have 3 or 4 genre projects on the
go at the moment, so can't really contemplate
another until some time next year. " (Jonathan
has hinted at the end of 2001 for a possible
So there is still some hope for a
truely worthwhile Amicus book then?
"Sure. I'd like to do it.
But to be completely honest I need some time away
from Amicus! And I think the dust needs to settle
after the Darkside book.
I muse on Subotsky's treatment in the
book. Possibly an unfair and one-sided portrayal. It
seems from reading it, that Subotsky was little more
than a Yank hack.
" His son told me it was
a bit harsh but not innacurate. Coincidentally,
Max Rosenberg loves the book and ordered more
At this stage we change tack, trying
to delve into some of Jonathan's other thoughts on
the horror genre. I ask him how he got into the
" Do you know I honestly
You collect a lot of horror-related
material. Is this through a love of all things horror-related,
or are you thinking ahead to your long-term future?
" Neither. I buy stuff
for either research or to illustrate my writing.
Magazines and book publishers - particularly in
the film/tv area - expect you to provide your own
So writing then becomes a rather
" I guess that depends on
how well you get paid.
Is that what you see yourself doing
for the rest of your life, writing?
" Well if I could work
out an easier way of getting a place in Monaco
and spending my days lazing around on a yacht I'd
take it. But until then I'm married to my
Perhaps as an alternative to writing
he could lecture under the title I once heard given
him, "The Amicus Authority"
"I've been called much
worse things certainly, but I think that would be
a pretty boring lecture, don't you? "
Actually, not really. It has a lot of
potential. I know of one guy doing a post-grad on
Amicus so he would appreciate it at least.
Back to thinking about his research, I
ask him about the most interesting person he's met
along the way...
" Roger Moore, without a
doubt. He is the nicest, most generous person in
the film business. I also think he's a bloody
good actor who has been seriously misused since
he gave up Bond. He's a great guy - a very
special person, and he should be knighted pronto!
Absolutely. He's given some wonderful
entertainment over the years, and is still working.
He also does a lot of work with UNICEF doesn't he? (alongside a
host of other celebs including former Spice Girl,
Geri Halliwell, and the late Ian Dury)
" Yes he does. He does
incredible stuff for UNICEF - going to these real
hell holes and rolling up his sleeves and getting
involved. And he does it very quietly - without
making a song and dance about it. He is a
brilliant storyteller - when he tells a joke
you'll fall about laughing. But when he talks
about what he's seen working for UNICEF it's very
hard not to be affected. I get very angry when I
see derisory remarks about him in the press.
Which you also are involved with...
What do you get up to there? Surely not lecture on
horror films to volunteers?
" No. I do pretty much
anything I'm asked. Hearing stuff from UNICEF
made me realise just how harmless those Hammer
movies are. I urge anyone who doesn't know
much about UNICEF to check out http://www.unicef.org
I'm not sure how aware of it you are,
but you seem to have built something of a reputation
for your sharp-tongue comments and dismissiveness of
others. Is this part of a deliberate ploy and image
or mere misunderstanding?
" No, not at all. I don't
believe in hiding your feelings if you have been
crossed, but on the other hand I'd never court
" My attitude to work is - very simply -
that I do the job, try to get along with
everybody, take the money and run! My attitude to
people is that you should be nice to them on the
way up - because you're going to meet them on the
way down again. "
It hasn't stopped you from having a
few major fall-outs though has it?
Jonathan is quick to avoid any
suggestion of this: " I don't know
anything about that. I've had bad experiences
with people - who hasn't - but this is a very
bitchy profession. I don't see the point in
holding grudges though.
Do you regret that,
" I don't regret anything
I've done professionally. If you did the best you
could, you should always stand by your work.
You're not really a big Hammer fan are
" Depends. I think that a
small percentage of Hammer films are just about
the best genre movies ever made. But I can't like
a movie just because it was made by Hammer.
Hence the disdain with which you are
rumoured to hold some "Hammer-heads" (Hammer-heads
being those that insist everything, or nearly-everything
that Hammer did was absolutely brilliant!)
" I don't hold anyone in
disdain. Particularly not the breed of shark to
which you presumably refer!"
Just because a movie is made by Hammer
doesn't mean its good, no. There have been some real
nasties. I guess we have to accept that. But surely
they produced more quality entertaining features than
you are giving them credit for here?
" Oh yeah - but there are
so many mediocre and bad Hammer films that I
don't like to generalise. That's like saying 'I
love all James Bond movies'. I don't. I think the
last three were dreadful. But some of the Roger
Moore ones are my favourite movies (I also love
the Lazenby and Dalton ones). "
[for the record, I thought Dalton the
best. Followed by Moore then Connery. Lazenby's was a
fine picture, and Brosnan sadly is slightly miscast.
I also quite enjoyed David Niven in the role.
Hammer Head trivia: Did you know that the first Bond
portrayal was by Bob Monkhouse, a film collector and
star of A Weekend With Lulu. But I
Would you rate other companies such as
AMICUS higher then?
" No, not at all. Having
said that, the Tigon horror movies were - to my
mind - of a pretty uniformly high standard (and I
include Curse of the Crimson Altar and Blood
Beast Terror, both of which I think are great fun.).
The only Amicus film I think is a bona fide
classic would be From Beyond The Grave.
So, just what is Jonathan's favourite
"Dracula. I think it's
the best horror film that's ever been made.
