Two Evil Eyes Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Blue Underground
Directed by George A. Romero and Dario Argento
Written by George A. Romero, Dario Argento and Franco Ferrini
1990, 120 minutes, Rated R
Released on October 29th, 2019
Adrienne Barbeau as Jessica Valdemar
Harvey Keitel as Rod Usher
Ramy Zada as Dr. Robert Hoffman
Bingo O’Malley as Ernest Valdemar
Madeleine Potter as Annabel
E.G. Marshall as Steven Pike
Martin Balsam as Mr. Pym
Masters of horror Dario Argento (Suspiria) and George A. Romero (Day of the Dead) team up to create Two Evil Eyes, a love letter to genre fans inspired by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Romero directs the first story, The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar, about a man hypnotized at the moment of death by his greedy wife and scheming doctor only to find his soul trapped in a netherworld surrounded by evil. This is followed by Argento’s interpretation of The Black Cat, in which a self-destructive photographer is haunted by a cat that brings out the worst in him. Jealousy, paranoia and rage take control and soon the murders begin.
Argento originally planned the film as a traditional anthology of four short stories shot by a quartet of leading genre directors including himself, Romero, Wes Craven and John Carpenter, but the project proved too difficult to put together and was whittled down to being a two-parter. Romero eagerly set out to adapt The Masque of the Red Death, but the story was rejected for various reasons, including budgetary restrictions. Reluctantly, he switched gears to the smaller tale, The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar, a more traditional ghost story that features the living dead.
The idea of George Romero telling a Poe story is pretty exciting, but something went wrong in the execution and the film falters under its own weight. The first problem is that it suffers from a bloated running time of 56 minutes and would be better served at half that length. His script contains traces of his dark humor and social commentary, but the piece shuffles along at the pace of one of his zombies. The cast is filled with familiar faces, including Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog) as Jessica Valdemar; Bingo O’Malley (Knightriders) as her dying husband; Ramy Zada (After Midnight) as the doctor; E.G. Marshall (Creepshow) as the executor and Tom Atkins (Night of the Creeps) as a police detective. Romero is an excellent storyteller when he wants to be, but it doesn’t feel like his heart is in this one.
The opposite can be said about Argento’s entry The Black Cat, which is far more stylistic and visually stunning. There is more excitement in the first few minutes of this piece than in the entirety of Romero’s. Harvey Keitel (Saturn 3) stars as Rod Usher, a deeply troubled crime scene photographer with a short temper and a penchant for violence. Keitel shines in the role and delivers another fantastic performance that helped revitalize his career. The other star of this film is Argento himself, who knocks it out of the park with his American debut. The story moves at a brisk pace and somehow manages to keep audiences engaged with its villainous main character. Tom Savini (The Burning) provides grisly make-up effects for both stories, but gets more room to show off a bit here.
Two Evil Eyes is an interesting movie that is both highly entertaining and deeply frustrating. Argento is in top form as a storyteller, loading his tale with flashy references to Poe’s work, including The Pit and the Pendulum and Berenice. Romero on the other hand is far more reserved with a plodding story that doesn’t feel very inspired. I am a pretty big fan of his movies, but this one is definitely a lesser effort. I can still heartily recommend picking this one up for The Black Cat segment and the fantastic score by legendary composer Pino Donaggio (The Howling).
Video and Audio:
Blue Underground first released Two Evil Eyes on Blu-ray in 2009 and it looked okay. Now, ten years later, they have returned with a stunning new 4K scan and restoration of the original camera negative. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the uptick in picture clarity and detail is noticeable. Colors and black levels are well-defined and pleasing.
The original stereo recording is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that really gets the job done. Dialogue is always clearly understandable and music cues are complementary. An expanded DTS-HD MA 7.1 remaster spreads things out substantially, a bit too much for me to recommend, as dialogue sounds thin. A French Dolby Digital 1.0 option is also included if you are so inclined.
Optional English, Spanish and French subtitles are included for anyone in need.
This is a deluxe 3-disc edition of Two Evil Eyes, featuring two Blu-rays and a CD soundtrack.
Author/film historian Troy Howarth provides a wonderful audio commentary filled with interesting information. He talks about Poe’s short stories and the bumpy start to assembling this production. There are career retrospectives for both directors as well as comments on their differing styles. Howarth is a Romero defender, but admits his entry is pretty weak. He also provides notes on the cast and praise for the score and offers additional production stories.
The original theatrical trailer is included.
A still gallery (113 images) features promotional photos, lobby cards and international poster and video artwork.
Two Masters’ Eyes (30 minutes) is a vintage featurette tracing the history of the production and detailing the many challenges along the way. Dario Argento and George Romero share their thoughts on the movie and reflect on the filming process. Tom Savini discusses the make-up effects work he created, and producer Claudio Argento provides further insight into the project. While everyone has fond memories of the experience, Romero admits to being unsatisfied. This segment is in both English and Italian with English subtitles.
In the short behind-the-scenes video Savini’s EFX (12 minutes), we get a look at the design work that went into creating the memorable gory effects of the film. Savini is interviewed about the specific gags and building props and talks about some of the difficulties of the job.
At Home with Tom Savini (16 minutes) is a weird little piece aimed toward his legion of fans. Tom gives a tour of his home and the many toys and props inside.
The vintage interview Adrienne Barbeau on George Romero (5 minutes) was intended to be used in a separate documentary on the filmmaker, but was later cut out. That interview appears here.
Before I Wake (14 minutes) catches up with actor Ramy Zada, who co-stars in Romero’s segment. He talks about working with the director, his thoughts on his character, the challenges of working with special effects and the joy of shooting in Pittsburgh.
In the segment Behind the Wall (16 minutes), actress Madeleine Potter shares her memories of working with Dario Argento. She talks about acting opposite Harvey Keitel and shooting the cleaver scene. She reflects on the complexity of the film’s story structure and thoughts on the finished film.
Special make-up effects assistant Everett Burrell shares fun production stories in Two Evil Brothers (14 minutes). He heaps praise on Savini and Argento and has a lot of respect for Harvey Keitel. He has kind words for Romero’s independence and offers some fond memories of fellow make-up artist, the late John Vulich. This is a really nice interview loaded with lots of behind-the-scenes video.
Working with George (9 minutes) focuses on the work of costume designer Barbara Anderson. She remembers her lengthy career on Romero sets, starting with Knightriders (1981) and moving on to Creepshow (1982) and Day of the Dead (1985). When it comes to Two Evil Eyes she offers her thoughts on the cast and some last-minute story additions that proved challenging. There is also brief discussion of Romero’s The Dark Half (1993) that is pretty entertaining.
Composer Pino Donaggio shares fond memories of his work in One Maestro and Two Masters (15 minutes). His excitement of working with Argento led him to the project and he enjoyed the challenge of scoring two stylistically different tales. This interview is in Italian with English subtitles.
In Rewriting Poe (14 minutes), co-writer Franco Ferrini discusses his longtime appreciation of Poe’s work. He talks about incorporating elements from various stories into the script and the challenge of keeping audiences on the side of the villain. This interview is also in Italian with English subtitles.
Assistant director Luigi Cozzi talks about his role on set in The Cat Who Wouldn’t Die (27 minutes). He remembers being a last-minute addition to the project and what it was like working with an American crew. He shares his thoughts on the cast and the effects work of Tom Savini. Once again, this interview is in Italian with English subtitles.
The third disc is something of a present to longtime fans of this picture – the first official release of Pino Donaggio’s soundtrack. The 21 tracks have been remastered and sound fantastic.
The package also includes a 16-page booklet featuring a thoughtful new essay by Michael Gingold.
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