• Two Evil Eyes



    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: 3/31/2009
    Director: George A. Romero/Dario Argento
    Cast: Harvey Keitel, Adrienne Barbeau, Ramy Zada, Sally Kirkland, Martin Balsam, E.G. Marshall, John Amos, Kim Hunter, Madeleine Potter
    Year: 1989

    The Movie:

    You’d think the teaming of legendary horror directors George Romero and Dario Argento would be a can’t miss collaboration, wouldn’t you? I mean, these are the guys that had previously worked together on Dawn of the Dead and brought us such classics as The Crazies and Suspiria on their own. Throw Edgar Allan Poe into the mix and it’s got to be golden. Or so you’d think….

    Two Evil Eyes is a collection of two short films based on the works of the aforementioned Poe that have been updated to take place in the modern day. Romero directs the first film and Argento the second.

    The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar


    Romero’s entry is the story of Jessica (Adrienne Barbeau of The Fog), a woman considerably younger than her husband, Ernest, who currently lies on his deathbed in their mansion. Her lover, Robert (Ramy Zada), happens to be a hypnotist and also a physician, and the two of them put her husband into a trance and get him to sign over all of his money to Jessica so that the two of them can go off together and live the sweet life once he kicks the bucket.

    Unfortunately for Jessica and Robert, the very ill Ernest dies while under hypnosis and before all of the paperwork can be completed. The two decide to put him in the freezer and then make it look like he died of natural causes once the paperwork clears. A problem arises when they find that Ernest is only sort of dead. Since he died while in the trance, he’s currently stuck in the dimension between heaven and Earth and starts moaning and wailing while he’s on ice.

    Robert figures that they can wait it out but Jessica starts to drink and very quickly begins to fall apart. When Robert tries to communicate with Ernest to see if he can get him out of the trance, Jessica finally has enough and shoots Ernest’s corpse with her revolver and opens the portal, unleashing the dead.

    This one had so much potential, but sadly, falls a bit short in the scares department. While the performances from Barbeau and Ramy Zada are believable, the main draw back to the film is the unearthly and all too corny wailing from Ernest’s corpse once he’s put in the freezer. Instead of coming off as creepy, they sound corny and contrived. The ending though does deliver the goods, it’s just unfortunate that the events leading up to it don’t make for as much enjoyment as the destination.

    Romero’s direction is pretty solid though, with some nice fluid camera movements and a few instances of genius shining through. Likewise, Tom Savini’s special make up effects are very good, particularly when the frozen corpse of Ernest is shambling around in the house.

    The Black Cat

    The Black Cat is Dario Argento’s entry and proves to be a more enjoyable effort than the first chapter. The story revolves around a forensic photographer named Rod (played by Harvey Keitel of Reservoir Dogs and The Piano, here sporting an absolutely horrible looking beret). Rod lives with his girlfriend Annabel (Madeleine Potter), and also has a bit of a drinking problem.

    Annabel is an odd sort, she’s very much into Wicca and New Age Astrology. She teaches violin lessons to some local students for a living and is quite an accomplished player. Once night, Annabel takes in a stray black cat that instantly takes a disliking to Rod. The feeling is mutual, however, and it doesn’t take Rod too long to strangle the poor kitty, all the while photographing the ordeal to use in his upcoming art book.

    Annbel catches on though, and this obviously causes their relationship much duress as she obviously loved the cat, and in fact it seemed to almost hold some sort of power over her. At any rate, the two begin to fight, Rod starts drinking very heavily and becomes abusive, and Annabel makes plans to leave him.

    Once Rod finds out about her plans though, he becomes enraged and kills her and disposes of her body by walling it up in their house. But things aren’t cleaned up as neatly and tidy as he thinks, and then there’s the manner of the ‘meows’ coming from behind the wall.

    Stylishly directed by Argento (would you expect anything else from him?), The Black Cat has some truly great camerawork and some excellent cinematography (i.e. the shot that follows a pendulum as it swings over a cadavers corpse at a crime scene photo shoot). Again, Savini’s effects are appropriately gory and with the exception of a few spots where you can tell that the cat is actually a puppet, quite believable. Attentive fans will want to look for Savini to make a cameo as a murderer being taken away by the police in one scene.

    While it’s hardly a masterpiece when compared to some of Argento’s other efforts, it’s still a well done film with a couple of scares that’s always pretty to look at, even when it’s not entirely as far as the performances are concerned. It’s just too hard to take Keitel seriously with that ridiculous beret on his head, though this does tend to put him into keeping with Argento’s tendency to place artists as the central characters in his films.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Blue Underground offers up Two Evil Eyes in an excellent 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen 1080p transfer that really brings out the color and the detail in the movie. Skin tones look great, black levels are nice and strong and there are no problems with mpeg compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement to note. Again, as it has been with all of the Blue Underground Blu-ray releases so far, this is a noticeable improvement over the standard definition release that manages to improve the image without sucking out all of the film grain.

    Fans are given their choice of three audio tracks – Dolby TrueHD 7.1, DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, and Dolby Digital 5.1-EX Surround Sound with optional subtitles provided in English, French and Spanish. Both of the HD tracks sound nice and crisp with very clear dialogue. Rears are used nicely for effects here and there but primarily for the score with most of the dialogue coming from the front of the mix. While this isn’t as bombastic a mix as one that you might find on a more recent film, it really does sound quite good leaving little room for complain.


    Extras start off the thirty-minute featurette entitled Two Masters Eyes, which is an extended interview with Dario Argento and George Romero in which they discuss many of the details on the making of the film. It’s interesting to see the two of them vary on their opinions of Edgar Allan Poe, as Romero claims to not be as big a fan whereas Dario considers him the best. It’s quite an interesting piece and both directors come across as quite fond of their work together.

    Up next is a behind the scenes feature focusing on the special effects entitled appropriately enough, Savini’s Effects. Running roughly 12 minutes, this is a great piece for those interested in the ‘how did he do that’ aspect of the off screen aspect of horror film.

    Continuing with the Savini theme, next we find a short piece called At Home With Tom Savini which, although shot on video and not of the greatest quality, is actually a far cooler short piece than the title might lead you to believe. Savini has a massive collection of props and effects pieces all over his house, and he’s got an anecdote or story to go along with each one he shows off for the camera.

    The last extra on the second disc is an interview with actress Adrienne Barbeau that was shot by Roy Frumkes for his Document Of The Dead film on George Romero. It was nice to see this included, even if the footage isn’t in the best of shape, and Barbeau is an interesting interviewee here and gives some nice facts on the film and on working with Romero on the first chapter of the movie. Not carried over from the SD release are the still gallery and the talent bios. All of the extras are presented in standard definition.

    The Final Word:

    While the film isn’t on par with the best of Argento and Romero’s work, it is still a pretty solid horror movie and it’s given a top-notch presentation from Blue Underground. A lot of effort has been put into this release, and it shows and the Blu-ray release is a very welcome step up from the already impressive standard definition release that came out years back.