Blue Underground // 1990 // 120 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 29th, 2003
A double dose of terror from the directors of Dawn of the Dead and Suspiria.
Two world famous horror directors take on the undisputed king of written horrors (no, not that King), Edgar Allen Poe, in the horror anthology Two Evil Eyes. In George Romero's The Facts In The Case Of Mr. Valdemar, Jessica (Adrienne Barbeau, The Fog) finds herself with terror beyond the grave when her late husband Ernest Valdemar (Bingo O'Malley, Bob Roberts) passes away while under hypnosis of his doctor (who also happens to be Jessica's lover). When Jessica and Dr. Hoffman (Ramy Zada, TV's Port Charles) attempt to hide the deceased body in the basement freezer so they can collect Ernest's substantial earnings (within an allotted time period of which Ernest should be alive), the cadaver begins to talk back to them -- while frozen solid! Bafflement turns to madness as Jessica and Dr. Hoffman learn that sometimes crime can be a "chilly" investment. In director Dario Argento's The Black Cat, Harvey Keitel (Red Dragon) plays Rod Usher (a nod to another Poe character), a crime scene photographer who is pushed off the edge of sanity by her girlfriend's black cat. After killing her and sealing her behind a plaster wall in his house, Rod attempts to keep his secret safe until a final act of insanity opens the floodgate to a gruesome discovery...
After pondering Two Evil Eyes for a while (a while = two beers and a bag of pork rinds), I came to the conclusion that the two directors are, in my humble opinion, on opposite sides of the cinematic spectrum. While George Romero is one of the best horror directors working today (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Creepshow), Dario Argento can't make a cohesive film to save his life (Suspiria was okay, though in the scope of horror history it's a weak effort). That being said, I enjoyed the first half of Two Evil Eyes and wasn't nearly as impressed with the second Argento-directed yarn. Romero's "The Facts In The Case Of Mr. Valdemar" is the best of the two, sporting a creepy story of what happens after you die (should you be unlucky enough to pass away under hypnosis). Though far from Romero's most intriguing work, this mini frightfest features scream queen Adrienne Barbeau as a chilly wife who gets her just dessert in the end. For anyone who saw Romero's anthology Creepshow, Two Evil Eyes will be old hat. But it's fun to see Romero's sense of fun and terror still at work (as well as Creepshow veteran E.G. Marshall making a cameo as Valdemar's entrusted lawyer). The novella length story isn't overly complex but it has a nice payoff...which, unfortunately can't be said for "The Black Cat." Though the premise is decent (a take off of Poe's "The Telltale Heart"), Argento breaks all kinds of horror rules and shows that his competency as a director is often on shaky ground (I counted at least three off-focus shots). While Tom Savini's effects work is decent (a half-eaten corpse filled with evil kitties was especially disturbing), Argento's tale is weighed down by Harvey Keitel's bland lead and not enough visceral scares. However, if you've always wanted to know what a dead woman with her teeth yanked out looks like, welcome home. Taken as a whole, Two Evil Eyes doesn't offer anything new to the genre, but it's worth a look for Romero's well crafted tale.
Two Evil Eyes is presented in a fine looking 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, enhanced for 16:9 TV sets. Like Anchor Bay, Blue Underground has become a purveyor of all things cult classic, and their work on Two Evil Eyes is no exception. Although the transfer does feature flaws and imperfections (associated mainly with the film's budget and age), overall this is a fine looking transfer with solid colors and black levels throughout. Aside of a small amount of grain and some softness in the picture, fans should be happy to own this film in its first widescreen DVD edition. The soundtrack is presented in DTS 6.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX and Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, all in English. I don't know as Two Evil Eyes really needed such a hefty face...err, ear lift when it came to the sound mix, but fans get it with multiple options. While all of the tracks feature clear dialogue, effects, and music, none of the surround sounds blew me away. Directional effects are present, though this isn't a dynamically engaging soundtrack. However, both the DTS and Dolby 5.1 mixes are apt for the film they're supporting. No alternate subtitles are available on this disc.
It's a little surprising that this "limited edition" version of Two Evil Eyes is a two disc set. I'm not sure why the second disc's extra features wouldn't fit on the first disc -- there aren't a ton of supplements on this set to warrant two DVDs. Starting of the first disc are only a few features: a trailer for the film, talent bios for Argento and Romero, and a poster and still gallery with images from the production, film, and advertising campaign. Disc two has more meat, the best of which is a half hour documentary titled "Two Master's Eyes," which includes interviews with Romero, Argento, Tom Savini, executive producer Claudio Argento, and daughter Asia Argento (of xXx fame). This is a very nice retrospective on the film, encompassing both footage from the shoot and new interviews with various participants (the best being Tom Savini recalling his chance to act in Argento's segment of the film). "Savini's EFX" is a fascinating look at the effects in the film with new interviews by Savini, plus chewed bodies, frozen corpses, chopped torsos, demonic kittens, and drooling zombies, among others. For effects fans this will be a lot of fun. Complimenting that featurette is "At Home With Tom Savini," a 16-minute tour of Savini's place with all his icky creatures and effects work for all the world to see. Finally, there is a short five minute interview with star Adrienne Barbeau discussing her role in the film, what it was like working with Romero, and what she thinks of his Living Dead trilogy.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Blue Underground
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 6.1 ES (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* "At Home With Tom Savini" Featurette
* "Two Master's Eyes" Documentary
* "Savini's EFX" Featurette
* Interview with Star Adrienne Barbeau
* Theatrical Trailer
* Talent Bios
* Still and Photo Gallery