• Two Evil Eyes (88 Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: October 15th, 2018.
    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
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    Two Evil Eyes – Movie Review

    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.

    Two Evil Eyes – Blu-ray Review:

    88 Films offers up Two Evil Eyes in a nice 1.85.1 widescreen AVC encoded 1080p transfer on a 50GB disc that really brings out the color and the detail in the movie. The transfer appears to mirror the one that was used on Blue Underground’s release from a few years ago. 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. There’s solid detail here throughout and the image is free of obvious noise reduction problems.

    Fans are given their choice of two audio tracks – and English DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio and an Italian track in LPCM 2.0 Stereo. The DTS-HD track sounds 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. The LPCM track obviously lacks the surround elements but it also sounds fine. Optional subtitles are provided in English.

    Extras start off with Double Vision: An Interview with Kim Newman wherein the perpetually bowtied horror film expert waxes nostalgic on the film for thirteen minutes. Newman is always an enjoyable presence in the extra features department of a genre release and this piece is no exception. He shares his thoughts on what works in the film, offers some observations about some of its more effective set pieces, and also being quite honest about what doesn’t work as well in the film. You’ve got to appreciate the guy’s honesty. He seems like he’d be a lot of fun to have a beer with.

    From there, check out Two Evil Eyes: An Interview with Second \Unit Director Luigi Cozzi and actress Caroline Munro. Here, over the span of thirty-five minutes, we hear about how Cozzi got his start, the work he did on the film, his relationship with Argento and how John Carpenter was at one point supposed to contribute a third story to the picture. Munro appears here and talks about working with Cozzi on Starcrash and The Black Cat and how much fun he was to work with. As she doesn’t actually appear in Two Evil Eyes, she obviously doesn’t have much to say about it but hey, Caroline Munro is just so likeable and nice that it doesn’t matter much.

    Rounding out the extras are a theatrical trailer for the feature, alternate Italian language opening and closing credits for the film, menus and chapter selection.

    It’s also worth taking a moment to discuss the packaging for this release. The initial limited edition version comes with reversible cover art and a collectible slipcover as well as a really nice set of four lobby card reproductions. On top of that, inside the clear Blu-ray case we also find a color insert booklet that contains an interesting interview with Dario Argento conducted by Calum Waddell in which the director gives his thoughts on working in Hollywood and on Two Evil Eyes specifically. Interesting stuff.

    Note that the extras included on the aforementioned Blue Underground Blu-ray release remain exclusive to that disc.

    Two Evil Eyes – 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 really solid presentation from 88 Films. The transfer is strong, the audio is just fine, the extras are quite good and they’ve gone the extra mile with the packaging as well. A strong release for an enjoyable film.

    Click on the images below for full sized Two Evil Eyes Blu-ray screen caps!