Two Evil Eyes serves almost as a transition from the theatrical and creative success of genre material during the few decades preceeding it into the depressing drought of memorable horror in the nineties. What better example of this trend than Argento and Romero, two great artists who enjoyed a streak of hits prior to their Eyes stint only to find themselves out of order in the tame direct-to-video atmosphere of the decade that this 1990 film kicked off. By the time this movie was finally finished, prospects of a decent theatrical release in the U.S. (and other countries for that matter) were long gone but fortunately this reinterpration of two classic Edgar Allen Poe stories found a small audience on home video where it continues to gain interest through Blue Underground's 2-disc DVD re-release. Shortcomings of the final product aside, how many Romero and Argento films exist, let alone a movie made of two mini-movies from both these guys? Any product of these master filmmakers has to be fascinating on some level.
Beginning with a few shots of Poe's home and resting place almost as a weird invocation of the writer, the opening tale consists of Romero's take on The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. The original story is a short study of an infrimed man who dies under hypnosis with some strange physical consequences but Romero beefed up his adaptation with a subplot of a money-grubbing trophy wife (Adrienne Barbeau) and her lover who find themselve in a sticky situation as they mess with the infinite and manage to conjure something from the "other side" with a deadly aftermath. Although often considered inferior to Argento's contribution, Romero manages to imbueValdemar with some of his signature musing about life and (un)death and even revisits some of his Creepshow antics in this twisted story full of doublecross and very pointy metronomes. The final zombie-fied coda with the Tom Atkins cameo role is priceless.
Argento's rendition of The Black Cat invents the character of Rod Usher, an eccentric crime photographer whose fixation with death imagery and his odd relationship with a dark-colored feline doom his girlfriend to a fate that would make Amontillado proud. Considered by many to be the stronger of the two films, Argento's love of Poe shines through the film's successive layers of tension and foreboding evil, no doubt strengthened by some bravura cinematography and an intense performance from Harvey Keitel with small but effective cameos from Kim Hunter and underrated character actor Martin Balsam.
Blue Underground's new DVD proudly displays a sticker on the packaging promising a "director's cut" even though the film never underwent heavy censorship in most markets. Even if this new DVD contains no new footage, the revised 5.1 DTS and DD audio are welcome additions along with a new video transfer that puts the older vhs dubs to shame. Included on the second disc of this limited edition set are a few featurettes which uphold BU's usually excellent standards. There's even a peek inside the Tom Savini home that was shot around the time of Two Evil's production. Rounding out the package are the requisite trailers, still galleries and a short interview with Adrienne Barbeau shot at the time of Creepshow which focuses on her working relationship with Romero.
Originally planned as a much larger film consisting of multiple segments from other directors, the two present filmmakers made the most of Poe's dense material and Tom Savini's bloody effects to create a film which still delivers but might not have the same "wow" factor as other masterpieces in either's respective filmographries. Despite the failure to live up to everyone's expectations, Two Evil Eyes remains a film which deserves to be reassessed on it's own strange and uneven terms.
AKA Due occhi
diabolici / Directed By Dario Argento and George Romero
DVD R1 NSTC / 1.85:1 / DD, DTS 5.1 / Blue Underground / $29.95