• Two Evil Eyes (Blue Underground) UHD Review

    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: August 24th, 2021.
    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.

    Annabel 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 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:

    Blue Underground offers up Two Evil Eyes in a nice 1.85.1 widescreen HEVC encoded 2160p high definition transfer with HDR taken from a 4k restoration of the original 35mm negative. This transfer is excellent. The HDR really makes the colors pop without them looking boosted – check out the sequence when the cops show up at the house in the first story, the lights from the police car bath the exterior and it looks gorgeous. Detail is noticeably stronger here than on the past Blu-ray release, especially in close up shots but also very noticeable in medium and long shots as well. Grain look perfectly natural and the entire thing is beautifully filmic. There’s almost no print damage here at all, eagle-eyed viewers might spot a random white speck now and again but that’s about it. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and black levels are pretty much reference quality. There are no issues with any digital noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine Two Evil Eyes looking much better than it does here!

    Fans are given their choice of three audio tracks – English Dolby Atmos, English DTS-HD 2.0 and French language Dolby Digital 1.0 with optional subtitles provided in English SDH, French and Spanish. The Atmos track is the way to go if you’ve got the hardware to handle it as it is as crystal clear as it is enveloping. There’s a lot of impressive surround usage here, often times with the score but also quite frequently with random but well-placed background foley effects. The track is beautifully balanced and the dialogue is always crisp and clean sounding. There are no issues with any hiss, distortion or sibilance to note. The audio sounds great.

    Extras on the first disc include a new audio commentary from Troy Howarth who offers up plenty of information on the picture and those who made it. He covers the source material used for the film, offers lots of info about where both Argento and Romero were at this point in their respective careers, discusses the casting of the film and the quality of the performances, talks up the effects, the score and quite a bit more. Howarth is pretty blunt here about what works and what doesn’t and delivers a well-researched track in an amiable, laid back fashion with occasional doses of humor thrown in as well. It’s a good listen.

    A theatrical trailer and a fairly massive still gallery round out the extras on disc one.

    As to what is on the second disc, which is a standard Blu-ray that mirrors the second disc included in Blue Underground’s 2019 Blu-ray release, it’s a mix of old and new (new meaning created for that aforementioned 2019 disc, not the various releases that came before it). Carried over from Blue Underground’s original release are a few archival featurettes, starting with the thirty-minute 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 twelve-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 of the archival bits is Adrienne Barbeau On George Romero. This was originally 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. 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

    As far as the new (created in 2019) stuff goes, there’s quite a bit starting with Before I Wake, an interview with actress Ramy Zada that runs fourteen-minutes and features the actor discussing how he got into the acting business, what it was like in his early days, getting cast in Two Evil Eyes, his thoughts on the picture itself, working with Romero and memories of his fellow cast members.

    In the sixteen-minute Behind The Wall, actress Madeleine Potter who also shares some stories about her early days in the business, getting cast in this feature, taking direction from Argento, what it was like on set and acting alongside Keitel.

    One Maestro And Two Masters interviews composer Pino Donaggio fifteen-minutes about his contributions to the film. Here he discusses scoring various projects before then meeting Argento at a fashion show and, of course, collaborating with him on this project.

    Co-writer Franco Ferrini is up next in the fourteen-minute Rewriting Poe interview, wherein he discusses the obvious influence that Poe had on the project, adapting the source material and scripting the two different stories that play out in the feature.

    The Cat Who Wouldn't Die interviews assistant director Luigi Cozzi in a great twenty-seven-minute segment that covers Cozzi’s own love of Poe’s work, the evolution of Two Evil Eyes, his experiences working with an American cast and crew, working alongside Argento and collaborating with the different cast members in the film.

    Two Evil Brothers gets special make-up assistant Everett Burrell in front of the camera for a fourteen-minute piece where he talks about some of the projects he did before this feature, getting to know Savini and working alongside the legend, his thoughts on getting to work with Argento and Romero on the film and, of course, some of the film’s more memorable effects-heavy set pieces.

    The last of the new interviews is Working With George, a nine-minute segment with costume designer Barbara Anderson who worked with Romero on a host of projects in addition to this one. She shares some nice stories about their collaborations, what he was like as a person and as a filmmaker and shares some of her experiences from this project.

    Missing from this release but included with the last Blu-ray release are the soundtrack CD and the insert booklet, but this release does come packaged with a slipcover and some reversible cover sleeve art.

    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. Blue Underground’s new UHD release doesn’t add any new extras when compared to the last Blu-ray release, but it provides a pretty impressive 4k upgrade and a really strong Atmos mix to go with it, resulting in a beautiful presentation for a really fun film.
    Click on the images below for full sized Two Evil Eyes Blu-ray screen caps (from the 2019 release because reviews without screen caps are boring)!