Directed By: George Romero, Dario Argento
Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Harvey Keitel, Ramy Zada
Tag line: "When I Wake You...You'll Be Dead"
Trivia: Dario Argento originally wanted the film to be a collaboration between four directors: himself, George A. Romero, John Carpenter and Wes Craven
Talk about a pedigree! Just look at some of the big names associated with Two Evil Eyes. For starters, it was directed by not one, but two legends of horror, George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) and Dario Argento (Suspiria), each directing a short film based on the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. As for stars, how do Harvey Keitel, Adrienne Barbeau, Martin Balsam, and even The Fog's Tom Atkins sound? Finally, for the icing on the cake: all special make-up effects were handled by none other than Tom Savini (Friday the 13th). With this many talented people involved in its production, Two Evil Eyes just had to be something special.
I know...I know...this is the part where you're expecting either a “however” or an “unfortunately”, right? Well, you won't find one. The truth is, I did enjoy Two Evil Eyes, a film that pulled off a minor miracle: it actually lived up to its own potential.
Split down the middle, with each director tackling one section, Two Evil Eyes kicks off with Romero's take on Poe's The Facts In The Case of Mr. Valdemar. Valdemar (Bingo O’Malley), a wealthy old man, is dying, and his much younger wife, Jessica (Adrienne Barbeau), teams with her husband's doctor (and her lover), Robert Hoffman (Ramy Zada), to gather up as much of Valdemar's money as they can before he kicks the bucket. To move things along, Hoffman hypnotizes Valdemar, and, by the power of suggestion, gets him to sign a large portion of his estate over to his conniving wife. But when Valdemar dies while still under hypnosis, his consciousness is trapped between this world and the next, unable to fully exist in either one. Argento's The Black Cat is the story of a crime scene photographer named Rod Usher (Harvey Keitel) whose girlfriend, Anabelle (Madeleine Potter), brings home a stray black cat, which she immediately falls in love with. But Rod and the cat don't exactly get along, so, while Anabelle is away, Rod strangles the cat and immediately disposes of its body. Sensing he's killed her new pet, Anabelle makes plans to leave Rod and move to New York, once again pushing her unhinged boyfriend to the brink of insanity.
Two Evil Eyes presents a pair of very different, yet equally engaging tales of the macabre. With The Facts In The Case of Mr. Valdemar, Romero is back in “living dead” territory, only this time he's dealing with a corpse that's very much aware of its own situation. The chills begin to creep up the spine the moment we hear Valdemar's agonizing moans emanating from the basement (which is where his wife and doctor have stored his body), and while the bloodshed is kept to a minimum, the look of the undead Valdemar (thank you, Tom Savini) more than makes up for it. Where Romero's tale shied away from gore, Argento's embraces it, kicking off The Black Cat by showing us the body of a naked woman, sliced in half by, of all things, a pendulum with a blade on the end of it. Argento's film is, without question, the more stylish of the two, in both structure (there are moments when we get a “cat's-eye” view of the action, with the camera scampering around on the ground) and story (such as the elaborate dream sequence that takes place in Medieval times), marking a definite shift in the film's overall tone.
Two Evil Eyes is a rarity, a collaboration of ultra-talented individuals that actually surpasses even your loftiest expectations.