Directed by: Dario Argento & George A. Romero
Written by: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini, George A. Romero based off of Edgar Allan Poe
Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Harvey Keitel, Ramy Zada, Madeleine Potter & Tom Savini
Reviewed by: Brett H.
“I married a rich, old man. I let him use me, for pleasure and for show. Now I'm going to let him pay me for my services.”
I couldn’t imagine the anticipation that horror fans must have felt upon hearing of Two Evil Eyes’ release. Here we have an Edgar Allan Poe anthology featuring portions directed by George A. Romero and Dario Argento with special effects work done by Tom Savini. But, I never heard about it in the early 90s, hell I didn’t even hear about Dario Argento until the latter part of the decade. And judging by the fact that most every great Romero & Argento movie had been released on DVDs at the time of Two Evil Eyes’ release practically told the story as perfectly as it could be told. Yet, there is always hope, and after exhausting every AIP Poe flick years ago, I got the urge to try and relive the glory and hopefully capture that essence of some of the greatest minds in horror history all wrapped into one. Can it be done, amigo?
Our first tale (no wraparound story here) is George Romero’s take on The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar, starring Adrienne Barbeau as a gold digging woman hellbent on capturing her elderly hubby’s fortune after his death so she and her ex-beau could live the good life. Using hypnosis to control Valdemar’s mind to allow them his fortune on his death bed, things go awry when Valdemar simply will not stay dead! Next, it’s Dario Argento’s turn of the page with The Black Cat in which a maddened Harvey Keitel becomes violent as the result of his girlfriend bringing the feline into their home and pressure from work to be less morbid. Less morbid than a guy who photographs mutilated crime scenes for art? Now, I wonder how that’s going to work out...
Two Evil Eyes really could have been great, but production, financial and time constraints put a damper on what might have been. Originally planned to helm more all-stars and more stories, what we get here from Romero & Argento still could have worked, but for some reason even a drunken madman couldn’t fathom, each of the two rather simple stories are given an hour running time with no wraparound story, making it feel cobbled together from the get-go. Even with additional spins, bells & whistles from the horror icons, how much can one get from a dozen pages of Edgar Allan Poe brilliance in short story form? With half an hour chopped out, Two Evil Eyes could be considered a fun little side note in each director’s careers, instead, we have a mixed bag of tricks here.
Firstly, Romero’s The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar shows glimpses of his Creepshow past with a ghoulish, frozen corpse that just won’t stay dead, and it is a very fun ride towards the end. Adrienne Barbeau’s character of a money hungry bitch that feels remorse for what she’s about to do for her inheritance is given enough depth that we can buy into it, but everything else is a tad dull. The story doesn’t exactly give Romero much of a chance to dazzle us with his direction and additional characters not pertinent to the actual story would have been served just as well on the editing room floor. Perhaps this is a preconception I have from all the fun, fast paced anthologies that have come and gone – and Romero has taken part in – over the years, but perhaps his heart wasn’t in the project since his original idea involving AIDS as a plague in an Usher inspired tale was nixed. A little edgy for the time, perhaps, but I think it’d have been way more interesting than what we got.
Dario Argento pulling out The Black Cat card gets off a little easier, thanks to the more iconic source material and a decent performance by Harvey Keitel as a drunken maniac who hates his girlfriend’s black cat. Taking cues from many Poe stories and even using the famous author’s grave in the story, we see some pretty gnarly and grisly Savini effects in a more interesting tale that, while still overlong, packs a decent punch. Trademark neat Argento kills are toned down, but still present in spirit in the director’s first foray into the American market. Obviously a more psychological effort than Argento had been involved in, we see a different side of him that’s almost eerie to feel, although to the naked, every day movie-goer’s eye would mean absolutely nothing. Dario Argento really had to calm down his trademark craziness from Suspiria days to appeal to the new audience. One may also say arguably, that this was the beginning of the end of what many fans consider his finer moments.
It's tough to believe that Blue Underground's DVD is ten years old already and has since been replaced with Blu-ray, but their anamorphic widescreen transfer still holds up, perhaps looking a little better than the film itself deserves. The 6.1 DTS track definitely proves it sounds much better than it needs to. My single disc DVD edition includes a theatrical trailer with a two disc edition also available featuring mucho supplemento. Two Evil Eyes is a sure watch for what it is to the hardcore horror fan, unfortunately proving its audience to be limited to just that. There are certainly plenty lesser efforts from each filmmaker and it goes without saying that one could do much worse. Behind these Evil Eyes are greed, murder, insanity and redemption, unfortunately overstaying its welcome, making my Eyes grow a little too heavy. Argento cut down the running time for the Euro version of a Romero epic in Dawn of the Dead and it's a shame he didn't see fit to do so here where it was very needed, legitimately dropping a notch on our rating scale because of it. Rent it!
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