Admittedly it's slightly flawed in places, but
the sheer guts and power more than make up for
You said that a small percentage of
Hammer films were about the best in the genre. Would
you like to elaborate on which ones? (His view of
Hammer director Terence Fisher is bound to cause some
" To my mind: Dracula,
Brides of Dracula, The Mummy, Hound of the
Baskervilles, Kiss of the Vampire, Cap'n Clegg,
Evil of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Must Be
Destroyed and Blood From The Mummy's Tomb. Though
I think Fisher was a pretty flawed director
blessed with good casts and scripts, I'm also an
admirer of Phantom of the Opera (but it's not a
horror movie), Curse of the Werewolf (Oliver Reed
is one of my favourite actors) and Two Faces of
Dr. Jekyll (which would've been better if Val
Guest had directed... Fisher just didn't
understand it). "
And does that not suggest that
you subscribe to the misconception that Hammer only
produced horror? What about their other films...
" I'm a great admirer of
Quatermass & The Pit. I dislike SF and that
and Star Wars are just about the only examples of
that genre I love. Cash On Demand is a great
little movie. One Million Years B.C. is fantastic
(and has a beautiful soundtrack). I'm not a great
admirer of their comedies... but Man About The
House is pretty good. "
Jonathan's forthcoming book,
Prince of Darkness - The Cult Films of Christopher
Lee' is published by Eaton Books on the 22nd of
It's a hefty 280 pages long, with about 400 pictures,
including 24 pages in full colour. The book boasts a
foreword by Roger Moore, an introduction by Linda
Hayden and an afterword by Veronica Carlson.
And yet work
only began last Christmas (December 1999).
That's quite a quick turnover. Was it
an easy subject to write about?
" Oh yes, very much so. I
could have done it quicker, but had to juggle a
lot of other projects. "
Just what made you write about Lee's
" I was asked if I would
be interested in writing a book about British
horror movies. My friend Marcus Hearn had done
Hammer as well as anyone could (the
excellent Hammer Story,
published by Titan in 1996, co-written with Alan
Barnes). David Miller was writing a (splendid)
book on Peter Cushing (The
Peter Cushing Companion, 2000). I'd
just been involved with Amicus. So it was the
logical choice! "
Well logical in that publishing rivals
were doing Cushing, I suppose.
" I don't know about
rivals: that was published by Marcus Hearn's
company and we're mates. But to be honest there
has been quite a lot of Cushing coverage
recently, but not much on Christopher, aside from
his splendid autobiography. "
I take it that you enjoyed working on
the book with the King of Horror himself?
" Absolutely. Christopher
is a really great guy. He's funny, self-deprecating
and staggeringly intelligent. I know he has this
reputation for being a little bit pompous, but
he's not at all. He is, however, very shy and
actually quite modest. Another smashing chap."
I've never understood that myself. Do
you think its just a misunderstanding of his "old-school"
" Not exactly - I guess
he is a very impoing figure and he puts up these
defence barriers out of shyness. But he's lovely.
Another for a knighthood then.
With dozens of people interviewed for
the book, including Patrick Allen, Honor Blackman,
Jane Merrow, Carol Marsh, Britt Ekland, Carorline
Munro, William Franklyn, Joanna Lumley, Lorna
Heilbron, Tony Hinds, Peter Sasdy and of course,
Christopher Lee himself, I wondered about how he
works on his books. Are they all specially
intereviewed for the subject or does he resort to a
stock-pile of interviews?
" A mixture of both. I
have some very obscure stuff on file - like an
interview with a guy called Ian FH Lloyd, who
made a very obscure British horror movie called
'Face of Darkness'. Not too bad a movie,
actually, but Christ knows where that would be
Perhaps we could suggest Ghoul
Brittania, or even here?
Is there anything, that is, any
stories etc, that you wanted into the book, that you
couldn't include for space reasons etc?
" Nothing springs readily
to mind. I must say that for me, the best bit of
the book is the Foreword - it's a great thrill to
have James Bond write something for you!
Seriously though, no, I think we squeezed pretty
much everything in. Obviously there are going to
be some people I offend by not including their
favourite movie, but I've tried to cover pretty
much everything. "
What else have you got in the
" Lots. I'm just
finishing off a book called '25 Directors Who
Defined The British Horror Film' for McFarland
and I have a couple of other projects on the go
for them. I'm writing on the second series of
'The New Professionals'. I'm writing a novel with
Brian Clemens called 'The Long Road West'. I've
been commissioned to pen 'The Ladies of Hammer' by
Eaton Books as a follow up to the Lee volume. And
stacks more. "
What's the novel about then?
" It's funny actually,
because it's a Western and I hate Westerns! But
I've never written a novel and Brian has been a
kind of mentor to me, so working with him is a
great honour. "
As for The Ladies of Hammer,
well I presume that's going to be the book full of
nude starlets in glorious full colour then? (something
I confess to having toyed with myself -if you'll
excuse the expression).
" No, no nudity - I don't
think it's necesary. The book was suggested to me
by my friend Greg Turnbull (an incredibly nice
guy who needs to update his website!!!) and he and
Veronica Carlson have been on at me to do it for
a few years. So I've agreed. It will feature
about 40 ladies, with a lot of new interview
material - people like Katya Wyeth, Yvonne
Romain and Rita Tushingham, who haven't spoken
about Hammer before. It will certainly be in full
colour. I'm giving my royalties to Breast Cancer
Thanks for your time again Jonathan,
as interesting and insightful as ever. You'll talk to
us again I trust?
" Of course. Thanks -
it's been a pleasure. "